Next Stop… Cortez

Just Outside Mesa Verde National Park…

Another travel day, but a short one, and then 7 days to explore Mesa Verde, take a day trip, relax, do laundry, clean the windshield on the RV, and prepare for my trip to London to visit my son, Andy. (I fly out of Denver, nonstop, May 13th, soon after we arrive in Jernigan Land.)

We continue northeast on US-163 through the rest of Monument Valley and head to Mexican Hat, Utah.

The last time we traveled this way was in 2016. We were headed southwest on US-163 and we caught the famous scene from Forrest Gump where he finally stopped running.

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Here’s a pic to refresh your memory…

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We also spent an awesome night in Goosenecks!


After crossing the San Juan River…

…we see the famous rock formation the town is named after!

Still in Utah, we pass through Bluff and take Route 162 past Aneth and into Colorado.

Below is a pic showing why Bluff is so appropriately named…

An hour later we are across the state line and into Colorado heading north on US-491 to Cortez.

I can’t help myself from taking more pictures of cool rock formations!

And now we arrive at La Mesa RV Park…

We take off our shoes, unhook the car, and settle in…

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.

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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)

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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

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as we cross the bridge over the San Juan River

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and continue south on Highway 163.

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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.

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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.”

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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…

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