As we spied the iconic shapes in the distance, we got a show worthy of Hollywood: a dust storm swirling around the very formations I wanted to explore. Undaunted, we pressed on.
Straddling the Utah-Arizona border, Monument Valley lies within the Navajo Nation. It has a very National Park feel: they charge a small admission fee, there’s a modern visitor center, and you are allowed to drive a short loop, while a tour is required for the longer loop. We wisely opted not to drive my parents’ minivan on any of the loops; besides the dust and high winds, the rutted roads didn’t look minivan-friendly.
With Karen safely ensconced in the visitor center, I joined a tour and was rewarded with Nature’s majesty and movie history, all wrapped up in one.
The road to Monument Valley…
… which appeared on Doctor Who last season
The Doctor and Amy Pond share a scenic hug
Doctor Who’s crew
A windblown pose at the visitor center
Panorama including the Mittens, so named because- well, you can see why
Just about as cool as this minivan is ever gonna look. I wanted to keep it that way…
… so I paid for a tour and let someone else bang up his vehicle
John Ford’s Point, named in honor of the film director. This horseman shows up every day and poses for tourists…
… and apparently the new Lone Ranger stole his act. Here’s a still from the film’s website.
The Lone Ranger also seems to be referencing Back To The Future 3…
… capturing the view from BTTF’s drive-in theater
When Marty time travels into the past, we get a better look at the scenery
Meanwhile, back in the real world, I pose and the horseman goes off duty
Our guide points out petroglyphs
The Sun’s Eye
The Submarine, so named because- well, you can see why
A view with The Rooster at far left
The loneliest Porta-Potty on Earth
I’m nearly blown away while trying to pose for a photo
Normally, all this produce propulsion would be enough excitement for one day, but then a familiar name popped up on the entry board for the pumpkin pie-eating contest. And you thought airborne pumpkins were messy.
Bryce Canyon National Park is all about the hoodoos- those colorful, spiny towers of eroded rock.
Those (like us) hiking beyond the drive-up overlooks can earn a snazzy “I Hiked the Hoodoos” pin by photographing themselves at hoodoo checkpoints.
We hit the trails, and a few hours later, Mr. Ranger was handing over our pins with a flourish.
Jewelry aside, I wanted to see the hoodoos up close, especially with the sun finally burning off the morning chill. Karen and I set out on the Peek-A-Boo Trail, a five-mile loop through hoodoo hotspots. A mile in, Karen decided to turn back, so we made our safety arrangements (along the lines of “If I don’t come back, tell them to come find me”), and I continued solo. The winding, rising and falling path gave me great views of a variety of hoodoos. And it wore me out. After an hour and a half, I had seen plenty of fine specimens… yet I knew I had another hour of hiking ahead of me.
The sun I had earlier been wishing for now had me peeling off layers of clothing. My last granola bar was gone, then my last drop of water. Of course the final mile of the trail was uphill. When I met up with Karen in the parking lot, I was done hoodooing. For now.
Shameless movie tie-in: a hoodoo of E.T. The Extraterrestrial
King takes bishop… and checkmate
Natural Bridge… which is not a bridge (formed by erosion). It’s an arch (formed by forces cracking and dissolving the rock).
The mile hike down to this sign- no problem. It’s the mile back up that gets ya.
Hoodoos and windows
Hoodoos to the horizon
Another hoodoo checkpoint under my belt
An unexpected resident of the park: a 1940s gas station, built because of the lack of services in this (formerly) remote area. Fuel is readily-available now, so the station closed in 1988. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Bryce in the old days
So much to learn in our hotel room in Tropic, Utah, during the second presidential debate