Naked Time Baby and the Red Wind Apr29

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Naked Time Baby and the Red Wind

BT (before trip) we treated time like we were a couple of crazy over-protective mothers with a baby, carrying it tightly or watching it constantly, worrying that it was undernourished, always talking about needing to feed our time baby more. “Gah, our time baby is too skinny! Maybe our time baby has cancer.” We wouldn’t really trust other people with our time baby either, they would carry it wrong, or drop it. Now we’re the hippie commune mothers letting our naked time baby crawl wherever it wants to with a dirt smudged face and a rat’s nest hair-do. This new style of parenting our time is why we arrived at Goulding’s Trading Post Campground in Monument Valley a day earlier than expected.

Four Corners Monument

Four Corners Monument

The drive from Durango took us through four states. Well, we actually only drove the RV through 2 of them that day, but we did the requisite stop at the Four Corners Monument on our way, so it was just our bodies that were in four states, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. About a half hour after leaving that tourist stop, Ali says from the driver’s seat, “We have a problem.” Now, over the last month of travel I have managed to moderate the severity of my bodily reaction to that kind of while-driving statement. I can now quell the raging storm of panic that use to send my heart bouncing out to the edge of my skin and respond with a calm, “What’s up?” rather than a banshee scream announcing our impending death.

It had been a very bouncy drive on rough roads and one of the damn scooter tie-downs was dragging tail behind us again, flapping and bouncing across the pavement, so we carefully found a spot in the soft shoulder that was wide and level enough to reasonably expect that we’d be able to escape it after our emergency stop. This time the poor tie-down strap was truly mangled beyond recovery. All we could do was check the other 4 straps, make sure they were tight and secure, bring the dead soldier into the cab with us and continue on. It wasn’t long after that when we turned onto US-163 at Kayenta and headed north for the last 23 miles of our journey.

And what a spectacular 23 miles it was! I’d seen photographs of the rock monuments and I’d seen the movie Thelma and Louise so I had an image in my mind, but nothing could have prepared me for the utter, solemn beauty. Red spires and buttes exploded up like fingers and fists pointing to heaven from an otherwise mostly flat and empty plain. It was the size and scope of them as much as their intricate texture and vibrant color. Speechless, watery-eyed, I moved my hand to my chest because it felt like my heart just needed to be held.

Solemn and Beautiful

Solemn and Beautiful

It’s usually bad luck to be the one driving when we pass through gorgeous landscapes, but in this case the road was stick-straight, lightly traveled and you could see for miles in all directions which meant that Ali didn’t have to miss the magnificence. It also meant that you couldn’t really miss our turn off since Goulding’s is the only other set of buildings besides the Visitors Center at the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. We turned off US-163 and drove up into the canyon to the campground office. It took about 10 minutes of searching for my name and reservation before the clerk figured out that we were there a day early. We’d actually screwed up and left Durango too soon. We just laughed at ourselves, waved at our dirty naked time baby as it played in the red dirt and paid for a third night.

The view from our camp spot

The view from our camp spot

Surrounded by red rock

Surrounded by red rock

Happy to be parked and all set up

Happy to be parked and all set up

Nice campground

Very nice campground

After meeting the camp kitty and the camp doggie, we set up the grill and shared a yummy steak and asparagus for dinner while we watched the sunlight travel down the sides of our red rock canyon.

IMG_0321 IMG_0324

The next morning we set the alarm early in order to catch the sunrise with our coffee. Then after breakfast we unloaded the scooter and geared up to ride the 3 miles over to the park for a hike. We did the Wildcat Trail which is a 4 mile loop out into the park, around the Western Mitten Butte and back. The morning was clear and warm and calm – perfect for hiking.

Sun peek-a-boo

Sun peek-a-boo

This was all the reassurance we got about which direction to head

This was all the reassurance we got about which direction to head

the Western Mitten Butte

The Western Mitten Butte

The path was deep sand - huff, puff

The path was deep sand – huff, puff

Incredible to be out in the middle of the monuments

Incredible to be out in the middle of the monuments

Happy girls!

Happy girls!

At the end of our hike, as we were making the steep climb up from the valley floor back onto the plateau, the wind started to pick up – so much so that the trailing hiker was treated to a sand facial from the grains loosened and sent airborne by the front hiker’s foot steps. We sat at a picnic table, but lunch was, “Quick shove that sandwich down your throat and let’s get inside the Visitor’s Center.” After a quick exploration of the exhibits about the Navajo and the gift shop we braved the wind again and headed back to the RV. It was a short ride, but thrilling – we had side-aimed whirl-winds blowing sand across the road thick enough to drop visibility to almost nothing and sending the scooter on a waggling trajectory down the road, topped off by a cattle guard crossing. Adrenaline cocktail for two!

The red sand-laden wind didn’t much stop for the next 2 days. We huddled in for the evening, even had to pull in our slides for a few hours since the gusts were so violent. We made a drive-around plan for the following day to visit Mexican Hat, Goosenecks State Park, and Valley of the Gods. When we woke up the next morning we found a fine dusting of red sand around all of our windows, inside the RV in the sills. It had managed to blow through any open orifice, big and small, of the RV and the car. It filled all the cup like surfaces on the scooter, and it was a quarter-inch deep inside our tennis shoes which we accidentally left outside. And when we turned on the heater air vent in the SUV we had our own mini red wind right there in the front seat.

Headed into the storm

Headed into the storm

Mexican Hat - Rock formation and town named for it

Mexican Hat – Rock formation and town named for it

Goosenecks State Park

Goosenecks State Park

It took the San Juan River 300 million years to wind its way through the desert to create this amazing and rare geologic formation, known as an entrenched meander.

We didn't take this photo, it's from the Utah Parks website, but it's incredible

We didn’t take this photo, it’s from the Utah Parks website, but it’s incredible – I highly suggest you click on it to view it full-size

Here’s a taste of the wind for you – video of Gooseneck’s.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods

We drove around for a couple hours and then spent an hour touring the Goulding’s Trading Post museum right at the bottom of the hill from the campground. Here’s the info about Goulding’s from the Utah.com web site.

In 1921, Harry Goulding and his young bride Leone (nicknamed Mike) purchased 640 acres next to Monument Valley. They spent their first years trading with the Navajo people out of their tent. In 1928, the Gouldings completed construction of an old stone trading post with an apartment in the upstairs. The building has been converted over to a museum where you can see photographs and memorabilia during the Gouldings stay.

The depression years made things very tough for the Navajo’s and the Gouldings. Harry and Mike caught word that a movie director, John Ford, was looking for a place to film a western movie. Harry took photos of the Monument Valley area to John Ford who fell in love with the area. Within a couple of weeks, filming of the classic, award winning “Stagecoach” movie began. The lead actor of the film was the young John Wayne. Both John Ford and John Wayne returned again and again to this area for other films.

Monument Valley was incredible despite the wind and it turned out that our mistake in leaving Durango early was a blessing – by doing so we got one clear sunny day to hike. I think it’s a lesson to all of us to let our time babies wander about more – it just might lead to an unexpected delight.