Taking a little sojourn from the abundance of national park discoveries, following Moab we moved on to the Navajo lands of Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon.
Thanks to Hollywood we’ve pretty much all seen Monument Valley in some way, shape or form so I have to say that neither of us were expecting to be bowled over by the place. Once there though, the spaciousness of this immense and arid land which is sacred to the Navajo people, and so spectacularly interrupted with immense sandstone buttes perforating the sky, remains astonishing.
One definitely feels you are in a Navajo Tribal Park as opposed to a National Park. Evident from the comparatively relaxed ‘family run’ feel of the organisation, to the strict instructions of not wandering off the designated path. Something dear Michael seems to have trouble adhering to when equipped with a camera in his hand – he got quite the wrist slapping from a tribal member .
The famed 17 mile ‘loop road’ that runs through the valley is the only way to see the area and proved to be yet another test for our beloved, all American SUV. They do warn that the road is unpaved, a little rough and dusty. Those descriptions are understatements – the potholes are brutal! We did the drive several times during our 3 day stay and it always left us feeling a little frazzled from all the stomach churning, teamed with a bit of head on roof bashing.
Not only was the monumental scenery incredible but it was also interesting to learn how the region actually came to be the star of John Ford’s Westerns.
The Depression and a couple of droughts had left the area and Navajo people in a terrible state so Harry Goulding who, along with his wife Leone, had been living in Monument Valley for many years, got photos taken of the land. He then made a trip to Hollywood, photos in tow, where he eventually met with director John Ford. And so was the beginning of Monument Valley’s Hollywood career after Ford fell in love with this expanse of land and went on to shoot 10 films there, always hiring the locals as ‘extras’.
Finally we said goodbye to Utah and headed to Page in Arizona, predominantly for the famous and well photographed slot canyons. Learning that we were in the same area as the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River was an added bonus.
It still amazes me to arrive at a famed scenic destination and find that it exceeds my expectations. Horseshoe Bend is far from a small feature and truly took our breath away as we stood on the edge of magnificently coloured rocks, looking 305metres down onto the contrasting blue/green colour of the river that makes a wide, horseshoe shape sweep around a sandstone escarpment.
The following day we ventured into the slightly less visited Lower Antelope Canyon. At first we were a bit taken aback to find we wouldn’t be able to share the experience because I didn’t have a full sized tripod and therefore wasn’t considered a ‘proper’ photographer. I mean in this day and age I would have thought an iPhone would be considered a professional camera!? So we went separately – Michael with a fellow proper, tripod carrying photographer and I went with a small group.
In the end I think I might have gotten the better deal. Not only did our Navajo guide tell us wonderful Native American stories associated with Antelope Canyon, he also played the Native American flute which magically resonated throughout the canyon as we walked along.
This was all a bonus though as the canyon itself is a sculptural masterpiece created by nature.
Entering the canyon from above, one would never know where it was unless guided as it’s a very narrow entrance you must shimmy yourself down into before being exposed to this other world that lies beneath. The magical shapes, continuations of lines and curves on the textured walls, along with the contrasts in colour that are ever changing depending on the light, is mesmerising.
It was then on to the gorgeously vibrant and very red rocked city of Sedona for some Christmas cheer. Somehow we found ourselves reenacting ‘The Blair Witch Project’ when a hike went very ‘wrong’ but clearly lived to tell the tale. Phew!! Moral of the story is to ALWAYS carry a torch no matter what time of day you start off.