Unblinking Eye
                      Four Corners Journey - Page 4


043 Monument Valley     We decided to move on, so we drove north to Monument Valley, Utah.  Monument Valley is another park that is wholly owned by the Navajo Nation. There is a visitor center, a large campground with a lovely view of the "monuments", and a road that winds through the valley on which one can take a self-guided tour.  To go off-road requires a Navajo guide, and there is a horde of Navajos at the visitor center who are keen to guide you to the places you can't go by yourself. The cost is about $25 to $30.
     The campground was very dusty and hot and has little in the way of amenities. However, the campsites on the eastern edge have the best views of the valley.  We set up our tent and ate supper, then left on our self-guided tour.  Tourists are supposed to be off the road by sunset, and we started about 6 PM, returning just after dark at 8:30.  The country is desolate, but the views are magnificent. We shot five or six rolls of film in a very short time.
 044 Monument Valley   22 June 2000.  Next morning, the most gorgeous sunrise illuminated the monuments.  Ed rushed out of the tent and loaded and shot a roll of color film, only to discover afterward that he had left the yellow filter over the lens of his rangefinder Mamiya 7, so the whole roll was wasted.  Miserable and disgusted with himself, he longed to take a shower because it was so hot and dusty, but couldn't get the quarters to go into the slots--the mechanism on all the showers seemed to be jammed. I swear if I had had a sledge hammer I would have cheerfully wrecked the bathrooms.  Sybil managed to get them to work on the ladies' side, and remains smug about it to this dayI was ready to get the hell out of there.
Sybil wanted to visit the famous Goulding's Trading Post, which is just across the highway from Monument Valley, so we drove across for breakfast.  Breakfast at Goulding's, now a major hotel, was excellent.  The conversation that swirled around us was mostly in German--Goulding's has been a famous tour stop since the 1930's. It was so dry in the valley that we drank several glasses of ice-cold water before we left the table.
048 Monument Valley     The original stone trading post, which was also the Goulding's home, has been preserved as a museum. Sybil wanted to see it, and as usual I became interested once I got there. We learned that the Gouldings came to Utah and established the trading post and hotel in the mid-1920's.  They befriended the local Navajo; the museum contains their collection of Navajo pots and blankets, and other Native American artifacts.  On the wall is a stunning photographic portrait of a Navajo man. We didn't note the name, but he was identified as John Ford's weather man.  There was no indication as to who took the photograph, but he was undoubtedly a professional--Ed wondered if it is the only remaining copy, because it is a work of art that needs to be preserved. The museum also contains a room of movie memorabilia. John Ford made a number of Westerns on location at Goulding's and Monument Valley, and numerous actors and actresses stayed at Gouldings while filming in the area.
     Upstairs was where the Gouldings lived, and their home was quite lovely.  On the wall of their livingroom was a signed letter from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, thanking Mr. Goulding for helping to organize the mining of vanadium on the Navajo reservation during World War II.  The Navajo did the mining themselves. There was also an old clipping from Stars and Stripes with a brief article about the Navajo miners, which quoted a letter written by 26 of them to General Eisenhower.
     After we left Goulding's, our intent was to head toward Hovenweep, in the southeastern corner of Utah.  But as soon as we exited Goulding's we encountered a very large collection of stalls and small shops where the Navajo sell jewelry and other craft goods to the tourists, and Sybil wanted to shop. There was a beautiful Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle sitting outside--I admired its custom seat and leather fittings.
049 Valley of the Gods     Inside, Ed struck up a conversation with a Navajo artisan by the name of Anthony Peterman.  He spoke at length of the struggle of the Navajo Nation to regain all of its original homeland; how the Navajo had been systematically shut out of land the white man wanted.  He said if they made claims to land based on very old hogans, the hogans would be destroyed before they could prove their existence, so they have learned to keep quiet about old places they know of. He also spoke of his return to the reservation to raise his family, of how difficult it is to make a living selling tourist junk, and of his membership in the Native American Church. This is the church that uses peyote as a sacrament. Anthony said he wants to set up a web site to share information about Navajo issues. The Navajo Nation is over 200,000 strong and growing--one of the largest Native American populations in the U.S. I gave him my card and promised I would link to him if he ever brought his project to fruition.  I hope he does.
     Sybil bought a few items from a couple of shops, and with one last fond look at the Harley outside we set out for Hovenweep. But we decided to take the scenic route through Valley of the Gods , which was only a brief detour. 050 Valley of the GodsThe landscape remained much like that of Monument Valley, with high mesas of red sandstone. For 20 miles we stopped about every 200 yards and took photographs.  Then the light meter in Ed's Mamiya 7 began to act up. I thought, "no problem, that's why I carry a spare battery!" But when I put my spare battery in the camera, it lasted about three shots, then went completely dead.  It seems that I had purchased it in 1996, and it had gone bad in the interim--it was a Varta Photo Special V28 PX 6 volt. I put the old battery back in and used my Gossen hand-held light meter for a while, but I wasn't sure if I was getting accurate shutter speeds or not.  (All my photos came out fine.)  I told Sybil we needed to find some semblance of civilization so I could buy a battery for my camera, because without it I was completely out of business. The nearest town of any size was Blanding , so we headed in that direction.
 053 Columbine & Bug   After four days in the desert, Blanding seemed a minor paradise. It is a clean and neat Mormon town, set against a backdrop of mountains. It had green grass and trees, and the air was cool, which was a welcome relief after several days in the desert. We ate lunch at the Old Timer Restaurant. Ed asked the waiter about places to buy a battery for his camera and he recommended the local drug store.  As we were paying for our meal Ed noticed a poster about a lecture that evening at Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum. The lecture was about an Anasazi site in Colorado known as Chimney Rock, which we had never heard of, but it sounded interesting.
     We found the drug store, and they did indeed have the battery Ed needed, and then we were left wondering what to do with ourselves. We were of two minds--Ed was anxious to get a bath, so a motel sounded pretty good, but the mountains were beckoning us.  We found a cute little motel that advertized a double for $25, but no one answered the door, so we headed for the mountains. 

     It was a gorgeous drive up into the Manti La Sal National Forest.  We drove quite a long way up into the mountains, admiring the forest and the view westward.  We quickly climbed into a ponderosa pine and aspen forest where Sybil found a beautiful blue and while columbine to photograph.  The forest road continued climbing but it begain to rain, so we drove back down to a campground we had spotted and set up camp. The campground was lovely--there wasn't a soul there, and it had water and clean bathrooms. Ed drank a beer and Sybil sipped her wine while we watched an Abert's squirrel gamboling about.  We had had a large lunch, so we just snacked on trail mix for supper.




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