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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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time at Natural Bridges Monument

The next morning we woke up bright and early, but decided to delay our departure until the clouds cleared a little bit.  We had been having amazing luck with weather, but this morning was sort of cloudy and since we were doing a scenic drive, needed some good sky to get the pictures we wanted.  Thankfully it cleared up by around 11am, so we ate an early lunch and headed out.

There is a big loop that circles the Valley of the Gods and the decision on which way to go was largely determined by the Moki Dugway.  There is a 3 mile section of Highway 261 that is gravel road and seriously extreme switchbacks.  Harry had driven it the day before with his four-wheel drive, so we had the information from his experience, but once again the 2-wheel drive made us more cautious and essentially Lee had to decided if he wanted to drive up the 10% gravel grade or down it.  He decided he would prefer to drive down, which I was a fan of because this put that section at the end of our day.  Consequently we made a right onto Highway 163 and started around the loop.

The first place we stopped was in Bluff, Utah which is right on the outer edge of Navajo Nation.  We followed the signs and turned down the road to an historic loop to stop at the Fort Bluff visitors center.  I mentioned in our last post how frustrated I was by the lack of information in the area and Steven had mentioned that this visitor center was a really good one.  Despite all that we almost didn’t stop, but I am so glad we did, because it was really terrific.

Fort Bluff Memorial for the settlers who made the journey.

The moment we walked in a woman, in historical garb, walked up to us and started telling us the story of the fort.  A group of pioneers were sent to settle the area and in order to make it had to go through Hole-in-the-Wall pass.  They had 125 people, 1800 head of cattle, and an early winter had created snow behind them when they reached the pass.  They thought they would be able to get through with minimal issue, but the journey of 6 weeks actually took 6 months.

They managed to get through by dynamiting larger holes in the rocks and then building a narrow road on the outside of the cliff.  They also lowered the wagons on very steep grades, using men and ropes to manage the feat.  It was a fascinating story and I was completely caught up in it, having never heard it before.  Lee knew the story, but not in that detail and he enjoyed the telling as well.

A picture of the “hole” they came through.  You can visit this by traveling hole in the rock road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  Landslides have caused this route to no longer be passable.

This picture is a recreation of how they did it. There are men in the back holding onto ropes and acting as human brakes to get the wagons down the steep grades. Absolutely incredible feat.Along with the information, they also took us to a nice little section with lots of free maps and pamphlets, we looked through a very nice gift shop and then went out to walk the fort re-creation, which was built around the one original cabin remaining.

Visitors Center

Original Cabin

The thatched roof was really interesting to see

This is where the visitors center took itself to the next level as every cabin told the story of one of the families and had authentic memorabilia provided by the families descendants.  There were pictures, family trees, items used in the crossing, and everyone had an audio recording about the family that was done in multiple languages.

Every cabin had a short recording of the family including little details about them that really brought them to life

The Perkin’s Brothers were from Wales and were dynamite experts. They were the ones who made blowing the hole wider possible

Sarah Perkins with her 9 daughters. I thought having three girls was challenging!!

Extremely well done and I especially appreciated how they were open about the polygamist families.  I found that particularly fascinating and was happy they didn’t cover that up, but provided pictures of all the wives and many of their children.  The entire experience was the complete opposite of what had happened the day before and the best part of all was it was totally free.  I absolutely recommend taking time to make the stop and they do have spaces for large rigs, if you are just passing by.

This was the local Bishop and pictures of his three wives. I found it particularly interesting that the women all looked alike (they weren’t sisters) except of course they got progressively younger.

After Fort Bluff we got on 191 North and saw a sign for the Hovenweep Monument.  Since it was a 25 mile in the opposite direction from where we were going we decided to give it a pass,  but definitely might be worth a visit on a later date. Next we turned left on 95 West and saw a gas station where we decided to pull in for some gas. Here we had a moment of travel serendipity as we ran into a couple we had seen twice before.

The first time I saw this couple they were at Horseshoe Bend and one of the ladies caught my attention because she had a great smile.  I was hot and tired, walking up the hill, but she was obviously having a great time and it got my attention.  The second time we ran into them was in the Welcome Center the day before as they were walking out as we were walking in.  I mentioned that we had seen them before and introduced myself and we had a great chat in the lobby.

Turns out they are full-timers as well and were staying at the RV park next to Monument Valley.  We said our goodbyes and I thought it was cool I had saw them again, but on this drive third time was the charm.  We pulled into the gas station and they were at the pump right next to us.  I aw one of the women over Lee’s shoulder as he was pumping gas, and immediately got out to say hi.  Turns out they were doing the same route we were but had started in the opposite direction and were just finishing.  They had already done the Moki-Dugway and said they saw motorcycles on it, which made both of us feel better about how our truck would handle it.  I said goodbye and “we’ll see you tomorrow,” and they both laughed, but said tomorrow they might stay in.  We were expecting pretty high winds for the next two days and it’s tough to find fun stuff to do when you are fighting the wind.

We continued on the way staying on 95 until we got on 275 towards National Bridge Monument. We had heard really good things about this park from several of our friends but it completely exceeded our expectations.  There was a $10 entrance fee, but for us was free with the America the Beautiful pass, and can I say we have absolutely gotten our money’s worth from that in Utah.

Visitors Center

The park is a 9 mile drive-able loop with several trail heads and three places to stop and look at the arches. Since the trails to the base of the first two bridges were strenuous with 400-500 foot elevation changes we decided to just go to the viewing platforms.  I would love to do the hikes to their bases at some point, but that’s a bit out of my hiking comfort level for now.

Path to Sipapu.  It was really windy down on the point, but the walk was easy.

This is what we saw. Can you see the arch? Nope me either. Lee had to point it out to me and then I couldn’t stop seeing it. Look right in the middle of the picture for a circle to the left of a round stone with a little tip. The reason it’s hard to see is there are trees on the other side so it blended in at first.

Still can’t see it? Here it is in closeup. Right in the middle.

Next up was Kachina and we stopped first at a trailhead and walked down just a little ways to get views from both sides.  This bridge is a big one and I actually preferred the view from the trailhead over the viewpoint, but both sites were good.  The path to this one was a little steeper and again windy at the viewpoint.

View from trailhead.  Really shows the “bridge” aspect

This is the view from the viewpoint side, which shows less of the hole but more of the bridge.

There was a rock slide (which you can see in top left of hole) which now stops the water from running through the arch.

The first two were cool, but the third bridge, Owachomo, really blew them away.  This bridge is 225 feet long and it was only a 2/10 mile hike (180 feet elevation change) to the base.  Yes, the route was steep, and because of that we almost didn’t do it, but I am incredibly glad we did.  It truly was one of the coolest thing I have seen since the three years we have been on the road and for a little while we had it all to ourselves.

Right from the beginning on the walk down you could see the bridge in the distance which I really liked

The closer we got the better the pictures

Once we were at the base it was like being beneath a brontosaurus neck. You can see me for scale

And the underside of the rock was so beautiful. Really just incredibly cool!!

About the time we were finishing up a group of teenagers came down the path and we were ready to leave. Yes the walk up was tough and I had to take a couple of breaks, but I would do it again in a minute.  I loved the beauty of the rock and the dry river bed, along with the surrounding area.  I hope my pictures do it justice, but even if they don’t if you are at all capable of taking the hike, please do so.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

Walking back up to the overlook you can see it is steep.

 

I stopped for a rest in a little bit of shade I found while Lee took some extra pictures.

 

The day wasn’t done yet though because after the park we still had the Moki Dugway.  The road wasn’t close to the worst we have been on and the views from the top down were spectacular.

One of the many hairpin turns on the Moki-Dugway.

 

The picture is dark but you can see a car waiting for us around the corner at the bottom. The road is 1-1/2 lanes and we had the dually, but folks were really good about looking ahead and waiting in a section that was until our truck passed.

 

We saw several motorcycles going up. I thought that was a little crazy personally.

(Here’s the drive down the Moki Dugway with the boring bits cut out, and the speed at 200%, because it’s such a slow drive. For anyone who would like to know what to expect, it gives you an idea of the width of the road (about 1 1/3 lane wide) and how bumpy it is, etc. We went down instead it instead of up, because I had concerns about our 2×2 slipping on the gravel going up. Going down was a lot of fun, I just left it in a low gear and stayed off the brakes. Amazing views, and some really scary dropoffs. – Lee)

What a terrific day, and even with the late start we still got home by 5:00pm.  Harry and Vicki had invited us down for some appetizers and the great conversation has us staying until after 8:30pm.  At that point I reluctantly said goodnight, because I was starving and we ate a quick dinner, read a little, and then went to bed.  Another big day scheduled for tomorrow, when we hope to finally see The Valley of the Gods.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.