Monday, July 1, 2013

Awesome Arizona - The Day Jesus Disappeared at Monument Valley

the left "mitten"
Our guide, Gary, pointed to the rock wall and asked if we could see Jesus' face.  We had been studying the formations in Monument Valley for the last two hours--imagining the nun teaching two pupils, seeing the elephant kneeling in a butte, finding the rock shaped exactly like a thumb, and being impressed by the giant's mittens, one for the left hand and one for the right--so it wasn't difficult to envision Jesus among the rock layers.  Sure, there He was.  Right in front of us.

But, no sooner did we spot Him than He disappeared.  With a rumble and a cloud of dust, Jesus was gone.  In the space of twenty seconds.  Just like....that.

There's no need to worry though.

In this valley considered sacred by the Navajo, even though His likeness may have disappeared, Jesus lives just as surely as God, Buddha, Allah, and Yahweh.

What does this look like to you?  Our guide said it was a "W" for welcome!
I doubt anyone can visit this valley without feeling a sense of spiritual wonder.  Surely even the staunchest atheist must have a twinge of doubt when he looks at the miles of red and beige sand scattered with the rough formations molded by a giant's hands.
Note the person in the foreground dwarfed by his surroundings.
Even the roads leading to this place, black strands in a world where the sky and the sand blend together, do not detract from the grandeur.  Signs warn motorists to use their headlights, day or night, because cars are almost impossible to see; they appear swallowed by the sand.  It is nature that dominates here, not man. 

Plan to spend the day.  You won't want to rush because, even if you don't see Jesus, you will have a spiritual experience unlike any other.

Practicalities -  

After paying your $5 per person park entry fee to the Navajo Nation, drive to the parking lot of The View Hotel, the only hotel in the park, where the guides are waiting for you.  Guides are available for one and a half hour tours or for half day tours at various price points.  Many Native Americans live at the poverty level, but I don't think any of them are guides; the prices seemed astronomical to us, so we bargained for a cheaper rate.  We toyed with the idea of driving the road through the valley ourselves, but after jouncing around Gary Tallis's suburban for two hours, we are very glad we hired him instead.  Unless you have a four-wheel drive vehicle and lots of insurance, do not attempt to drive this treacherous road yourself.

Gouldings has a lovely hotel across the road from the park and they also offer tours, but I would hesitate before climbing onto their open-air vehicles.  Their price is almost the same per person as an individual tour with a private guide, so you save no money with a group tour and get far less personal attention. But the worst aspect of Goulding's tours, as I see it, is the open-air vehicle where you are jammed in with twenty other visitors.   Since the wind in this part of the country blows fiercely and constantly, all that blowing dust gets into people's eyes and lungs.  Most of the people we saw on the Goulding's tours used scarves or face masks;  that's not an enjoyable way to experience the scenery.

Don't forget to tour the visitor center where you will learn a lot of Navajo history and come to appreciate the Code Talkers who served during WWII.   The Talkers, Navajo men who used their tribal language to convey secret military information, were invaluable to the army.  The code, never broken, undoubtedly brought a faster end to WWII.

Although most Tightwad Travelers cannot afford a room (close to $300) at The View Hotel where every room has a balcony overlooking Monument Valley, all of us can afford either to get a sandwich from the self-serve deli (tables are outside on the deck) or eat at the sit-down restaurant connected with the hotel where the view is just as spectacular.

the view from our table at The View restaurant
There are a few motels in Mexican Hat, a town about twenty minutes from Monument Valley, still with expensive prices but at least more reasonable than The View. 

The Navajo Nation follows daylight savings time unlike the rest of Arizona and the Hopi Reservation.  Remember that during the summer this area will be one hour ahead of the rest of Arizona.

No liquor can be bought or sold in the Navajo Nation.  If you will miss your evening glass of wine, be sure to bring it with you. 

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