By Hartt Wixom
One of the outstanding outdoor scenes in western travel has to be Monument Valley Navajo Trial Park on the Utah-Arizona border. That is one reason why Hollywood fell in love with it. Film maker John Ford p camped there for many pictures he made, many with John Wayne. Examples: Stagecoach, The Searchers, FT. Apache, Shootout at OK Corral. (Ford even went to the expense of building a quarter million dollar replica of the Corral in Monument Valley rather than go to Tombstone, Arizona.) Ford said “I feel a lot of peace here. I have been all over the world and consider this the most beautiful and peaceful place on Earth.”
Ford referred to the towering mesas and buttes rising from this orange landscape “The Valley Nobody Knows.”I personally happened to find it by accident when taking my foster Navajo Indian boy John Abe Yellowman to his home to Bluff, Utah. While there, John’s wife, Valyncia, showed us a beautiful Navajo rug given the Yellowman family in gratitude for religious services rendered many tribal people seeking a blessing. John is a medican man.
Nothing on the official Utah Highway Map gives a clue as to the scenic wonders in Monument Valley, probably because it is not an official government-labelled national park or monument. Just miles of incredible scenery which can be easily viewed from U. S. 163.
The visitor can find camping areas near Goulding’s Trading Post on Utah side of the border where John Ford made his headquarters for many years, (Photos of multiple movie stars, including Shirley Temple and Henry Fonda, hang from several museum walls.) Or you can drive farther north to Mexican Hat (well named from a nearby natural feature) or Bluff where a visitors center showcases the hardships and triumphs of the Mormon pioneers who settled the region after descending from Hole in the Wall east of Escalante. They had to make a very dangerous crossing of the Colorado River. If you get to Bluff, be sure to visit this showcase museum of courage and determination quite possibly unsurpassed in all of the settlement of the western United States.
But back to Monument Valley. John Abe Yellowman tells us that for years the Navajos eked out a meager living here with small sheep herds. When tourism discovered the valley, many gift shops and jewelry or Navajo blanket shops set up. I have two of those blankets given us by our foster son of which I am very proud. I would suggest stopping at one o f these shops (sometimes just roadside stalls) when traveling through.
To reach this isolated region from the St. George area, drive on U. S. 89 to Page, Ariz. and just south of there, take U. S. 98, 564 and 160 to Kayenta. Turn north there on U. S. 163. You will pass through many natural rock formations of beauty in their own right but nothing like Monument Valley itself. You will know when you get there. Since the last outpost civilization will be Kayenta, stock up there on food and gasoline. Or in Bluff.