(Through The High Desert)
Through The High Desert
One of the places that I had not planned on visiting but added to the trip was Monument Valley. After doing research I decided that Monument Valley was worth adding to our itinerary. We left Canyon De Chelly after breakfast and set out across the desert headed north toward Utah on Rt. 191. The land we were passing through is known as the high desert. As the miles rolled beneath us we were presented with sweeping vistas across miles and miles of desert for as far as the eye could see.
(Canyon De Chelly)
We saw occasional wild horses, a ranch here and there, and some beautiful scenery. The cell phone was useless-no signal, the radio was silent-not a station to be found as the auto scan cruised back and forth without finding a signal of any kind. We passed the time chatting and planning our next stop at Monument Valley. As Rt. 191 intersected Rt. 163 we passed over the San Juan River. We watched as a rafting trip passed under us headed down the San Juan toward the Colorado. We turned left and headed down Rt. 163 in the direction of Monument Valley.
(West Mitten, East Mitten, Merrick Butte)
As we got closer we could see the 3 formations-The Left Mitten, The Right Mitten, and Merricks Butte- that make up the iconic formation that Monument Valley is famous for. We stopped at the visitor’s center to get acclimated to the valley and what we wanted to see. The iconic shot for Monument Valley is at sunset or sunrise. We decided to stay for sunset. This gave us a good part of the afternoon and evening to do some exploring. One of the things that’s included in the entry fee is the ability to drive the 11 mile dirt road that takes you through Monument Valley. We set out to travel this route and see the valley close up. Monument Valley is a starkly beautiful place. Many of the areas are sacred to the native Navajo People.
Mountain Dew Massacre
As we reached the furthest point on the route I became victim to what I called; “The Mountain Dew Massacre”. My cousin, Dave was driving, my wife Cyndy was in the back seat and I was riding shotgun. I had the Canon 7D in my lap and had just opened a Mountain Dew. The SUV hit a deep rut. I grabbed for the camera and succeeded in dumping a large amount of Mountain Dew all over the 7D. I grabbed towels, wet them, and proceeded to wipe off and dry out the camera. One of the dials was a little stiff and the lens was (and still is) harder to remove but everything still worked. We got back to the visitors center around 5 and decided to eat. After eating we went out and set up to get ready for the sunset. I wanted to be set up early because this is a shot that everyone comes for and I wanted to be at the wall so no one could get in front of me. Last thing I wanted was to try and shoot around or over someone.
(East Mitten, Merrick Butte)
I remembered being a Hopi Pt. in the Grand Canyon 2 years ago. I had set up there a good hour before sunset. I got a spot right on the edge of the canyon. For a while I was alone. A few people stopped to shoot but then moved on. As the sun set the people began to pile up behind me. By the time the light was good I had people 10 deep behind and on the sides of me, trying to get a good shot. I held that spot until the good light was gone. I envisioned the same thing happening here at Monument Valley.
( West Mitten, East Mitten, Merrick Butte)
As we waited for sunset, one thing was beginning to be a concern. It had been mostly cloudy all day. Here we were in the land of abundant sunshine and it was cloudy. As I looked to the west I could see a narrow band of clearing in the cloud deck. If it held until the sun dropped to that level it would provide the kind of light I wanted. We watched and waited, taking a shot every now and then, when the light changed enough to be interesting. As the sun dropped into the slot in the cloud deck, the opening held. It held just long enough to provide a burst of light across the valley and over the monuments before it disappeared over the horizon.
(West Mitten, East Mitten, Merrick Butte)
Waiting Out The Light
The crowds of people never materialized behind me. Once in a while someone with a camera would walk by and ask; “what are you waiting for”? As if some big event were about to happen and they were going to miss it. When I answered; “the light”, they would say; “oh”, like they were thinking; “it’s already light what’s he talking about"? As darkness descended on the valley, we packed up our gear and pointed the SUV in the direction of Blanding UT. We had 90 minutes more on the road, it was 8:30 PM. A hot shower and a soft bed was looking mighty inviting.