Monument Valley Part 2

Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley is a 30,000 acre Navajo Tribal Park  on the border of Arizona and Utah. Established in 1958, it is located within the 16 million-acre Navajo Reservation.

In the afternoon we take a 2.5 hour guided tour of many of the famous rock formations named after animals and other familiar images they resemble. (For example, the 2 rocks above are Left Mitten and Right Mitten.) Others are named for important persons or historical events.

We begin our tour by visiting a hogan.

This one is a female hogan because of its rounded shape representing a woman’s womb. Male, or forked-pole conical hogans were more predominant in the 1800s.

Wood from the piñon pine and to a lesser extent, the juniper tree is used to build the hexagon-shaped hogan. The doors always face east toward the rising sun. This first sun provides good blessings for the start of each new day.

The frame is covered in bark, weeds, grass, and mud, leaving an opening in the center of the roof for smoke to escape from the central fire pit on the floor.

This lovely woman, named Marian, demonstrates how shorn sheeps hair is spun into yarn that eventually is woven into an intricately designed Navajo rug.

Dyes from native plants are used to color the yarn.

Corn is ground on a large flat rock by using a hand-sized rectangular rock to crush and roll the dried kernels into flour.

A small brush made from a bundle of sticks is used to sweep the residue into a pile and clean the stone tool.

Below, by our guide’s feet, are 4 more household tools used by the native Navajos:

The top bundle of sticks looks like the brush used in grinding corn, but is actually longer. This brush is used to comb hair. The stone to the left is used to dye or bleach the sheep wool. The yucca root is used as a soap and shampoo. And the long bundle of thick sticks is a cooking utensil.

Hanging on the wall is a cradleboard made from 5 pieces of wood and laced with leather. Babies from birth to a year-old can be carried safely when necessary.

The 2 bottom boards strapped together represent the mother and the father. The bottom flap is for the baby’s feet.

On the back, representing the baby (the union of the mother and father) is a small piece of wood joining the 2 larger pieces. The handle-like headpiece could be covered with a blanket to protect the child from the sun or cold. It also provides extra head protection should anything bump or fall on the cradleboard.

Next, we hop back aboard our touring vehicle and head for the red dirt road.

Ten of us are on this tour and, believe it or not, 2 gentlemen are from Palm Springs. But wait, there’s more! They are driving back to Ohio where the one guy is from Dublin, OH, just outside of Columbus. Small world!

Sometimes we stop for a photo op and sometimes we get out. Unfortunately our tour guide is driving in an enclosed truck and his soft voice does not amplify well as we bounce along in the open-sided vehicle.

So, buckle up and enjoy the scenery with me. Later I will name some rock formations and explain how they were formed.

Some formations I can name…

Three Sisters… not siblings but Catholic nuns dressed in their habits

From my Catholic schooling, that’s (right to left) Sister Miriam Therese, Sister Saint Jude, and Sister Mary Stephen…

Totem Pole

Yes, the tall and slender formation to the right…

Rooster… on the left



Left Mitten

The Right Mitten is the site of a dramatic automobile commercial where the car was airlifted and placed on top of the rock formation.

John Ford’s Point… named for the first Hollywood film director to use the Monument Valley location for a film set

That first film was Stagecoach starring John Wayne.

And now I can identify these formations I captured earlier today…

How the Valley was formed

Before human existence Monument Valley was a vast lowland basin. For hundreds of millions of years, layer upon layer of eroded sediment from the early Rocky Mountains was deposited in the basin and cemented into mainly sandstone and limestone rock. Then a slow, gentle uplift created by a constant pressure from below the surface elevated the horizontal strata. What was once a basin became a plateau of solid rock 1000 feet high. Wind, rain, heat, and cold have spent the last 50 million years cutting and peeling away the surface of this plateau. The simple wearing down of alternate layers of hard and soft rock slowly created the natural wonders of Monument Valley that today stand between 400 and 1200 feet tall. (Goulding’s tour brochure)

Jeff and I don’t usually take tours and today we are reminded why. Today’s adventure was okay to disappointing for what it cost us… $76 apiece… ouch! Our guide never introduced himself, could not be heard while we were riding in the vehicle (and that’s when he explained everything), and he didn’t even drop us off at the campground when the tour was over. He told us to take a shuttle back, but the shuttles only run from 5 pm-10 pm! I had to go into the Lodge and ask the concierge about shuttle service. Even he was surprised by our guide’s lack of courtesy.

On the positive side, however, the 8 other guests on our tour were fun to be with as we all chatted away and got to know each other a bit. And while the concierge personally drove us back to the campground, we learned that he lived in a hogan with his family until he was 10 years old and they had enough money to buy a house. He also shared his desire to leave the Reservation, join the Navy, and see the world. (We should have tipped him instead of our guide who we really overtipped… I’m just saying…)

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