Navajo National Monument and “Four Corners”

It was still windy after we went to Garden of the Gods, but since we were traveling back towards Kayenta to meet a friend of mine at 3pm, we decided to make a quick visit to the Navajo National Monument.  As a general rule I am a big fan of the lesser known Monuments,  but this one was a bit of a disappointment.  It didn’t help that the wind was pretty relentless and there were big dust storms along our drive.

Couldn’t see anything as we headed towards Monument Valley

When we finally got to the monument, we were pleased to find out it was free, but the only way to see the large cliff dwellings cave (the main feature of the park) was a 1 mile round-trip walk down a paved, but very steep path. Since it was windy and a little cold, I wasn’t crazy about the hike, but there really wasn’t anything else to see.   I did enjoy how they had small signs along the way describing the native plants and how they were used by the people, but it was really cold and by the time we got to the lookout platform I was definitely regretting not having ear muffs on.

I thought the dinosaur footprint was pretty neat

 

This Hogan was near the visitors center

 

Paved path

 

Lots of these signs along the way. I found this one of particular interest because the Navajo people still eat the nuts today.

 

The valley was pretty

 

Path got very steep at the end although in all fairness we did see a woman in a wheel chair although her young sons were straining while they pushed her back up.

 

The view itself was from pretty far away and Lee and I took turns looking through the long lens of our camera to see the structure. There is one of those giant magnifying binoculars at the end, but I would really recommend bringing your own if you want to see any detail.  The dwelling itself was very cool and was used by different people over the ages.  It held about 125 people at one point and if the climb to the base wasn’t such a long one I would have loved to have seen it from the bottom.

There were several; caves but the one on the far right has the dwellings in it

 

The view with the naked eye

 

Telephoto lens

 

The half mile back up was tough for me and I had to stop a couple of times to get to the top. We were at 7,300 feet and the combination of that and the wind in my face was pretty tough and left me wondering if it was worth it. Quick Update: I was looking for pictures with the girls when we came to monument valley and it turns out we visited this national monument once before.  Neither Lee nor I had any memory of visiting the first time.  Take from that what you will 🙂

My windblown look

Finally made it to the end and there was a really terrific Navajo gift shop at the top. The woman who was working took the time to explain several items to me and I purchased a pair of earrings and this really cool beaded carabiner. We don’t have a ton of space in the RV so I always gravitate towards mementos that are both a keepsake and functional.

After seeing the monument we had just enough time to get to my friend Rich’s house at 3pm.  Thankfully I had asked him his time zone in advance, because despite Kayenta being in Arizona the entire Navajo Nation is on Mountain Standard time.  This is an important thing to note, especially if you have a tour you have purchased, because although the phone did a nice job of keeping the correct time, our GPS seemed confused by it all.

We made it on time and had a great evening with Rich and his wife Susan.  Rich and I grew up together as our fathers and mothers were good friends, and it’s been a really long time since I have seen him. Last year he moved to Kayenta and is a physician at the Kayenta Medical Center.  I was really interested in hearing about working on a reservation and we also spent quite a bit of time catching up on where our lives had taken us over the last few years.

Rich and me

Lee and he got along great, in no small part because he fed us rib-eye and apple pie!  They didn’t read our blog up until this point, so just fed us the kind of foods they liked.  It was a great meal and the conversation flowed and it was really wonderful spending time with him.  Because we were kids together while our Dads were in Medical school, we both shared the somewhat unusual experience of moving from small towns to inner city Philadelphia and then back to small towns again.  Those shared experiences on some level have bonded us for life and it was really wonderful getting to know each other as adults.  Plus it made our Moms happy and that’s always a good thing 🙂

Lee loving his apple pie.  Sorry Susan, I should have gotten a picture of you with Lee and his pie 🙂

We made a point to leave somewhat early, but still ending up getting back to the campground after dark.  As Lee was walking up to the steps he stopped dead in his tracks and I almost ran right into him.  What he saw, which I barely could see, was that the bottom half of our entry door window was broken.  Our initial thought was someone had broken in, but we both soon realized the screen was intact.  Lee cleaned the glass and opened the door and I immediately checked the inside.  Thankfully nothing was missing and it became clear that the window had probably been  broken by a rock or simply by flexing in the strong winds.

It was pretty cold in the rig, and we knew we couldn’t leave it that way overnight.  Unfortunately it was late and the nearest hardware store was 45 minutes away, and closed, so Lee started looking around for something he could use as a temporary solution. I have called my husband the RV MacGyver, and once again, he did not disappoint.  He found this shallow plastic pan that was actually destined to be thrown away in the next purge, and stood outside in the wind as he cut it almost perfectly in the dark with a utility knife.  After he got it in place (on the inside of the door) he used the existing screws to hold it in place, then added some self tapping screws for more stability, and then used black gaff tape (which we never go anywhere without) to seal the edges.  Really good job, especially considering the cold, wind, and dark, and we are going to actually try our next drive and see how it holds in place.  If it won’t hold we can always stop and get a piece of plywood, because we simply won’t be in a situation for a permanent fix until we get to Oregon.  Update:  Turns out our door is no longer made and the piece of glass from the factory would cost $900!!  The tech Lee talked to recommended getting a local glass person to cut a custom piece of glass, and since there is someone who does it in Moab we are looking into getting it done as I write this. Further Update:  The guy replaces glass but can’t cut it, so I guess it will need to wait. 

Lee fixing our door!

(The pan is actually designed to go under a household water heater and catch drips and leaks, but I bought it to use as a soaking pan for our giant round fire pit grill, and the grill surfaces of our Weber Q grill. All of those are large but not tall, so this was the perfect way to soak them. But, I haven’t used it in over a year, so it was going to be purged. – Lee) The next morning we woke up and were pleased to see the solution had held up overnight.  It was still windy and actually a bit colder and I was really over the weather.  We knew that our first 10 days the weather was almost perfect and we were overdue, but it still sucked.  I really needed some time to get caught up on blogging before moving onto Moab, so we decided to just drive up to the Four Corners Monument and step on the square since we knew from talking to other people that was a “ten minute thing”.

The drive was kind of interesting, because driving up we saw our first oil rigs in Utah. We also saw what looked like wild burros, but they also were pretty healthy and had tags in their ears so maybe they actually weren’t.  We arrived at Four Corner and spent $5 each to get in. One interesting sign we saw at the beginning stated that spreading of ashes on Navajo land was illegal because they consider cremation a “malicious desecration”. Good to know.

This burro was tagged so not sure if it was wild or simply escaped ? He seemed in pretty good shape.

 

Driving up to the site we could see there was room for big rigs.

 

The circle

The square is completely surrounded by craft booths and despite the weather many of them were manned. It was crazy windy and very cold, but thankfully there wasn’t much of a crowd.  We took several pictures and then got back in the truck and headed back towards our campground on another road. The best part about the whole thing was I got a sticker for my RV, and we bought gas pretty close by for $3.05 a gallon.  That is by far the best price we have seen since traveling this area.

You know it’s cold when Lee is shivering.

 

I did like the seal very much.

 

Our feet in the very center. (Or ARE they? The answer can be found at the end of the post. – Lee)

 

I get why they have a limit of three photos but since there was hardly anyone there we took more

 

Here is my shot with a hand or foot in each state. I decided to go twister style. Way more dignified than what Lee wanted to try 🙂

 

It was early and cold so the food booths weren’t open.

I was pretty bummed because the Navajo taco stand wasn’t open and I really wanted to try some fry bread.  So we went a little out of our way to the Twin Rocks restaurant in Bluff, and for $12 each got to try some fry bread.  Lee’s had a huge Navajo taco with chili, and I had a Shepherd sandwich, which was a roast beef sandwich on fry bread.  Lee really loved his and I liked the bread, but using it for a sandwich sort of watered down the flavor because there was so much of it.  Plus, Navajo food itself is pretty bland,  even for me, which is saying something, since I am from the Midwest and pretty used to bland food.  Still I am glad we had the experience and I really liked the restaurant.  The  service was great, they had a wonderful gift shop, and the setting was really beautiful.  Highly recommend it if you are traveling through Bluff.

Twin Rocks Restaurant, what a fantastic location

 

Restaurant

 

Lee had Navajo Fry bread which was like chili nachos but on frybread. Pretty good

 

My shepherd sandwich was just too dry. It was all bread, but I am glad I tried it and huge value for the $12. The french fries were actually some of the best I have ever had.

 

Had a great gift shop with local artists.

The last thing we did was stop and take a picture of the rock at Mexican hat.  There is a large pull-off right by the stone pile, and a dirt road that goes around on both sides.  We drove the road and took pictures from it from several different angles.  After all the amazing rock formations we have seen I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but I did like how it looked like different things from different directions.

Mexican Hat rock. I actually though it looked more like a falcon on a rock from this view.

Hopefully tomorrow the wind will stop because we are going to go into Monument Valley and try to take a jeep tour.  We have waited all week for the best forcasted day and Lee is VERY exited about getting to see the places the main road doesn’t allow you to access.  Hopefully it will work out, because I am ready to move on.  Moab is next, and we are halfway through our tour month in Utah, and I know lots of really great things are waiting for us there.

(So here’s the deal with the Four Corners monument, and hopefully this won’t ruin your day. The Four Corners monument is not where it’s supposed to be. It is around 1800 feet east of the actual location where the borders of the four states meet. Personally I still enjoyed the experience, because it’s just cool. Had I known this information while I was there, I would have insisted that we ALSO take a handful of pictures in the actual location. Partly because it would have been funny, but also partly because what’s accurate is accurate. I have read a LOT of information about this, and it bothers me more than a little that the prevailing opinion seems to be that if everyone agrees it’s in the right place, then it’s in the right place, and the longer people agree, then the more solid that “fact” becomes. I am genuinely distressed by this way of thinking. The longer you are convinced that a wrong thing is right, does it not make it less wrong. The boundaries of the states are based on longitude and latitude, and those lines intersect at a real, actual spot. The fact that the monument was built 1800 feet east of that spot doesn’t move the spot, even if 1800 feet is minute in the scheme of long/lat. And it also doesn’t detract from how awesome and cool and kitschy the monument is. It’s not like I need them to change the name of the place (along with all the T shirts and stickers) to “1800 Feet East Of The Four Corners Monument”. They can keep calling it what they call it, I don’t mind, as long as we all understand and agree that it’s close enough. But it’s still off by 1800 feet, and that matters just as much. – Lee)


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One thought on “Navajo National Monument and “Four Corners”

  1. Didn’t know that about the Four Corners, that is a little disappointing. When I was there the sign said, “Minimum of three photos”. Glad to see they updated that.

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