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  1. #1

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    The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    Greetings all.

    Just got back from a nine day road trip through the desert Southwest with photos and a few stories covering a large area of the Navajo reservation with a few National Parks and Monuments in between. Being half Navajo I love the chance to get back to the Rez. On we go with me, my plus one Brett, and a few Sneetches.




    Setting out on the road reaching Needles and the border around 8 in the morning. The temperature was already 98 degrees.

    Here we're heading out of California.







    Of course, if you've ever traveled in or out of Arizona on Interstate 40 you never forget the Golf ball house.






    After reaching Flagstaff we headed north on Hwy 89 to our eventual destination Tuba City.






    Before heading on to the Navajo reservation we stopped at a roadside motel for a quick leg stretch and a few pics.



    I always forget how blue the sky is out there.






    Before the turn off to Tuba City we encountered a roadside stand, one of many we would see on our trip.






    As we continued on to Tuba City on highway 160, the painted desert revealed its self.














    After getting settled in at our Hotel. We headed back down Hwy 160 to the dinosaur tracks that are located just outside of town.
    There we encountered some locals who gave us a tour of the tracks.













    That does it for day one. Next up is Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and points beyond.

    Oh yes, and the Sneetches.


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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    I hope to take the kids on a AZ road trip next year... probably avoiding Summer though (too hot for me sorry).

    The desert is so beautiful. Please keep the pics coming.
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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    I hope to take the kids on a AZ road trip next year... probably avoiding Summer though (too hot for me sorry).

    The desert is so beautiful. Please keep the pics coming.
    Thank you very much. Late spring or early fall might be the right time to go.

    If you don't mind going during the monsoon season. The desert thunderstorms are quite spectacular.

    The monsoon season starts around the end of July and continues until the beginning of September.
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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    The next day we get ready to head to Monument Valley. But not before I pose with a Navajo greeting. Although I probably needed just one more cup of coffee.






    We headed east out of Tuba City along Highway 160. About half way between Tuba City and Kayenta we came upon the Canadian version of the Mystery Machine.
    This V.W. bus had an assortment of flower stickers on it's sides and it's top speed was 55 mph. I didn't check for a large dog.


    This also brought back fond memories of vacations when I was a kid. My parents would pack us in the back of our 1975 V.W. bus and camp all over the southwest and visit relatives on the Rez. The only air conditioning was how wide you could get those little windows to open. Thankfully our truck has air conditioning.




    Jinkies! Is that Fred?






    After making a quick fuel stop in Kayenta we arrived 40 minutes later at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. But before we entered the park itself, we stopped off and snapped a shot of Country Sneetch doing his best impersonation of John Wayne.





    Once inside the park we enjoyed the view from the visitors center overlooking the valley.







    And of course the classic view of "The Mittens" and Merrick Butte.




    Brett posing with "The Mittens".




    After taking in the vast view from the visitors center we broke for lunch at The View Restaurant which is located next to the The View Hotel. The only Hotel located within Monument Valley. The scenery was just breathtaking.




    For Lunch I had to have my first Indian Taco of the trip. Loves me some Fry Bread!




    Here's a shot of the lobby of the hotel. We wanted to stay here but weren't able to. It's a very popular place to stay so book well in advance.






    After lunch we jumped into the truck and started out on the 17 mile drive that loops around the valley floor. This was the one time I was glad that I had a 4 wheel drive truck. If you plan on doing this make sure your car can handle it. If not take the guided tours that are offered by the locals. Rez roads are very unforgiving.




    The view from the valley floor gives you a unique look at Monument Valley. This is a close up of Merrick Butte.





    Stopping for a quick shot of both of us in front of John Ford's point and the Three Sisters.





    We stopped at the turn out to John Ford's Point. One of the many tour groups passes us by, in the background is Camel Butte.






    Here's a shot of Camel Buttes with Elephant buttes in the background.





    On to John Ford's Point and probably one of the most spectacular views in the park. If you've ever seen the film The Searchers you'll recognize this location. Brett is doing his best John Wayne impersonation.





    Here's a wide shot to show how far away Brett is standing. The visuals of this place is just awe inspiring.




    A better view of the Three Sisters.





    While visiting John Ford's Point I happen to mention that I was half Navajo and what my clan name was. He called over his wife and said she was also of the same clan. So I got to meet a distant cousin.




    Of course, the Sneetches wanted a group shot. Funny things happen when you do stuff like this. We had set up the Sneetches for the shot and after we had taken a few shots and were getting ready to pack them up. An Australian tourist asked if we were doing a photo shoot for a commercial. We said no, just for fun, He then asked if he could get a shot of the Sneetches. We said it was fine with us.
    We told him that we take them everywhere and photograph them in famous locations. A tour group drove up and picked him up, but not after the Sneetches got more attention as photos were taken of us by his friends on the tour truck. That was fun.





    We continued on to the back side of Monument Valley. Here we see part of Rain God Mesa.





    Looking back at the Three Sisters with Rain God Mesa to the right.





    Brett standing in front of the imposing Rain God Mesa.




    The road circling around the back side of Rain God Mesa.




    Some pretty shots.








    On the way out we stopped at Artist Point. The sky was starting to cloud up and the sound of thunder could be heard off in the distance.










    On the way out, Brett tests the wind using his highly skilled instrument.





    This is the last pic we got before the rain hit us.




    Luckily we got off the valley floor just as the storm passed over us.




    Then the rain passed on, but the wind was still howling pretty good.




    Me surfing the wind.



    And my truck finally got to play in the mud.



    We weren't expecting to stay for the whole day but Monument Valley needs a day to explore. I would highly recommend the 17 mile valley drive. Yes, the ride is a bumpy, dusty trip. But well worth it.
    Monument Valley is truly an amazing place to visit.

    On the drive back to Tuba City we encountered some horses on the streets of Kayenta. A great way to end a day of so many unique images.




    Next up will be Window Rock, Mesa Verde and points beyond....
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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    Thank you so much for that great trip report!

    I've been to Monument Valley, Chinle, Canyon De Chelly, Gallup. I'm pretty sure I passed by Tuba City, Kayenta and Window Rock as well.

    The picture I'm drawn to most, however, is the fry bread taco!

    Can't wait to see the rest of the report!

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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    Quote Originally Posted by brand42 View Post
    Thank you so much for that great trip report!

    I've been to Monument Valley, Chinle, Canyon De Chelly, Gallup. I'm pretty sure I passed by Tuba City, Kayenta and Window Rock as well.

    The picture I'm drawn to most, however, is the fry bread taco!

    Can't wait to see the rest of the report!
    I love Fry Bread! My mom makes it, but only on special occasions.
    Too much Fry Bread can have unflattering consequences.

    The one item on the menu that I didn't try but noticed was Mutton Stew.
    That's another Navajo staple.
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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    We started day three with a trip to the Tuba City Trading Post to pick up some ice for the cooler.
    Established in 1870, the Tuba City Trading Post hasn't change since 1906 and still looks the same inside.

    Here Brett is getting the ice.





    Looking towards the back of the trading post. The yarn hanging from the ceiling is for the making of Navajo blankets.






    After filling up on ice we headed out across the Hopi reservation on our way to Window Rock.





    We stopped off at Keams Canyon for lunch. Indian Tacos for both me and Brett. Yum!






    A bit further down the road we stopped outside the town of Ganado to visit Hubbell Trading Post National Historic site. Established in 1878, it's the oldest, continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation.




    The building is still the same, both inside and out.




    Off to the side of the main room is where you can purchase an authentic Navajo rug. If you can afford it.





    Designs on the wall show the variation of styles according to location on the Rez.





    The barn is still in operation and the surrounding fields had grazing sheep.








    And off to the side is the official visitors center where demonstrations are given on Navajo rug making and silversmithing.





    We continued on to Window Rock. Brett was surprised that the area was quite green for being in the "desert".




    We arrived at Window Rock and settled in. After relaxing a bit, we ventured out to visit the Window Rock. In fact, the Window Rock itself is located right behind the Navajo Tribal council building.





    Also located there is a monument to the Navajo Code Talkers.




    On our way out of the Tribal Council park we encountered more roaming animals. This time it was some cows just walking by saying Hi.




    Next up will be old Route 666, Shiprock, and Mesa Verde.
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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    My grandfather had a fun story about the code talkers. He had a close Navy buddy from Arizona and at one point they found themselves at Pearl Harbor. Walking out of Church they noticed two guys that had been "set aside" with a lot of brass and MP's next to them.

    As they walked past he overheard someone whisper something. Grandpa's buddy replied back in Navajo. Within moments my grandfather found himself in the brig explaining how long he'd known his buddy, how they met, and why his buddy would know a Navajo dialect. It turns out his buddy's father was a minister who taught English on the Navajo reservation those two gentlemen were from... so he grew up understanding and learning that dialect. Grandpa was given a "don't say anything" warning (at the time he didn't know why speaking Navajo was so important but whatever). His buddy found himself transferred from Navy ship detail into Intelligence and became part of the Codetalkers program.
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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    Thank you for posting that story techskip.
    Amazing how small the world can be even when times are bad. Also how secretive the military was about the code talkers.
    Thanks again for the story.
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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    Thanks for that next installment of the TR, Crazy Larry!

    I've had mutton stew as well and it was much better than I thought it would be.

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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy Larry View Post
    On the way out, Brett tests the wind using his highly skilled instrument.
    Heeheehee!
    Great pics, can't wait to see more!

    @techskip cool story! I love hearing about the codetalkers. So awesome.

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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    My mother in law used to live in Tuba City and we spent a week with her three summers ago.
    I full heartedly recommend Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend, Elephant Feet, and the Grand Canyon to all my fellow Micechatters. That whole area is gorgeous. It was a beautiful trip full of amazing pictures and memories.


    Great Trip Report, Crazy Larry.

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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    The next day we were up and ready for the drive to Cortez.
    We said goodbye to Window Rock and reached Highway 491. Better known formerly as Route 666 or the Devils highway.
    Here's what the wiki had to say:

    With the 666 designation, this road was nicknamed Devil's Highway because of the common Christian belief that 666 is the Number of the Beast.[1] This satanic connotation, combined with a high fatality rate along the New Mexico portion, convinced some people the highway was cursed.

    The trip along Highway 491 took us through an area of the reservation where my family is from. So we had to stop at Sheep Springs and say Hi.





    As we continued north on Route 666. . .erm . . Highway 491 we encountered some volcanic formations along the road.





    But nothing compares to the famous landmark in the area Shiprock.
    Here's some more useful info from wiki:

    The peak and surrounding land are of great religious and historical significance to the Navajo people. It is mentioned in many Navajo myths and legends. Foremost is the peak's role as the agent that brought the Navajo to the southwest. According to one legend, after being transported from another place, the Navajos lived on the monolith, "coming down only to plant their fields and get water."[7] One day, the peak was struck by lightning, obliterating the trail and leaving only a sheer cliff, and stranding the women and children on top to starve. The presence of people on the peak is forbidden "for fear they might stir up the chį́įdii (ghosts), or rob their corpses."





    After passing through the town of Shiprock we proceeded north into Colorado.




    We were greeted with beautiful skies as we entered the state.




    More pretty.






    We got to Cortez and relaxed for the rest of the day. Actually, we collapsed from the high alltitude and needed the rest. Our flatlander lungs needed some adjusting.

    Early the next morning we headed out to Mesa Verde.
    My Navajo clan is descended from the Anasazi so this place is special to me.
    My clan name is Kinyaa’Šanii which means Towering House People.
    On we go to Mesa Verde.




    I've been to Mesa Verde several times but I love going back every time. One thing that's new since I last visited is that you need to purchase tickets for the Ranger Guided tours of Balcony House, Cliff Palace, and Long House ruins.
    So the first thing we did was proceed to the visitors center to purchase the tickets. The tickets are 3 dollars per person and they go fast so get there early.

    While waiting in line Brett grabbed a shot of me with the fantastic view from the top of the mesa behind me.



    We concentrated our visit on the Balcony House and Cliff Palace tours. If we had spent more time there we would have explored Long House ruins as well. But that ruin was located on another mesa and time didn't allow it.
    Here's what our tickets looked like.





    After we got our tickets it was time for lunch then on to the Balcony House ruins. A major fire had burned a good portion of the mesa back in 1996 which caused the top to look the way it does. Brett said it looked like the road to Gargamel's house. LOL




    We arrived and waited at our designated waiting area were we got to meet people from all over world.




    And the views didn't suck either.




    Our Ranger gathered our group together and informed us that this was a strenuous tour that included narrow passageways, a 32 foot ladder and some tight squeezes. And we were at high altitude and we should have plenty of water. After that brief warning tickets were collected and away we went. Balcony House is what our family refers to as the Indiana Jones tour.

    Here, our group waits for the Ranger to lead us down to the ruins.





    This is the easy part.





    Our first glimpse of the Ladder.





    Ranger Adrian giving us some pointers on how to climb the ladder safely.





    Our group proceeds to climb.





    After safely reaching the top and crawling through a small tunnel we emerge onto one of the patio areas overlooking the canyon.





    After everyone has made it up, Ranger Adrian talks about how the Anasazi lived in this harsh environment. She gave a very good presentation.





    We continued on through the rest of the ruins, taking in the sights of the unique views.













    As our tour finished up we gathered together to get ready for the journey up and out.





    Our group lines up to squeeze through the smallest part of our trip and the exit.





    Yes, it was a tight fit. And not a flattering photo.





    Through the tunnel and up the side of the canyon. We were feeling the altitude about now.




    The Balcony House tour is a unique experience. If you visit Mesa Verde, this should be a must on your to do list.

    After reaching the top, Brett and I recuperated in the truck with the air conditioning on while drinking some fresh cold water. Did I mention it was hot. It was nice and cool down in the ruin but up on top of the mesa it was on the warm side.

    After gathering ourselves together, we headed over to our three o clock tour of Cliff Palace.

    Here's looking out from the overlook at Cliff Palace.





    This is Cliff Palace, the largest of the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde.





    The Ranger met our group at the overlook and we then proceeded down to the ruins. Although not as stressful as Balcony House. This tour also involves steep steps and some ladder climbing.




    Almost there.




    After reaching the bottom our group rests in the shade while the Ranger gives us a brief history of Cliff Palace and the unique features of the ruins. The other tour group in the distance gives you a sense of just how big Cliff Palace is.




    Brett looks on as we listen to the Ranger.




    Our group proceeds into the ruins.










    Looking down into one of the many Kivas.




    Looking back to where we were sitting at the begging of the tour.





    Now for the trip back up to the top.





    This is looking down from one of the ladders.





    After Cliff Palace we headed over to Spruce Tree House ruins. This is a self guided tour and doesn't require tickets.





    Spruce Tree House ruins also give you the unique experience of crawling down into an actual Kiva.






    After a long day of climbing in and out of ruins we headed back to The Far View Lodge. The only Hotel that is located inside Mesa Verde. The rooms have no television, but with 60 mile views in every direction why would you need it. They also have an excellent restaurant there as well. Very good food.
    This was the view from our table as we watched the sun set on the New Mexico desert. During our dinner we would see the occasional deer walk by although the Martini's we were drinking slowed our camera reaction time.
    Plus it was my Birthday. A very special way to spend my B day.




    Of course the Sneetches loved the view as they relaxed on the balcony.





    As night fell we headed out to take some night shots.







    Practicing some time lapse with my trusty camera.




    The Milky Way Galaxy.




    This is looking south towards Gallup and Farmington with the Milky Way in the night sky.




    After wandering around in the dark with the camera and encountering some wild horses, we settled in for the night. Tomorrow we head to Durango and Farmington and Chaco Canyon.
    Last edited by Crazy Larry; 07-21-2010 at 08:23 PM.
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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    Wow... very impressive... my little ones are too young to do Mesa Verde right now but we will get there when they are older!
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    Re: The Amazing Southwest, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon

    Thank you for all the lovely comments.

    If you travel the Four Corners area and want to add some local flavor to your trip, tune in to 660 KTNN-AM.
    It's the Navajo radio station that covers the entire reservation.
    The station is spoken mostly in Navajo but English sneaks in every once in awhile. The music is a mixture of Country and traditional Native American music.
    So give a listen, even if you don't understand Navajo.
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