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Monument Valley
Navajo Tribal Park
May 5-7, 2000
by Elaine Cobos
map

Okay, so this is all about me, alright? It was my birthday for heaven’s sake! Actually, that’s the way it feels in the end, but that’s not the way I started out or intended things to be. But I digress...

Group photo by Chuck Parsons:
group
front: Darryl’s two sons; Rudy, Marnie, Ben, Elaine, Kay, Doug
middle:  Donna, Angie, Marilyn, John G., and our tour guide Darryl
back: Chuck, Mike, John S., Loyd, Kenn

The Motorola Hiking Club started off on another adventure in fine form. The trip leaders, Ben Velasquez and Elaine Cobos, arrived a few minutes late instead of early, something everyone wants to blame Elaine for, but is really Ben’s fault. Actually, to be more accurate, Ben runs late only when Elaine gives him too long a list of things to do to prepare for a trip. But no worries, we still arrived in Kayenta in plenty of time to have a leisurely dinner at the Blue Coffee Pot Restaurant, specializing in Mexican and Navajo cuisine. Try the fry bread. It’s really good, especially with honey.

I would like to clarify the amazing sighting of moose just north of Munds Park, AZ. It was, in fact, an elk, as politely corrected by Chuck Parsons, intrepid outdoorsman that he is. Like I said before, this trip is all about me, and if I want to see moose in Arizona, then so be it, at least on my birthday weekend. I appreciate that the gang even helped point out potential moose, or is it meese(s), along the rest of our journey.

rock
3 Sisters. [photo by John Scruggs]

Monument Valley The crazy part of the start of the trip was that the main contingent (Ben Velasquez, Elaine Cobos, Marnie Shepperd, Rudy Arredondo and his friend, Donna, John Scruggs, Mike Wargel, Chuck Parsons, Loyd Clark, Kenn Wright, Angie Lien, Doug Scheitlin, and Kay Fitting) arrived around 6 PM, John and Marilyn Giudorizzi also arrived around 6 PM and our tour guide, Darryl Yazzie, arrived around the same time, too. What’s really crazy is we all had talk-about radios, we all had them on, and yet we never connected until around 8 PM (we had arranged to meet at 8:30 PM), two hours later. Fortunately, the hogan was less than one hour away from Kayenta, and everyone settled in for the night quite easily, despite the extra time spent in the happenin’ town of Kayenta. Twelve of us slept in the hogan that first night (some couldn’t resist the lure of the star-filled sky). A hogan is an Indian ceremonial structure, round in shape, built of wood, and covered in mud with an opening in the roof for the fire smoke to escape. The hogan we used belongs to the mother of a friend of Darryl’s. Rose Yazzie is the mother and owner of the hogan, and her daughter’s name is Verna. No relation; Yazzie is a common family name.

hikers
The next morning we all rose quite early (the Navajo reservation switches to daylight savings time – although you tend to ignore that for just a weekend). The sun unfurling over the red rock formations is magical. I can only hope my pictures either do it some justice or I can conn Mike, Chuck, or one of the other more “professional” photographers on the trip to give me copies of theirs.

We went on a pretty significant hike up to the top of the mesa overlooking the visitor center, with a 1000 foot elevation gain in a fairly short distance. From the mesa, we had incredible views over the main part of the valley, getting several opportunities to photograph the famous “mittens” rock formations.

Monument Valley Lunch atop the mesa was enough to make you want to indulge in some serious napping, of which a few members took advantage. But all too soon, we headed back, anxious to see more. Amazingly enough, it was not as easy to head back across the mesa. There are gullies and ridges that got a few of us lost for a while. Fortunately, we all used our Motorola talk-about radios (obvious plug!) and found our way back just fine.

We took a rest for a couple of hours when we returned to allow the sun time to crawl along and create some more shadows. It gave several of us time to visit Rose in her other hogan that she opens for guided tour groups to stop and visit. Two groups came through while we were there, one French and the other German. Rose said she has visitors from all over the world come to see her. She was in the middle of weaving a beautiful Navajo rug at the time. This medium sized one she was currently working on will take her 10 months, she told us. She was resplendent in traditional Navajo garb of a long skirt and long sleeved shirt, with beautiful turquoise embellishments. Ben even flirted with her, commenting on her beauty both now and in an old photograph on the hogan’s walls. Several of us purchased some real gems – souvenirs to our adventure beyond the photographs and the memories.

view
Another highlight of the day was the four wheel excursion we took with all of us in our own four wheel drive vehicles. It’s not that the dirt roads are really bad; it’s just that there are areas with immense sand that could strand a two wheel drive. We saw formation after formation, some with magical names like eye of the sun, ear of the wind and the Totems and others as mundane as rock #49 (Darryl’s favorite, so we concluded). We all went picture happy, taking several rolls of film apiece. There were several opportunities to get out, walk around (sometimes sifting our toes through the sand dunes), or hiking to vistas where the wind almost took us away, at least several people’s hats made a valiant effort.

There was one exciting moment along the trail (besides the cow stampede effort). Someone spotted a large snake on the side of the road. It turned out just to be a wannabe sidewinder, but the picture makes a good story, nonetheless.

We finally returned to the site to prepare dinner. At Ben’s direction, everyone brought something to share, and I guess we have a very generous group because we certainly had more than enough to share. Delicacies included tamales, stir fry chicken, pasta, sausages, garden salad, potato salad, and other savory things.

Oh, yes, back to me. We also had a surprise appearance of a birthday cake AND ice cream in my honor. The guys schemed a way to keep ice cream frozen for over 36 hours in the desert by packing it in dry ice. It worked so well we had to leave it out to thaw at least 1 hour before we could dig into and serve it. Too bad we didn’t think about putting it under all the heat being put out by my birthday candles before I blew them out.

Chuck offered the most original gift of the evening, having prepared a poem for me. Here’s an excerpt:

Elaine finally decided to work for a company called Motorola.
   They make communication stuff.
Then she joined up with the Motorola Hiking Club –
   decided she needed to get off her duff.
Give her a compass and topo map,
   and this veteran trailblazer will not lead you astray,
Over hill, over dale, through deep canyon, and across scorching desert,
   she will find her way.

More pictures by Chuck Parsons:
dawn
Dawn breaks over Monument Valley behind our Hogan.
sun
The rising sun paints the massive sandstone formations across the valley.
trail
We begin our thousand foot climb to the top of the mesa.
stone
Mother Nature’s master sculptures, wind and water, work their magic.
view
Scene from the top of the mesa.
view
Expansive views across Monument Valley from high atop our mesa.
rock
Expansive views across Monument Valley from high atop our mesa.
view
Expansive views across Monument Valley from high atop our mesa.
view
The knife edge of the mesa forms a sheer
thousand-foot drop to the valley floor.
rock
Terminus view of a valley mesa.
desert
Classic view of the Mittens rising high above the valley floor.
Kenn
Kenn pauses in front of the Three Sisters formation.
gals
Elaine and Angie enjoy their sandstone perch.
window
Eye of the Sun.
window
Close-up view of Eye of the Sun.
vans
Our eight-vehicle caravan rolls across the valley floor.
rock
The Three Totems.
rock
Totem Pole, south side.
rock
Totem Pole, north side.
dunes
Sand dunes at the base of Thunderbird Mesa.
dunes
Leading edge of the dunes.
Rose
Master Navajo weaver, Rose Yazzie, pauses beside her latest creation.
view
On the road to Little Monument Valley.
M23_Little
Little Monument Valley.
Scenes from Little Monument Valley:
rock
rock
butte
mesa

rock
The Thumb.
rock
Parting shot of West Mitten Butte.

Thanks Chuck, and all the Motorola Hiking Club gang, for making this a special birthday to remember.

Sunday morning we finally split up the group. Those who had had ENOUGH wind mixed with dirt for one adventure decided to head out. Chuck Parsons and Kenn Wright, being game, went with Darryl and Verna to explore an isolated area known as Little Monument Valley. An excerpt from Chuck: “... the scenery was in some respects even more spectacular than Saturday’s outing, since the trail carried us right up to the base of a number of mesas and through several washes. It was definitely more serious four-wheeling than we did on Saturday.”

The rest of us headed out, stopping at the Visitors Center where we spoke to a Navajo Indian doing a pottery demonstration. It’s very fascinating to spend time speaking to these native artisans and learning about their skills. From there, we headed down to stop at my place, south of Flagstaff, in Munds Park. I figure, if the weekend was all about me, I could at least offer some hospitality, like showering up, eating food off clean plates, napping on sheepskin rugs, and getting out of the wind for a while.

Those who stopped at my place ended the trip with a fun ride down Schnebly Hill Road into Sedona and headed back to Phoenix, ready to prepare for the next adventure. Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, in the fall anyone? Ben???

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updated August 12, 2019