Monday, 18 May 2015

Barstow to Utah - Monument Valley

We left Santee, and headed north to Barstow. This route was beautiful,

It is amazing where some people choose to live!

through mountains,
plains and into the desert.
Into the desert
We could see a mountain with snow on it,
We could see the other side of this mountain from the backyard too.

so it must have been cooler here than Santee. We stayed a few days with our friends, taking a couple of rides in the ATV across the desert, one to the dunes and one to an old mine site. 

Along the Up-Side-Down river, the Mohave River

Climbing up a 'cliff'
The old mine site
We saw our first cacti in bloom!

A Beavertail Prickly Pear cactus just outside the backyard gate in the Mohave Desert

A Fish-hook Barrel Cactus in the Mojave

Nearby, another Beavertail Prickly Pear

 a Cholla cactus, in a neighbour's garden

A Western Prickly Pear cactus, In a neighbour's garden
The Ocotillo are not really cacti, but they were beautiful with their feathery, fiery tips.

Then leaving the trailer in their huge yard,

we headed for Las Vegas. We were at 4000 feet, and passed fields of Joshua trees.

We checked into South Point

The Casino floor

and enjoyed their dinner buffet. Our flight was not until 11 the next night, so we left our bags after breakfast [with our Bloody Mary's] and walked the strip.

Excalibur Casino
The bridge across to New York New York and its roller coaster

 It was crowded as is usual on a beautiful day. We particularly enjoyed the Bellagio Fountains.


It was an uneventful flight, but the red-eye is not my favourite flight. Neither of us got much sleep. We had a tail wind all the way so actually arrived at ¼ to 7 in the morning, but couldn’t land until 7am due to the curfew at Montreal’s airport. We picked up the rental car and drove to John’s Mum’s.  We were so tired we slept most of the day. After a short, but packed visit -shopping, visits with friends to catch up on all the news, and dinners out, - we headed back to the airport at 5 am a few days later. The weather was beautiful, and the view out the window fascinating. It was good to see snow disappear except on the mountains,

Snow on the Mountains from my plane window

and red canyons appear. 

Having now seen so many canyons, we are not sure which these are!

Before we drove back, we drove downtown past the wedding chapels,
There was the Elvis Chapel too, but the picture was no good
to the Fremont Street Experience, the original casinos in a covered pedestrian road.

Fremont, an original Casino

The original Golden Nugget
Back in Barstow, we enjoyed a quiet visit with much reminiscing and laughs. We had to stay until Saturday, so John could go off in the ATV and have a chance to practise his shooting!

The Sharpshooter!

Shooting "on the run"

Then at night several couples came over for their monthly Games Night- the host picks the game. After a wonderful German Pot-Luck dinner, we headed into the desert- in the dark- to play croquet. [The hoops had solar lights pointing at them.] Everyone groaned at first when we were set up in pairs, but it wasn’t long before flashlights and sneaky strategies took over. Laughter could be heard everywhere. [Sorry, no pictures, it was too dark!!]

Time to move on to the Grand Canyon. We couldn’t get a site at the Mather Campground for the first three nights, so we stayed in the Grand Canyon KOA in Williams. We scouted out the Grand Canyon Park the first day. We decided, since we were going to be in quite a few National Parks and Monuments, to get the year’s Pass. It was $80US, but we could come and go as we wished. There are three free hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus routes, blue, red, and orange which run every 10 to 15 minutes.  They enable you to go to various places along the rim and into the village. You can get off, hike for a while to the next stop or two, then pick up a bus again. First we went to the Visitors” Centre and took the short walk to Mather’s Point on the rim.

Mather's Point from the Rim

We saw more than just the Canyon-Elk came to see us too

The Grand Canyon is stupendous. It was sunny, with a bit of a haze, so we had an amazing view with interesting shadows.

The many colours are incredible, maroons, rusts, oranges, greys, greens, and dark reds.  I expected the brilliant colours you see in pictures, but these are usually seen when the sun or sunset shines on the cliffs. The colours we saw were much more subtle. It is incredible to look at the Colorado River one mile down

Colorado River
and imagine the creation of the canyons carved by time, wind, freeze/ thaw and water erosion, and to realize we are seeing rocks from Kaibab Formation formed 270 million years ago, to Vishnu Basement rocks formed 1,840 million years ago. It is believed that the erosion of the canyon, from the Colorado Plateau, began 5-6 million years ago.

We took the blue shuttle to the end and transferred to the red shuttle to “Hermits Rest”, a rustic looking resting structure

The entrance to the park

with the requisite gift shop (and an awful café/snack bar), designed and built by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter.  On the way, we got off and walked part of the rim trail, then hopped back on.  It was very windy with gusts up to 50mph. I started to walk out to Powell’s Point,

when a gust hit me, nearly knocking me over. John had gone ahead so he was fine. The cold front moved in and it was -10C that  night.
The second day, before we moved up to the Campground in the Park, we went into Williams. It is a lovely little town,
Main Street

on the last section of Route 66 to be replaced by the I-40 highway.

We found a fabulous coffee house- 326 Café- on the main street. There are many, many Route 66 shops with souvenirs and restaurants-

Even a Statue of Elvis as part of the cafe
Route 66 stores
many of them rather pricey. However, there are also some stores with beautiful leather-work, saddles, and boots, unique gifts and clothes, and several with beautiful jewellery, Indian carvings and pottery 
We drove up to Mather Campground right in the Village- beautiful sites in lightly shaded forest. We did not even unhitch as the Blue Shuttle Bus stopped just 5 minutes from our site. We were in and settled early so we walked the Rim Trail

The clouds started to  move in
from the Mather Point by the Visitors’ Centre to the Geological Museum at Yavapai Point.
Geological Museum
This is extremely well done, explaining the geology of the Grand Canyon, why we see the magnificent sights we see.  Unfortunately, the weather continued to get worse-we had 2 inches of snow the first night, and no services. The solar panel doesn’t work too well when covered with snow!

The view from the bedroom window!

However, it did not stop our hike along the rim- from Mather Point to South Kaibob Trailhead, a beautiful paved trail
This part of the Rim Trail is paved and easy walking

 with clear views of the magnificent canyons.

Cape Royal on the left, Wotan's Throne in the middle, Vishnu Temple on the right

and the wildlife!

Elk beside the path

Across the path - Mule Deer- one of 3

We rode the Orange shuttle to Pike’s Peak where some of the mules are housed. We found out though that you have to book a mule ride, down the canyon to the Colorado River, a year in advance.

Trails to the Colorado River
The shuttles took us back to the village for lunch, then John walked part of Bright Angel trail

Before the walk....
going down into the canyon. I started, but the first part is a switch-back with a cliff on the open side- not for me!

The Arch- At the beginning of Bright Angel Trail seen from the top

The trail

The arch from John's perspective on the Bright Angel Trail

I waited at the top, walked part of a trail to Kolb Studio, people-watched, and read my book on the Geology of the Grand Canyon. The Kolb brothers decided to make their home in the Grand Canyon in 1902, and were the first to document a boat trip down the Colorado River with a movie camera.

The next day on our way out we drove the rim highway east to Desert View. This is at the east end of the Grand Canyon where it meets the Painted Desert.

The Painted Desert beyond the Canyon

The east end of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon
 We stopped at Tusayan Ruin and Museum.

The Museum

This is the ruins of a Pueblo village.

The structures have not been reconstructed, but stabilized. 

Living Quarters

Storage Rooms

Kiva - a Ceremonial room for rites, festivals and ceremonies

Humphreys Peak, highest point in Arizona, one of San Francisco Peaks
perhaps viewed as a spiritual place, as Hopi people did.
This is one of more than 4000 archeological sites recorded in the Grand Canyon. People began construction of this site about 1185AD. It probably housed 16 – 20 people. The museum contains artifacts collected by archeologists in 1930’s, and their interpretation of the lives of people in this community.
At Desert View there is a magnificent 70 ft. Watchtower, one of the most prominent architectural features of the south Rim.

It was designed and built in 1932 by the architect, Mary Coulter in collaboration with Hopi artisans of the day, including well known Hopi artist Fred Kaboutie. Mary Coulter’s work is magnificent. It fits in with the environment and appears to have been there forever. In fact it is relatively new. On the walls of the tower are pictographs murals by Kaboutie, representative of those found in the Canyon.

Desert View is at the east end of the Canyon where it meets the Painted Desert.

Our next stop was Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the Arizona-Utah border, in the heart of the Navajo Nation. We were booked into Gouldings’ Campground, dry- camping area in Utah. When we checked in and enquired about the dry-camping [no facilities] area, we were directed to the large sandy parking lot across the street. However, on the plus side, it was at the bottom of a beautiful red rock cliff, and we were the only campers.

We were able to use the pool, laundry, wifi and showers in the main building. There were also water fill stations.  John got up one morning to take pictures

Sunrise at Monument Valley
and hike to the top of the cliff by the camp.

He found an arch!

...and looked down on the campground
We discovered that as you drive into the Valley, you drive back into Arizona.

Harry Goulding and his wife, Leone [Mike], came to Monument Valley in the early 1920’s. In 1928, they built a Trading Post, conducting business with the local Navajo Indians, trading silver jewelry and hand-woven rugs for food and supplies. During the Depression, however, Monument Valley suffered. Down to his last $60, Harry and Mike headed to Hollywood as they had herd that Producer John Ford was looking for a new site for a movie. Persevering until they saw him, they showed him pictures of the Valley and a movie site was ‘born’. Within a month, Ford and his crew began to shoot “Stagecoach” with John Wayne, the first of his nine movies shot in the Valley.
Today, it is still used as a movie and commercial location. Gouldings has grown to a large Lodge complex with a museum in their original house

Gouldings' Original House and Trading Post

John Wayne's house when he was filming
and Trading Post, restaurants, a grocery store, garage, medical clinic, Earth Spirit movie theatre which shows a documentary on the culture of the Navajo people and a John Wayne movie each night and a campground.
The first day, we took a Gouldings’ tour given by a Navajo women. It was interesting to hear the extra input from her memories as a child and from her family, living in a Hogan.
Navajo Hogan

View to the East out the Hogan door

Navajo woman weaving

There are no nails in the Hogan

The Summer Shelter. Herbs and fruits were dried on the roof 

Driving into the Park, you see a beautiful Hotel complex called “The View”,

The View

Looking at the Valley from The View

Looking up at The View from the Valley
perched on the rim of the canyon. They also have cabins perched on the rim, and a campground, but there are no services at all, no water accessible, and no dump station.

The Valley is magnificent. At the Grand Canyon, we were looking down into the canyon from the top. In Monument Valley Tribal Park, you drive right into the valley on Wildcat Trail,

Wildcat Trail through the Valley

with massive monolithic structures rising above you.

Large Mesa

Many of them have names- sometimes named by the Navajo, sometimes by the Gouldings, sometimes by early pioneers. You gaze in awe, and wonder – how could these structures form, rising from the canyon floor, some large like mesas and buttes,
Merrick Butte

and some small, sometimes close to another, sometime completely by themselves. There are the Mittens- left and right,

[In Stagecoach, John Wayne rides off between the Mittens at the beginning and back between the Mittens at the end.], Mesas, Buttes [smaller than Mesas], Snoopy,
Snoopy - on his back on the dog house!

the Three Sisters,
The Three Sisters [Nuns]
The Totem Poles,

a Castle,

The Castle through the North Window
Brigham Young's Tomb

and the John Ford Point, where you can take a picture of a cowboy on a horse.

The cowboy posed for us. Can you find the car?
From one Viewpoint in the Valley, we looked out on the Colorado Plain stretching to the east.

Many of the cliffs have dark streaks on them.

This is called Desert Varnish. It is a thin coating of clay minerals, manganese and iron which appears as black streaks on exposed rock surfaces, brought out by the rain. At most of the viewpoint stops on the route through the Valley there are several Navajos with tables set up displaying a variety of items of handmade jewellery.

We decided to check out the Goosenecks State Park as we wanted to stay there one day, on our way to the Grand Canyon. We passed through Mexican Hat,

We figured out where the town got its name!
and some amazing folded cliffs,

before we turned off the main highway. We drove into Gooseneck State Park, oohed and awed as we looked down,

then drove up to the Moki Dugway, which winds 1200 feet from bottom to top, on 3 miles of graded gravel at an 11% grade. We watched cars go up the first two switchbacks and disappear into the cliff. The road actually continues snaking up to the highway to the north.

We then drove, from West to East, into the Valley of the Gods on the gravel and clay road, so narrow in places, we had to pull over for a car to pass. The massive cliffs are to the north as you drive into the Valley.

This was the way to go. You first pass a small ranch house, the Valley of the Gods’ B&B. You can see the various amazing cliffs, mesas and buttes

The only other truck we saw on the trail

We thought this looked like a Pharaoh

The winding road ahead into the valley

As we got closer...
in the distance, standing like sandstone sentinels, which have been eroded by wind and water over eons of time, rising from the valley floor. Each one becomes more clear and takes shape as you drive closer. It is named “Valley of the Gods” as a miniature Monument Valley. Much of the Valley looks like a Mayan ruins.
This was actually taken later in the afternoon

Flat-topped Mesas and Buttes
The last three in the Valley

Every Valley has a Castle

Many of the mesas are stepped like pyramids. These features are sculpted from Cedar Mesa sandstone dating to the Permian age, 250 million years ago. The sandstone is cemented by calcium carbonate and was deposited in huge dunes near the shore of an ancient sea.  We felt as if we were the only ones around. We didn’t see another car until we were almost half way through the 17mile journey.
As we left Monument Valley, we had to stop and take the iconic picture of the long straight highway leading to the monuments.

We did move on to boondock for one night at Gooseneck State Park.
Where we planned to camp...
 What a wondrous view as we looked at the San Juan River 1000 feet below.
The Goosenecks of the San Juan River
San Juan River

Enjoying a cup of tea by the rim
This is one of the most impressive examples of an entrenched river meander in North America. The river twists and turns flowing over six miles, while only advancing 1 1/2 miles west.

Sunset at Gooseneck SP

As we travelled, we saw many cacti and wildflowers just beginning to open, so we stopped often to take pictures of them. They are so vibrant. 
Claret Cup, Hedgehog cacti
Fish-hook Barrel Cactus
San Raphael Prickly Poppy
Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dead Horse State Park and Capitol Reef National Park are to come….

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