[Las Vegas; Hoover Dam; Grand Canyon;] Monument Valley; Mesa Verde
After leaving the east entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park, drive through the Navajo Reservation to Tuba City, Kayenta and then north on US 163 across the border into Utah to see Monument Valley. At the edge of Monument Valley, you will find Gouldings Trading Post and Movie Museum.
Opened as a trading post in 1928, Gouldings was converted into a museum in 1989. One room and the upstairs living quarters still reflect the look of the old trading post, but other rooms are devoted to movies. Harry Goulding took photos of the area to director John Ford, and movie history was made starting with 1939’s Stagecoach. The “Movie Room” was once the mess hall for The Harvey Girls, but the stills, sheets and posters are more reflective of the classic John Wayne movies. There is
even a topographical map showing where various movie scenes were shot.
She wore a yellow ribbon is one of Alie’s favorite movies. The Goulding’s potato cellar behind the house became the exterior of “Captain Nathan Brittle’s Cabin,” and the interior is decorated to reflect the Hollywood set that was actually used for interior shots.
Monument Valley lies entirely within Navajo land. The entrance is in Utah, but much of the park is in Arizona. There is a twenty dollar fee for one vehicle and up to four people, and one can also hire a guide.
One of our cherished memories is driving down a lonely dirt road through the valley, finding a place to park next to the road and having a picnic lunch in total quiet: no other people; no insect noise, not even wind. Unfortunately, that is no longer possible. It is a much more sophisticated place with a visitors center, restaurant and hotel and many more visitors. Nonetheless, the beauty remains and is worth the dirve.
Rooms for the night are available at the Navajo’s hotel. Across the highway is Gouldings Lodge. On our trip with friends in 2009, however, we were looking for something a little less expensive, and we went on to the little Utah town of Mexican hat. Our lodgings there were very simple, but there was Internet access, we enjoyed our evening meal and in the morning I had a nice pancake – just one pancake, but it covered a very large plate.
Continue on US 163. It joins US 191 and goes to the Twin Rocks Trading Post (an interesting quick stop) where you pick up Utah state road 160 which becomes Colorado state road 41 when you cross the border. Turn on US 160 going north to Cortez, Colorado. We did not spend much more than an hour in Cortez. It may deserve more, but my two memories are a fascinating mural on one side of a building of an old pueblo complete with ladders and native people — and of a waitress who had never heard of World War II.
Just to the east of Cortez, is Mesa Verde National Park. The park has 8500 acres of wilderness; the drive in is up a spectacular winding road. But the reason everyone should visit is to see and learn about the cliff dwellings of ancient Publoeans, people who lived and built in the southwest for A.D. 600 to 1300 only to abandon their homes within a generation or two. Stop at the Visitor and Research Center first to learn about what you will be seeing before driving along Mesa Top Loop Drive or Wetherill Mesa Drive to look down at the cliff dwellings. And by all means, consider buying a ticket to walk down to the Cliff Palace or Balcony House in order to see them up close.
Allow for at least a half day to visit Mesa Verde. It takes about an hour just to drive in. But if you are trying to see the most in a limited time as we were, Durango is not far to the East and a good place to stop for the night.
Coming Next:Durango-Silverton, The Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Grand Mesa.
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