The weather system that continued to blow through the Southwest followed us to Monument Valley and we found ourselves snowed in the first day with the visitor center closed; it was basically a white out and we were stuck indoors with limited wi fi. It’s rare thing to see Monument Valley in the snow; we had been here before nearly ten years ago, though seeing it again after so long brought the grandeur of the place back into the mind’s eye.
By late morning, the buttes were hugged by cloud cover that dissipated as the day went on, releasing blue sky that encouraged the melt. As soon as the roads became passable we decided to visit the Goulding Trading Post and the flurries picked up again as we made our way back to the RV park. We extended our stay an extra day as we had a horseback ride booked but that wasn’t going to happen so we rescheduled.
Based on weather forecasts during our planning phase, we hadn’t planned to be in such frigid temps. We had picked up antifreeze in Page as a backup plan and were certainly were glad we did. We poured antifreeze in the tanks and set a warming lamp by the fresh water and water pump but despite our efforts, including running faucets in the middle of the night, our pipes feeding the freshwater froze; the temperatures plunged into the teens. In the morning we turned the rig around to get the now blazing sun against the water intake side to heat things up.
We eventually ventured to the MV Visitor Center which was virtually deserted and poked around the shop and picked up a Navajo medicine man carving, our standard magnet, and a book on the Dine’ as I am forever fascinated by the culture.
When we got back to BigB we coaxed the water through the pipes and were relieved when they started flowing again.
We decided to drive up to Mexican Hat and encountered the site immortalized by Forrest Gump – the scene where he’s running through Monument Valley and decided he didn’t want to run anymore; people were standing in the road trying to get selfies, even though you’re not supposed to stop in the road they of course slowed down traffic. It was the wrong time of day to get a photograph anyway.
We decided to lunch in Mexican Hat at the same restaurant we ate at nearly ten years before. Another Navajo Taco..
We got back for our scheduled horseback ride. It had gotten up into the low forties and was sunny. The KOA (a chain of RV parks) we were staying at had a horse stable attached to it. We met Guy who was the older Navajo gentleman in charge along with Priscilla and Harrison. Harrison was set to be our guide for the day. He was 26 years old and his family owned a large chunk of land in the valley. He was a mechanic who also specialized in training horses.
We set out to ride along the mesa that skirted the buttes.
It was great having a conversation with Harrison – I was more interested in what he had to say than the ride as the day was getting increasingly cold and was starting to chill my bones.
The struggle with the younger Navajo generation as they want to see progress but the elders are concerned that they will go the “white man” way. Meaning they would lose their balance, and when this happens they suffer afflications that need to be healed by their medicine men and ceremonies. I had noticed the large branches stacked up like tee pees and suspect those were the sweat lodges they used for purification and healing.
There is also a conundrum of availability of basic staples closer to them instead of having to drive all the way to Page to get their shopping done at reasonable prices. If they shop at Goulding they are paying exhorbinant prices for basic goods.
Navajo country is such a spiritual and profound place and it could easily be overrun with opportunistic developers destroying what is dearly sacred (they have already experienced this creep with the Uranium mining). We rode through the ancient mesas, their recesses still covered in spits of snow.
We finished the day feeding the horses carrots and I was glad to stretch my aching knees and looking forward to a glass of wine. Fortunately BigB wasn’t far away, set in the backdrop of the valley.
As I watched the day fade, the pink hues of twilight softened the deep magenta sandstone, the brushstokes of evening blended with the landscape growing deeper as the stars began to rise.
It’s fascinating to think that this place used to be oceanic and these buttes were part of a watery underworld. With the way things are going it might once again reclaim that heritage.
This landscape is not a national park, it is part of the Navajo Nation. The massive red buttes stand guard in a sacred bond; a testimony to the endurance and beauty of the the Dine’.