Sunday, 17 October 2010

Monument Valley – A Very Special Place

I passed through Monument Valley on my way south to meet Jackie and due to time being short, I managed to see only part of what was there. At that time, I mainly stayed on the main road (US 163) as it passes from Utah into Arizona and just took a few pictures as I passed through.

On days 112 and 113, I was able to return and go into the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. I am certainly glad that I did, for it is a truly amazing place. Monument Valley is centred around a group of sandstone buttes being all that is left of the original plateau that was washed away by the ever changing courses of rivers that have flowed across the area forming the valley. The valley floor is made of siltstone and its red colour is caused by iron oxide, once part of the siltstone.

My pictures were therefore taken on three different days and at different times of those days. I deliberately went to take photos early in the morning to catch the sunrise and in the evening for the sunset. These are without a doubt the best times to get the best light for photos. On one of the days I went on a two and a half hour guided tour through the valley, a service operated by the Navajo Indians. You can drive through the valley in your own vehicles, but it should really be a 4 wheel drive. I had to laugh at some of the people trying to take regular cars across the heavily rutted tracks!

Monument Valley is very special indeed. The scenery is very simple, with just rocks, buttes, sand and some vegetation being all that is there. All except the other people, who like me, were eager to get the best pictures possible. Almost everybody has a camera! To be fair, I didn’t struggle too much to get pictures without other tourists in – you just need to be creative about how you take your pictures. I was also getting quite good at asking people to move out of shot!

This first picture is of Agathia Peak to the south of the Valley and I was determined to get some pictures with the Leading Ladies in the foreground. There was a track leading to an Indian village that I took the liberty of riding along and stopping for a picture....





















I was a little concerned whether I was trespassing, but a truck went along the track with a huge Indian lady cheerfully waving and smiling at me. I guessed I was okay to be there!

This next picture is at Mexican Hat, just north of Monument Valley. The town is so called as this rock feature near the town looks like, err, a Mexican hat. It is a remarkable natural balancing act and I did wonder what the small town would do if it ever collapsed, as it surely will do one day.....



















Continuing on this theme of what is near to the Valley, this is Twin Rocks, near the town of Bluff. To me it looks like two people kissing, so I have unofficially renamed them the kissing rocks....



















The next two pictures must have been taken millions of times before, as it is one of the classic views of the area. Taken along US 163 just north of some of the buttes, both are taken looking south. The first photo was taken in the afternoon and of course this is looking into the sun with the buttes largely in shadow....



















This second photo was taken early in the morning, just after sunrise and the light is much better....



















I think this is a perfect example of having to think about the suns position and needing to return to somewhere at a different time of day, in order to get that better picture.

There are many places that sell hand-made Navajo jewellery at the roadside. As I was there so early in the morning I sneaked my bike around the back of the vendors huts to get the next picture. I am sure I would have been stopped if the jewellery sellers were there....



























More pictures taken in the early morning, before entering the park....





















































In order to enter the Navajo Tribal Park, the entry cost of which was the best $5 I have ever spent, you travel along a 5 mile (ish) access road. Before you arrive at the pay point, the views from this road are pretty good, giving a taste of what is to come. This was taken in the afternoon as the sun began to set...
















I couldn’t resist trying the reflection in the mirror shot again, but this time with my big camera....

















I did stop for this next picture. Sitting motionless on a 65 mph road in the middle of the lane means you do three things – you act fast, only take one picture and keep watching your mirrors!...



























The rest of the pictures are all taken within the park itself. I took hundreds of pictures and eliminated those I wasn’t happy with and that left me with those that I thought I might include on my blog. I checked how many that was and then thought that perhaps 93 was a few too many to include! Monument Valley is so special it was hard to eliminate so many to get down to the manageable number I have eventually posted!

This is looking down from the elevated visitors centre. The three structures are known as the Mittens. The track on the valley floor is where the tour vehicles and unsuspecting people in their pristine cars with low profile tyres (US = tires) drive....



















I make no apology for these next few pictures. Yes I know they are similar, but I don’t care, as they are some of my favourites and I didn’t want to exclude any of them!....


























































Deeper into the valley, I looked back at the Mittens....




















The tour guide then took us to see how the weather has formed holes in some of the rocks. These are mainly caused by wind....

This is the first we came to....



























The next was called the “Ear”....




























It is difficult to judge the scale of these rocks from the photos, so I have deliberately included a group of tourists in this next picture....



























If you look carefully at the picture above, you can make out the shape of an Indians head in the rock, with the dark water stain to the right being his hair.

Above where the tourists were standing is this hole. How perfect is this? Nature can be wonderful at times....



























This is our guide, playing a, um, I don’t know what it is!.....



























Famous for a Marlboro cigarette commercial, this is Totem Pole rock....





















Nearby was a formation of rocks that looked like a skull....





















Rocks shaped like a hand....



























And a rock shaped like a, err, thumb. That is what the guide called it.... I like the aircraft trail....



























This was heading back to the visitors centre....




















Finally, this is the main Mitten Butte at sunset. The colour was fantastic!.....




















Without a doubt, Monument Valley is a very special place. It was one of the places I was looking forward to the most on my tour and it didn’t disappoint. If you visit Monument valley, go on one of the guided tours that are arranged from the car park of the View Hotel in the park. You cannot miss the little hut. Go in the afternoon so that you get back to the visitor centre just before sunset. The cost was $75 for a 2.5 hour tour, which in my opinion, was great value. If you want to stay at the View Hotel, don’t do what I did and assume you can book it a week before you arrive – they take bookings up to a year in advance!

I can’t help thinking it would be great to ride an off-road bike through the valley on the dirt roads, Just follow the tour guides vehicles so you find the best places. It would be even better to do it on a Ural....

Monument Valley is now on my list of favourite places.

17 comments:

Charlie6 said...

Gary, outstanding pictures as usual....you really got some great light in some of them! I hope I am as fortunate less than 10 days from now when the family and I journey to Monument Valley with Natasha in tow.

dom

Here's my only visit to Monument Valley, three years ago.

Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

motoroz said...

I love your pictures. I have heard about Monument Valley but these pictures make me really want to visit. The colors are great. Hotels at these types of places fill up quickly.

Mike said...

Wow, all great photos Gary! Somebody has probably brought this up but you're going to have quite a coffee table book after this trip!

Beck said...

Your pictures are incredible, the best yet! I can see why it is one of your favorites. Your blog shows you are in Utah now, but isn't Monument Valley in Arizona? You did indicate you were behind in your posts. I guess I need to check out a map, so I don't sound ignorant. Oh well, I guess your followers will get a laugh out of this comment.

bobskoot said...

Gary:

Excellent photos, and great lighting too. Now I want to go back and follow your tire tracks.

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Lady Ridesalot said...

Amazing... breathtaking... absolutely beautiful!

I am soooo enjoying this ride with you. It's like you keep turning out one gem after another.

I love how you actually time your picture taking so you (and us!) can get the best reward from your efforts. Simply wonderful!

Rob said...

I have not had the pleasure of getting to Monument Valley but now I believe it's on my list of most favorite spots. Until I see it with my own eyes, I will yearn to get there....Thank you for the photos...

Grumpy said...

Great pic's as always Gary. Monument Valley is one of a number of parks out west that are on my "must see" list.

Eve said...

All the pictures are stunning Gary! Your depth of field is INCREDIBLE! I love the photos of the bike with the buttes and rock formations behind! Wonderful color!!!

bluekat said...

Gorgeous photos - What awesome scenery and beautiful colors. I can imagine the difficulty of sorting and choosing a few best ones.

Ron and I are considering a Southern Utah (and environs) next spring. It'll probably be in the car though. Your pics are great motivation and inspiration.



The lighting on that last one - Fantastic

682202 said...

Great photos! Monument Valley looks like a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing. I

Amber said...

Absolutely wonderful Gary!!!

Gary France said...

Charlie6 – I hope you all have a fantastic time, including Natasha. As you know, it is a fabulous place. Looking at your pictures, I think we park in almost exactly the same spots!

Oz – I agree, the colours are fab and as I discovered, you are right above the hotels.

Mike – I am thinking about that....

Beck – Thank you. Monument Valley is right on the border between Utah and Arizona. It is a bit confusing because the turn off US 163 to get into the park is in Utah, the main center around the view hotel and visitor center is in Arizona, but the place uses Utah time! I am currently about 3 days late in uploading my posts, so I am further on than my latest posts indicate.

Gary France said...

Bob – Thanks. My tire tracks are easy to find as they have lots of smiles attached to them.

Lady R – Thanks. I love getting comments like this! There are only a few places where I have the luxury of going back at the right hour for the best light, as most of the places I go I have to take my pictures as whatever time I am there. MV is one of those places that getting the timing right is a must. I am pleased you are enjoying the ride.

Rob – You are very welcome. If you get the chance to go, then do it!

Grumpy – There are so many great parks in the northern Arizona / Southern Utah area, that it is a great place to come and see.

Gary France said...

Eve – Coming from a great photographer like you, I really appreciated you comment!

bluekat –Thanks! I hope you and Ron have a great time. Book the View Hotel now! There are so many great places to see in the area.

682202 – Thanks Gordon. It certainly is.

Amber – Thanks!

RKDan said...

This is really a very nice blog, simple but with a great story and pictures. Thanks for taking the time to do this and share it. ~RKDan

Gary France said...

RKDan - Thanks, I am glad you like my blog. I had to be strict with myself and write something nearly every day when I was riding across the USA. Right now, my bog contributions are not as much as I would like them to be, due to needing to concentrate on finishing my book about the trip. Nearly there!