Mexican Hat, Utah

image And Monument Valley

We leave Goosenecks State Park and pick up Highway 163 again, traveling through the village of Mexican Hat.

img_4393

This tiny town of some 100 people is named after a unique rock formation consisting of a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base on top of a small hill. (americansouthwest.net)

img_4917 commons.m.wikimedia.org

img_4918 3dparks.wr.usgs.gov


Mexican Hat was originally named Goodridge after the family who first settled here in the 1800s. This small community has a historical legacy for once being a hub for sheep and cattle farming, the oldest oil producing field in Utah, a popular trading destination, and a tent city to some 1200 miners hauling ore out of the mountains for processing.

In the 1880s gold seekers arrived here to sluice the San Juan River. Unfortunately not enough gold was ever found to make this a profitable expedition.

Hollywood brought John Wayne here to ford the San Juan River in his movie, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and several others. (hatrockinn.com)


We never see the “sombrero” rock, but “Oz” looms in the distance

img_4411

as we cross the bridge over the San Juan River

img_4414

img_4416

and continue south on Highway 163.

img_4417

img_4419


Monument Valley is not a valley in the conventional sense, but rather a wide flat landscape interrupted by reddish rock formations rising hundreds of feet in the air. These buttes, part of the Colorado Plateau (en.m.wikipedia.org), are the last vestiges of the sandstone layers that once covered this entire region. (americansouthwest.net)

Highway 163, linking Kayenta, AZ to Highway 191 in UT, is the only main road through Monument Valley which occupies most of the Navajo Indian Reservation.

The iconic view below is from the long, straight, empty stretch approaching the AZ/UT border from the north.

img_4426

You may recognize this scene from the movie, Forrest Gump. After running for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours Forrest (Tom Hanks) stops, turns around and says, “I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now.”

img_4429

Although many spectacular views can be appreciated from Highway 163, even more picture opportunities present themselves from Valley Drive, a 17 mile dirt road within Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. (americansouthwest.net)


And so, we continue south on Highway 163 towards Kayenta. Jeff drives, the dogs sleep, and I take pictures from the passenger’s seat…

img_4431

img_4432

img_4437

img_4442

img_4445

img_4447

Goosenecks

image State Park

It’s not quite 1:30 when we arrive at the edge of solitude and beauty.

img_4409

With our senior discount we pay $5 to stay overnight in a primitive campground with amazing views. We pull into a “deluxe site” complete with a table, fire pit, and garbage can.

img_4406

We’re parked on the rim of an extraordinary canyon.

img_4405

One thousand feet below is one of the most spectacular geological wonders.

img_4368

img_4373

img_4375

The river we see below is the San Juan River originating in Colorado from the mountains with the same name. (plaque at State Park)

It loops about for 6 miles yet only advances 1.5 miles west on its journey to Lake Powell, 35 miles away.

The entrenched river meander below has a name that comes as no surprise. Geologists call it a gooseneck, hence the name for this State Park in the middle of nowhere. (stateparks.utah.gov and americansouthwest.net)

img_4378

Several millions of years ago the San Juan River flowed through here on a flat plain, much like today’s Mississippi River. Slowly, the uplifting of the Colorado Plateau started entrenching the river downward as it cut through the rising canyons. (plaque at State Park)

img_4385

These canyon walls are composed of shale and limestone over 300 million years old. (visitutah.com)

img_4381

img_4390

img_4386

Notice the ant-sized vehicles in the enlarged image of the same picture below. Our RV is among them.

img_4386

After we are situated, settled, and “scenic-viewed”, I capture the landscape of the park around us.

img_4369

img_4370

img_4387

Home-made fire pits…

img_4372

img_4376

A zen-like stone labyrinth…

img_4377

Other campers and rock formations in the distance…

img_4384

img_4371

img_4374

img_4388

And my favorite… I call this rock formation, “Oz”.

img_4383

One last picture (or 2) of the sinuous river meandering right below us…

img_4389

img_4403

After sitting around a campfire outside of our RV, I snap a pic at sunset with “Oz” in the background (and “Rabbit Ears” to its right)… And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!

img_4410

Amazon Delivers

image We Head South and West for the Winter

While in Jernigan Land we have a replacement seatbelt delivered and Jeff installs it. It’s not exactly the identical model but it works and I can now safely buckle up.

Meanwhile another locked-in and locked-out emergency occurs, making this the third time we have endured this and the first time since we had the original lock replaced.

img_4820 campingworld.com

Calls to Forest River customer service keep routing us to local authorized dealers who offer no help so we pay a locksmith to break the lock and we order a new one from Amazon.

We spend 2 extra nights at Cherry Creek State Park waiting delivery and the lock arrives in the late afternoon of day 2. Jeff successfully installs it and we are ready to go tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, per the advice of the locksmith, we decide to contact our insurance company and I begin composing a love letter to Forest River!


At last, we head back to Lake Elsinore on October 5th, deciding to postpone our National Parks’ adventures in Utah. We’re ready to settle in for the winter since we’ve been traveling non-stop since August 1st.

We take I-25 South out of Denver and cut over to Highway 160 for a beautiful drive through the Rio Grande National Forest.

img_4299

img_4300

img_4301

img_4304


We spend the night outside of Pagosa Springs, CO.

Llamas…

img_4306

What is that towering rock in the background?

img_4311

A close-up shot from my iPad…

img_4313


The next day we enter Utah and the landscape changes.

img_4321

img_4326

Jeff finds a State Park near Mexican Hat where we plan to spend the night. We have potable water in the fresh water tank and the gray and black tanks are empty. State Parks provide electric hook-ups, at the most. Highway 160 becomes 163 in Utah. We drive toward, through, and beyond Bluff, Utah until

img_4327

img_4328

img_4333

img_4334

img_4335

we turn north on 261 for about a mile,

img_4341

img_4344

img_4346

and then turn west onto 361, the almost 4 mile paved access road to Gooseneck State Park.

img_4355

img_4356

img_4359

img_4360

img_4362

img_4365

And then we arrive at the edge of Amazement!

img_4367

Autumn Colors and Amazing Rock Formations

image Utah is Beautiful!

Interstate 15 takes us to I-70 East, our yellow brick road into Denver, some 500 miles away.

Around Richfield we catch the colors of autumn and giggle with surprise and delight, like 2 little kids, which is not far off the mark.

img_4203

img_4204

img_4205

img_4208

But wait, it gets better!

Within 30 minutes the landscape changes into these awesome rock formations:

img_4210

img_4213

img_4214

There’s a scenic viewpoint pull-out and we stop to admire, take pictures, and find out more at my favorite roadside plaques filled with factoids for me to decipher.

img_4216

img_4217

img_4219

We are viewing the effects of the San Rafael swell, which in geological terms refers to a domed area or gently arched landforms covering a sizeable region. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

From the plaque at the site, this is my translation of what I learned:

Exposed layers of the earth’s eroding crust color-coded millions of years of earth’s geological history.

The velvety gray shale is from the ancient Cretaceous sea.

The yellow and gold sandstone is from a seashore and delta that eventually became a source for coal and natural gas.

The soft purple, green, and red beds are from the Jurassic Period of tropical forests and dinosaurs.

Ancient tidal flats deposited the thin red layers.

The area we are viewing is built upon the beige-green deposits from an ancient Jurassic sea.

img_4223

img_4224

img_4230

img_4231

img_4233

img_4237

img_4238

img_4242

Before we reach Colorado, we pass through the canyons of Green River, Utah.

img_4243

img_4244

img_4245

Twenty-five miles into Colorado, we spend the night in Grand Junction.

NV, AZ, and UT

image Interstate 15

Our route to Jernigan Land in Denver, CO takes us northeast from Las Vegas. We snip across the southeast portion of Nevada and cut through 29 miles of northwest Arizona.

img_4818

As we enter the tiny corner of Arizona the scenery becomes more dramatic as we travel through the town of Littlefield on Interstate 15 as the highway cuts through the Virgin River Gorge.

img_4177

img_4180

img_4181

img_4184

img_4819 bestplaces.net

Ten miles northeast of Mesquite, Nevada, Littlefield sits west of the Virgin River and northwest of the Grand Canyon. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

img_4185

img_4188

img_4190

Littlefield and nearby Beaver Dam are isolated by hundreds of miles from the rest of Arizona and are the only 2 towns off this stretch of I-15 in Arizona. (en.m.wikipedia.org)


We cross into Utah passing through St. George and the outskirts of Dixie National Forest and Zion National Park

img_4193

before arriving at an RV Park in Beaver, Utah where we spend the night.

img_4201

Passing Through…

image Las Vegas

With Death Valley behind us, we head to Jernigan Land in Colorado.

The Las Vegas strip is on the other side of the freeway.

image


Mandalay Bay

image

Luxor

image

Excalibur

image

Bellagio

image

Caesar’s Palace

image

Treasure Island

image

Harrah’s and the High Roller ferris wheel

image

Treasure Island and Encore Hotel coming into view

image

Trump Hotel and Encore Hotel

image

Circus Circus

image