Monday, July 25, 2022
We drove a few miles from the KOA campground to the entrance of Monument Valley, on the Navajo Nation, and paid our $8 per person fee. We met Bobby Atele and climbed onto the seats built on the back of a Chevrolet pickup. A couple from Alabama were in front of us with their son. A young couple from Italy were behind us.
At the first stop, Bobby told us about several monuments before us, then about the plants around us, and how they are used. He talked about the movies and which monuments they were filmed around. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_appearances_of_Monument_Valley_in_the_media) lists 63 movies that have been made here starting in 1925. Stagecoach might be the most famous and iconic. John Ford would make eight movies here. Vertical Limit opens with a climbing scene on one. Mission Impossible opened with Tom Cruise climbing solo. Although Bobby said it was in Monument Valley, I found an interesting article on the event, (https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/mission_impossible_ii_climbing_scenes_special-18), which said it was filmed at Dead Horse Point, Utah, one of the coolest places we have been on this trip, where we met the handsome, young couple eating breakfast. I remember watching “Stagecoach” and thinking the red sand looked fake, but it is not.
Driving down into the valley, we stopped at John Ford Point, where some iconic scenes were filmed. They have a horse and rider to give perspective to the immense landscape, but the horse was eating breakfast.
We soon left the gravel roads and traveled on sand tracks made more tricky by a big rain last night. Besides the iconic monuments, we saw giant rocks shaped like oysters, a cliff shaped like a great dragon, a hole in the top of a cave that looked like an eagle’s eye from one direction and a Mohican from the front. to demonstrate the echo of the cave, Bobby played his flute. He was quite good. One area had very cool petroglyphs and remains of homes made of rock.
At the dragon rock, a local farmer’s sheepdog came to check us out. Then I noticed the herd of sheep grazing and moving along the dragon. People still live amongst the rocks. Some of their homes are build like they were hundreds of years ago, because it works in this harsh environment. Some are built with modern materials. Sweat lodges are still used in a ceremony for the transition of a boy into manhood.
It is rare to find homes or farms in a national park, but this is not a national park. It is the Navajo Nation. Although I first complained to myself about a house in the way of my picture, but the time we completed our three and a half hour tour, I became comfortable with it. Actually, it adds a lot when you realize these people have been here for hundreds or thousands of years. Bobby told of one lady who recently passed away at 105 years old, spending her entire life here.
There are so many things we would not have seen if we hadn’t taken this tour, and Bobby did an outstanding job.