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More than monumental: The true heart of the wild, wild west

More than monumental: The true heart of the wild, wild west

November 2019 · 5 min read · Utah

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This band does not play „Mathilda“ and this band don‘t have a real stage. The five man who called themselves „The Wonders“ - see them play here - don’t need boards and planks and spots and headlights. They’re stage is a hill right before what books called "the 8. Wonder of the World": “Monument Valley“, endless landscape in the Navajo Nation, is the place where most of people around the world have taken their picture of the wild west.

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Here rode John Wayne through “Fort Apache”, “Rio Grande” and “The Searchers”, Henry Fonda was Wyatt Earp in „My Darling Clementine“ and Billy (Dennis Hopper) and Wyatt (Peter Fonda) thundered on their motorcycles through „Easy Rider“.

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The Navajo say „God put the West here” and it is true. If you have to find one place where all the myths, the legends and the history fall in one form for everything, it’s here in the valley that the Navajo call „Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii“ – no, no, don’t try to spell it right, it’s impossible. It simply means „Valley oft he rocks“.

Monument Valley, part of the Colorado Plateau sits 5,564 feet above sea level and it is a part of the Grand Circle too, which includes the national parks of Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. But itself isn’t a National Park, because it i spart of the Navajo Nation, the largest land area retained by an Indian tribe in the United States. For your papers: It’s the size oft he german state Bavaria and double the size of Denmark or Belgium. With a population of roughly 350,000 people.

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So much land here, so few people. So many tourists! The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, founded in juli by the Navajo Tribal Council, has a half million visitors a year and they all have to pay $10 per person or $20 per vehicle to ride along the scenic drive on a gravel road. You don’t need a SUV to do this, high-clearance vehicles are recommended to navigate the dirt red road because of very rough surfaces and a steep incline. If you have rent a Tesla or some other nice sports car, you can make the tour by smal Jeep-busses with tribal drivers who tell you something about all the myths of the place, the legends and the geology.

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A special recommendation for all of you with a camera: If you're planning to make some real „magic“ pictures, you have to travel the park during the "golden hour" which means sunrise or sunset, not during daytime or noon. Otherwise you will miss on your photos of the park's monuments, needles and spires the real glory oft he American West.

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The 17-mile dirt road through Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is the best way to see all the iconic formations. It takes two to four hours to make the roundtrip, and you have leave your car eleven times on viewpoints at the East and West Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Camel Butte, the Hub, Totem Pole, Yei B Chai, Sand Spring, Artist's Point, North Window, and the Thumb. Nearly all the time you see Rain God Mesa, the geological heart of the park and a holy place for the Navajo.

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After your visit you have to drive a long way back to civilisation, because Navajo Nation has a lack of motels, hotels and camping sites. The nearest town is Kayenta, about 20 mi (32 km) to the south, the next „city“ is Tuba City, a place the band Blackberry Smoke maybe means with his incredible song „One horse town“.

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And special surprise: Nowhere in Navajoland you can buy any kind of spirit, no whiskey, no vodka, no vine and no beer. Capt. John G. Walker, 1849 one oft he first explorers of the valley, was right as he wrote „the valley was as desolate and repulsive-looking a country as can be imagined“ in his expedition report to the United States Senate. So take a six pack with you and enjoy it after the 17-mile loop road-drive along all the lookout points, sandstone formations with fanciful names like Mittens, Elephant Butte, Totem Pole, and North Window and a short step into the visitor center of the Tribal Park.

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Oljato, located nine miles west of Monument Valley on County Road 2406, is only a small Navajo outpost with a traditional Navajo trading post at its center. The best of it are the majestic landscapes around, at last as the panorama for movie "Forrest Gump". John Wayne does not ride here anymore. But his spirit is in every stone, in every grain of sand, and every little grass half that breaks through the red rubble along the road.

More pictures under the link-section!

Follow me on my journey through America:

Arches NP: The biggest bow you've ever seen
Zion Canyon: Ice-cold feet in narrow waters
Bryce Canyon: God's glowing stones
Las Vegas: Home of Bad Luck
Red Rock Canyon: Road under the ocean
The dry throat of the desert
Mt. Withney: High on thin air
Eating flies on Mono Lake
80.000 miles of steel wire
Beyond the everlasting trees
Crazy climbers at El Capitan
The wonder of the Sierra Waves
Into the home of horror
Where Easy Rider is alive
Blue skies over Alabama Hills

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