Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Traveling to Monument Valley

We honor Tony Hillerman, the wonderful Southwest writer who just passed away. His plots never mattered that much to me, but his characters Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee were a joy to follow wherever they went. Hillerman wrote of Indian culture with great understanding and sensitivity. Many of us in the region refer to northwest New Mexico as Hillerman Country. My wife and two cats ventured there in our RV a week ago, traveling through Gallup on the Navajo Reservation, through Window Rock, and across wide-open stretches of Arizona. Our ultimate goal was Monument Valley, on the Arizona-Utah state line, but the landscape along the way is magnificent. Here is a sampling of what we saw.

This and the photo above are in Monument Valley. In the 1920s a settler enticed John Ford to travel here from Hollywood, and Ford filmed a number of Westerns here, including Stagecoach (1939).

A Navajo back yard behind the RV park, smack in the middle of Monument Valley:

The rock from which the town of Mexican Hat, Utah derives its name:

We had never heard of it, but when I saw the sign pointing to Valley of the Gods, I knew we had to go there. With a little imagination, this rock looks like a Southern belle:

This Navajo girl posed for me in front of Canyon de Chelly while her mom sat in a pickup truck weaving on a hand loom. Navajo spell the canyon “Tseyi,” and the pronunciation is roughly like “Shea.”

And of course I had to have one of these: