#83 “In Awesome Wonder” Monument Valley, UT

Without a doubt, this is one of the most uniquely beautiful places I have ever photographed. I say that not because of all that it offers, but because of all that it lacks. It is not Jackson, Wyoming where many of life’s amenities are at your beckon. As a gateway to Grand Teton National Park, Jackson features luxurious to low-rate hotels; fine dining to fast food; and, high end retail to tourist trinkets. All this, located just minutes from a park where mountains, wildlife, birds, lakes and streams prevail. This and more make Jackson, Wyoming the wonderful destination it is.

However, if you contrast that with Monument Valley, you will understand what is meant by the statement “less is more”. Monument Valley has a quiet beauty. It is simple, elegant, undisturbed, undeveloped, serene, spiritual, haunting yet desirable. I have spent many hours alone in this high altitude desert. Seldom is anything audible beyond the crunch of my hiking boots on the dry siltstone or the blood pulsating through my ears as I stop to rest. Occasionally, the silence is broken by the call of a lone raven perched on a cliff overhead.

In the 40’s, it was John Ford who made Monument Valley famous when he used it as a site for filming his western classics. Today, commercials and film continue to subsidize the Navajo Nation’s struggling tourist based economy.

At vistas like John Ford Point, The North Window or Hunts Mesa, you stand back and marvel at the beauty of the 1000-foot sandstone monuments that comprise the landscape. Throughout, one cannot help but ponder life as it was during the ancient civilizations – portions of which remain standing or etched on the walls.

It is the Navajo culture that prevails in and around the valley. They are an interesting people; but, given the white man’s history with them and how it is they came to be where they are, their demeanor is guarded. Nor are they a demonstrative people. No handshakes, not much eye contact, no hugs. But, if you allow more time than the typical superficial encounter of a tourist, you will likely establish an appreciation for their culture and they as individuals.

I highly recommend a visit to this area. Stay as little as 2 days or as long as you are able. If your experience in the Valley is anything like mine, not only will you return, you will forever cherish the memories.