Mystery Valley

Here it is in August, and it feels like the year has been a dumpster-full-of-doo-doo on fire, about to be hit by murder hornets riding an asteroid. So I started looking at my vacation photos from last October and so much awesome scenery in the Southwestern US get solace in the crazy times since. One of my favorite parts was my brief visit to the Navajo Nation.

I drove up from Farmington, NM, a convenient and inexpensive place to stop and spend the night after visiting Mesa Verde National Park. The Four Corners Monument is a small side-trip from the drive to Navajo Nations Park and an opportunity to claim the four virtual caches marking this small, geographical oddity.

Four Corners Monument.
Minor travel achievement: unlocked!

I had pretty low expectations, especially after reading reviews on Trip Advisor, but it would not be exaggerating to say I felt those reviews were generous. To be sure, it was in the lower end of the “Top 1000 places Jim Wants to Visit Before He Dies” list, but yawn. <TL;DR> $5 entry fee. You park, walk into a square pen of obelisks surrounded by vendor booths, jockey to get your selfie at the intersection, try to use the overflowing portable toilet before you get back on the road, and wonder why you wasted the time. </TL;DR>

… and it’s not even in the right place.

And then the day got a lot better. I had planned to overnight in an AirBnB “campsite” on a private swath in Navajo Nations Park, a gorgeous area that inspires an appreciation of the deep connection the land. I regret that I only had one night to stay there as the views and sounds were spectacular.

Holy cow – That. Was. My. Campsite!
Truth!

After getting the tour of their off-the-grid setup, I drove to the visitor center to mill around before meeting my Navajo Spirit Tours guide for a Monument Valley sunset tour. When I was first browsing the site, I noticed all of the tours are set up assuming at least two people. One can book “two tickets” or hope to get onto an existing tour with another person. Since the timing worked out, I chose the latter. Fortunately for me, they had canceled and I had a guide all to myself. Bwuhahaha.

<tl;dr> What a great way to cap the day. I had a much more personalized tour and the guide, Don Mose, took me up areas he wouldn’t normally do with less active folks. He started with a story to sets the context for the petroglyphs we’d see along the way. He etched out this stone for me to take with.

Story-telling and understanding context of the petroglyphs

Views, especially as the sun was receding, were fantastic.

I did feel like I got to see a lot up-close like this petroglyph:

Petroglyph

And these structures that I think may have been huts. I peeked inside and found them to be very small.

Hut, possibly?

In contrast to the Four Corners Monument, this was absolutely worth doing. Next time, I would like to have the guide’s services to stay out longer, enjoying some of the night sky.

Don Mose, my guide

Look, tafoni!

Tafoni

Back at the car, I savored the final bits of light before heading back to my tent.

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