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Day 47: John Wayne had the right idea

July 16, 2010 9 comments

Location: Cove Fort, UT

Miles driven: 711

Total Miles: 11,644

I woke up especially early (3AM-ish) in order to get to Monument Valley not long after the sunrise.  It was a fast three-hours drive, and I was not disappointed when I arrived on the outskirts of Monument Valley, a place where John Wayne filmed many of his westerns.

It was only a few miles down the road from here to Monument Valley Tribal Park.  See, Monument Valley is on land owned by the Navajo, and they independently maintain the area, run a visitor center, and manage tours.  It was only $5 admission.  Hell, they could’ve charged $50 and I still would’ve paid it.  Here’s why:

Absolutely unreal.  When I started putting this trip idea together over a year ago, Monument Valley was one of the first places I listed down.  I had only see pictures and video second-hand.  What a mind-blowing sight.  It was close to 95 degrees out, but I had no problem just sitting on the stone wall admiring this view.

The visitor center was pretty impressive.  There were a lot of displays about the history of the Navajo in the region, their participation in WWII, and of the people who currently occupy the land.  The Navajo here, on the whole, are impoverished, so it was good to know my admission money (and subsequent cafe/gift shop money) was going toward to the community here.

I looked into taking a horse ride tour, but it would’ve been about $60 for just a half hour, so I decided I’d do some hiking on my own.  There was a three-mile hike that took you around one of the buttes, and I enjoyed taking my time wandering through this part of the desert.

Starting out on the Wildcat Trail

Multi-colored lizard

great views on the hike

This image looks manipulated, but it's just a trick of perception

Finished the hike

After the hike, I took some time to relax, grabbed a bite from the cafe, and then made my way north towards Hwy 261. 

Saying goodbye to Monument Valley

Next, I climbed up the “Moki Dugway” which, through a series of switchbacks, elevates you above the surrounding valley and gives you some great views.

See that plateau? I got to the top of that with my car

View from the top

Continued in a northern direction towards Moab, Utah, which sits right next to Arches National Park, where I planned to do a little more hiking before the day was out.

I arrived in Moab in the early afternoon, but I was thinking I’d hike later in the evening when the sun is going down and it might be a little cooler.  So I did some driving around the area.

Great views along Hwy 128

amazing country

Made my way to the park a little after 8PM, and headed towards the Delicate Arch area.

Balanced Rock

Made it to the Delicate Arch parking area, and I was caught off-guard by the number of cars there.  Even the spots in the overflow lot were taken.  Seems everyone was doing the Delicate Arch hike so they could see it as the sun went down.  I was a little dismayed by the crowds, but still content, as I had the opportunity to do the hike back in 2005.  Here’s a picture from then:

Delicate Arch

So instead of doing the crowded hike to Delicate Arch, I chose to go to the Delicate Arch Overlook to get a view of the arch that I had never seen.

Unfortunately, in neither of those images can you gain a sense of appreciation for how big the arch is.  Since 2005, whenever I showed my pictures of Delicate Arch to others, I chided myself for not getting a shot of somebody next to it to give a sense of perspective.  Looks like I managed to fail to provide any perspective again…but trust me, Delicate Arch is huge (52′ tall, to be exact).

I left the park before it was too dark, and made my way west on I-70.  I drove farther than I initially intended, and then found a rest stop near Cove Fort, UT, and crashed for the night.  My schedule continues to be pretty loose.  I’m thinking I’ll keep the driving to a minimum tomorrow, maybe hit up Zion National Park, and then head west to Nevada, eventually.

joe

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Day 46

July 16, 2010 3 comments

Location: Flagstaff, NM

Miles Driven: 503

Total Miles: 10,933

Got on the road early in the morning to make my way into Arizona. 

Arizona dead ahead

I took a route that was seemingly innocuous, planning to get to the Barringer Meteor Crater by the end of the day (Monument Valley was far too aggressive a goal).  I didn’t realize how circuitious and windy Hwy 191 was, and I spent a good amount of time navigating my way through the Apache National Forest and its associated mountains.

I took a nap for a couple hours just about 1/4 of the drive through the mountains,  so after I woke up I still had a long way to go.  It was a scenic drive, though.

Made my way north to Petrified Forest National Park.  This park lacks the scenic vistas of some of the other parks I’ve visited, but still is unique as it contains pieces of trees that date back to the Triassic period that have been preserved thanks to volcanic ash and various sediment.

Petrified wood

Petrified stump

Just north of the Petrified Forest is the Painted Desert.  I took my time enjoying the view from a high point above.

Overlooking the Painted Desert

From there, I made my way west on I-40 towards Flagstaff.  My next intended destination was the Barringer Meteor Crater, one of the best-preserved craters on the planet. 

Great city name

the road towards flagstaff

On the way to the crater, I got a message from my brother Mike saying “you sure it’s open?”  I made the wrong assumption that even though it was before 8pm and the sun was still up that the crater would be open for viewing.

As I was about six miles away from the crater, I saw a sign up that said the crater area was closed for the day.  I figured, “no big deal, I bet I can still get an outside view of it.”  Wrong.  There is only one entrance to the crater, and it’s well beyond the crater so you can’t even get a peek at it.  No matter how much I pleaded with the man at the gate, he would not let me in for quick look.  Definitely bad luck. 

My best view of the crater. Bummer

If you’re interested, here’s an aerial view of the crater from wikipedia.

I haven’t had a lot of bad luck on this trip, so I can’t complain.  The simple solution would be “Joe, just wait til morning when it re-opens.”  I debated that, but wanted to make some progress in a northward direction so I wouldn’t have too far a drive to Monument Valley in the morning.  Oh well, I’ll catch the crater another time.

the sun sets on day 46

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