Thursday, October 8, 2009

Monument Valley, UT

Potash Canyon

On the morning we departed Moab, having gotten caught up on chores, we had time to squeeze in a visit to nearby Potash Canyon, part of the Lower Colorado Scenic Byway. The drive included opportunities to view several sites of Native American petroglyphs and some not so easily seen dinosaur tracks. The canyon road is paved for several miles but eventually turned into a 4x4 track, which would end up coming out near the Canyonlands visitor center. An interesting side trip but one that we wouldn’t have time to do.

By the time we packed up and started toward our next overnight, Monument Valley, the winds had picked up considerably once more. We made the 150-mile afternoon drive fighting 35-40 mph head and side winds with occasional gusts of 55 mph. Not terribly fun when pulling an RV! By the time we reached Monument Valley, the view was mostly blurred by dust kicked up by high winds and my arms ached. It made for a very white-knuckle driving day!

Our overnight was at the Goulding’s Lodge Campground. Since we would only spend one night we opted for a pull-through and did not unhook. Due to the winds it didn’t make much sense to try and get to Monument Valley that evening anyway. Besides, we had been told that an 11-mile loop drive was paved so the next morning on our way out we shouldn’t have any problem pulling our RV through a section of the park.

site at Goulding's Campground

We settled instead on taking the free shuttle from the campground to the Goulding’s Lodge compound to visit various lodge points of interest including a museum and trading post. Lifelong friends of the Navajos, the Goulding’s had traveled to Hollywood and convinced John Ford to visit the valley to scout possible shooting locations for filming westerns. Apparently it worked. “Stagecoach”, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”, and “The Searchers” were in part filmed around the area. The trading post offered no end to opportunities to purchase John Wayne memorabilia (sorry Duke, but we took a pass). Parts of Golding’s Lodge served as sets for these westerns as well as for other more contemporary films including “The Eiger Sanction” (Clint Eastwood) and “Back to the Future, III”. (Link to a list of films shot in the area via a search result at the IMDB)

The museum was well worth the trip. They even offered free showings of some of the Duke’s films that had been shot in the area. We mused about the valley and the Navajo’s economic exposure to Hollywood while John Wayne was busy shooting them (cinematically speaking). That evening we availed ourselves of the Stagecoach Dining Room – the prickly pear cactus ice tea was a favorite along with Navajo fry bread.

The next morning we set out for a drive through Monument Valley. The winds had subsided and the view was sunny and clear. We passed through the main gate and paid our entrance fee only to discover that while the road through the monument was open, it was in fact not paved. We retraced our route back to the gate, received a refund and headed toward Arizona. Perhaps next time?

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