Saturday, October 1, 2016

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

After three and a half months at Mancos State Park, we finally had to maneuver the rig out of our comfy, tree-shaded spot and head south. Maneuver isn't the right word. Trailer tango works better. First, trim off a couple of low-hanging snags from the Ponderosa pines next to the trailer. Second, hook up the trailer, and pull it forward and slightly to the right about eight feet. Third, drop the jacks and unhook the rig. Then drive around to the other side and reconnect the trailer at a hard right angle. Then, ease it out, give it the gas, check the lights and brakes, and make for the border.

We certainly had mixed feeling about leaving Mancos, but snow isn't one of our favorite flavors, and I can't wear white after Labor Day, so travel we must.

Our destination, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

Our goals were to capture some of the iconic desert scenery, see how well we do at boondocking (no hookups for our rig) and patronize the businesses of the Navajo Nation.

I could write pages and pages on the hardscrabble ways of the tribes of the Southwest, how hard it is to make a living in the desert, and how easy it is to ignore the plight of the Navajos and other tribes, but suffice it to say that this isn't an easy place to live. Creature comforts are hard to come by, water is a commodity that has to be hauled in on a daily basis, and those roadside stands where locals sell silver jewelry and fry bread represent the fine line between groceries, shelter, heat, and poverty.

We could have parked the rig at Goosenecks State Park, Utah and driven through the valley, but after being parked for a few months, we preferred a bit more company. Goosenecks is remote and beautiful, situated atop the bluffs that overlook the San Juan River meanders, but it is remote enough that leaving our rig there all day unattended is a calculated risk. See also Moki Dugway and Muley Point Overlook. The solution seemed to be Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

Getting there is a pretty easy haul from the La Platas, though the roads are a bit dicey in places. Your family sedan will not have issues, but our 25,000-pound truck and trailer can be heard complaining as we negotiate the bumps and uneven highways.

Entering the park costs $20 for up to four adults, above and beyond the fees to park your rig. That entry is good for four days, and I was able to come and go as needed to refuel and grab supplies. We pulled in and picked our parking spot, and eventually got levelled up. The sites are not all that flat, and we had to take a couple stabs at it to get situated. Cycling the hydraulics this way chewed up precious battery capacity. We got everything stabilized, and headed over to the hotel and restaurant complex for dinner.

Large portions and pretty good service, exit through the gift shop for guitar-case stickers, and back home for a good night's sleep. The park is quiet at night, and the Milky Way is close enough to touch.

The next morning looks like this:

This is why we came. There are amazing views from our front door, the back window and all around. We ran our generator for a couple of hours to put a top charge on the battery, and then took off for the three-hour tour of the Valley Road. We passed the Mittens, the buttes, and countless rock formations, named and unnamed. The road is primitive, and the ruts and grooves are filling-jarring, at least with our heavy truck. A smaller, more lightly-sprung vehicle would be an advantage here, but we meandered and gaped at the sheer scale of the rock formations. Photographs don't do these places justice,  because without something to add a sense of scale, the house-sized rocks and the massive buttes and mesas are just too difficult to describe.

Not a real dog.

Remember when Benjamin got his cocktail party advice in The Graduate? "Plastics!" If I could go back in time and give myself advice, it would be "Rental RVs!" There is a rolling army of rentals roaming the Southwest. When I got up Thursday morning, twenty-four of the thirty-four RV spaces were taken up with rentals.

Considering that most of these rigs rent for upwards of $150 a day with limited mileage, there is a boatload of accumulated cost sitting here. 

Then again, look at the view behind the rental RVs sitting on their unlevel spaces.

Right across highway 163 from the tribal park is Goulding's RV resort, a full-service complex with groceries, fuel and another hotel. Another tank of diesel, an



View from Artist's Point, Valley Loop Road

Next stop, the Grand Canyon. Stay tuned.

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