Monument Valley

Photo Opp ~ The culmination of a harrowing nighttime drive in a monsoon to be greeted at sunrise by majestic pinnacles of stone. This excursion began at the Grand Canyon in a fit of frustration as I was to spend a few days exploring around the south rim of the canyon only to get a thirty-minute view of the Grand Canyon itself. I also lost all my photo files of the moments that I did get to see the canyon. What I did not know before visiting the Grand Canyon was that it has a monsoon season which typically falls between mid-June and mid-September which of course I was right in the middle of. So in torrential rains with no let-up in sight, at dusk, I made the decision to start driving toward Colorado my next destination. However, driving through a monsoon is not a fun experience with sheets of rain so thick that it was almost impossible to see the road. The drive was very slow and I only made it to Utah border before giving up the drive and sleeping in my SUV since the only two hotels in the area were full. With the first light of morning peeking through my truck windows I awoke to mostly clear skies and the shocking realization that I was on the southern edge of Monument Valley. Not originally on my itinerary as I was going to drive a different route to Colorado after leaving the Grand Canyon but I believe being in Monument Valley for sunrise was a divine gift for my soul. Monument Valley has meaning for me as it was the setting of a number of western movies of my youth especially my favorite She Wore a Yellow Ribbon with John Wayne and directed by John Ford. Coincidentally, there is a scene in the movie that has the cavalry coming through Monument Valley in a monsoon which helped it win the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. I also found a remnant of the movie set in the valley, ‘Captain Nathan Brittles Cabin’ which was used by John Wayne’s character. Being in Monument Valley was a special moment for me to connect with fond memories of my childhood and to see the awesome beauty of the creator’s hand. Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona–Utah border, within the territory of the Navajo Nation Reservation. Monument Valley is officially a large area that includes much of the area surrounding Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a Navajo Nation equivalent to a national park. Monument Valley has been featured in many forms of media since the 1930s. Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, “its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.”

Mitchell Butte at sunrise
Setting Hen Butte at sunrise with remnants of monsoon clouds
Eagle Mesa at sunrise with hugging storm clouds

Monument Valley
Indn Route 42
Oljato-Monument Valley, Arizona 84536

N 36° 59′ 00.0″ W 110° 06′ 00.0″

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