OCTOBER 9, 2010
We loaded up and hit the road by mid-morning. Our drive along Utah 98 to Utah 160 was expected to take about 3 hours. First we had one more stop near Page. We went to the Gooseneck overlook off US 89 for an often photographed spot where the Colorado River makes a 270 degree loop in a canyon more than 1000’ below. It’s a .75 mile hike to get there and we were carrying cameras and tripods. The view is worth it though.
The return trip is all uphill and I swear the tripod gained 20 pounds by the time I got to the car.
As we were driving to Monument Valley, we saw a sign for Navajo National Monument. It was nine miles to the north so we turned off. It’s a small park dedicated to preserving one of the best ancestral pueblos in Arizona called Betakin. We walked about a mile to an overlook where we could see the ruins in the distance. They do hikes up to the ruins in the morning. It’s 5 miles round trip. Maybe I’ll be in shape to handle those hills by the time we come back this way.
We’re staying at an RV park called Gouldings and it’s the only game in town so it’s booked solid all the time. It has a lot of amenities and I’d like to have more time here to take advantage of them.
OCTOBER 10, 2010
We set the alarm this AM as we have a very full day planned. First we drove to Valley of the Gods (not to be confused with Garden of the Gods in Colorado). It’s 10 miles northeast of Mexican Hat, Utah. We had to stop for the required picture of Mexican Hat rock. Steve had done this drive when he was in Monument Valley in 2003. He wasn’t sure if after being in Utah for three weeks and seeing all the rock formations whether he’d be as impressed as he was the first time. He was. So was I. We had fun naming rocks such as Kissing cousins, Abbott and Costello, Father Knows Best, and Mrs. Butterworth. The drive is 17 miles.
The couple we met from Greensboro had told us about a scenic drive near Valley of the Gods on Utah 261 called the Moki Dugway. We had to check this out. It’s a winding gravel road with sharp turns and a sheer drop to Valley of the Gods. It gives you a panoramic view of the valley. It’s only 4 miles long but we stopped every half mile or so to enjoy the view. There’s a big sign as you enter warning people not to take RVs, buses or trailers on this. Just as we’d gotten to the top, we saw a large fifth wheel with a trailer in tow starting down. We were sure he’d get stuck or crash but apparently he made it all right.
Then we turned left onto a road to Muley Point. This point overlooks the Colorado River canyon. The area is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It overlooks the Colorado River at a point where there are double goosenecks. We spent about an hour there enjoying the view and of course taking pictures. But we wanted to get to Monument Valley by late afternoon so we retraced our steps back the way we’d come.
Steve was surprised to see how much things had changed in the six years since he was at Monument Valley. In 2003 you didn’t have to pay to enter but there were only 5 miles you could drive without a Navajo guide. We’d planned on taking a private tour. Now there is a $10 per person fee to enter but you can drive a 17 mile loop with 11 overlooks. We decided that this would meet our needs and opted not to do the tour. There is also a new Visitors Center with a great gift shop and museum. We started the drive about 5PM. One of the first views is of The Mittens. Then we moved on to the Elephant and The 3 Sisters. Next came John Ford Point. If you are familiar with the John Wayne movies, you’d recognize this view immediately. I think it was in every one of his movies. This is where we picked up a pack of local dogs who chased our car for the next 5 overlooks. I don’t know why they picked on us. Opal was in the car but didn’t even bark until one of them jumped up and almost bit her nose. The road is very rough with ruts, sand and slickrock outcrops. The speed limit says 15mph but I think we were doing under 10mph. When Steve would gun the car to lose them we did at most 20mph. Finally, we left the yippy mongrels behind us. As the sun was setting the light on the sandstone was fantastic. It was approaching 8PM when we made it to Artists Point. We saw one other car along the way and knew we were one of the last cars on the road. It was a bit confusing to figure which was the way out. If we chose the wrong way, we’d have to drive the whole loop again as it’s one way. We have decided that we’d like to see this area again on a full moon night. As we left Artist’s Point, and got back onto the road to the park entrance again, our friends the yippy mongrels were there to greet us! We sped up, as much as possible, and left them behind again.
OCTOBER 11, 2010
Moving day again. But first some chores need to be done. We set the alarm and were down at the laundry when it opened at 7AM. Our packing up and hitching up the car took until 11AM which is checkout time. The attendant came by just as we were pulling out. So far we have gotten on the road by checkout time. If you haven’t vacated by checkout many places will charge you for an additional night.
Today we’re on our way to Mancos, Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park. This is about a 2 hour drive. We followed the same path we’d taken to Valley of the Gods and kept going east. We found ourselves on a scenic byway called Trail of the Ancients. Our plans called for a stop at the Four Corners Monument. This is also on the Navajo Reservation. Again Steve found that things had changed a lot from his previous visit. Then there were native artisans manning the craft booths. This time it had turned very touristy and the quality was run of the mill. There were a few artists whose work stood out and we did buy some gifts from them. I had the expected picture of touching all four states simultaneously taken with Opal.
We pulled into the A&A RV Campground about 4PM. This is located directly across from the entrance to Mesa Verde NP. We were supposed to be in site #4 but mistakenly pulled into #3. When we realized the problem, Steve was going to move the trailer. As he pulled out he must have begun the turn too soon. We didn’t hear anything but the man next to us said “Hey, you just knocked the heck out of the picnic table.” We checked the trailer and no damage. The wooden box on the back was what hit. Unfortunately the picnic table didn’t fair as well. Being the honest guy he is, Steve let the park owner know and made good on the damages. The fellow next to us said, once he’d hit a water line and everyone in the park knew about it. It looked like Old Faithful! I guess that’s just one more chapter in our “Learning to Fly, Our First Year in an RV” book. This is a very nice park and has AAA and Good Sam ratings. The folks here couldn’t have been nicer.
For more about Mesa Verde, see the Colorado Part 2 entry.