My attempt at the classic Ansel Adams shot...

My attempt at the classic Ansel Adams shot…

We’ve made it to the heart of mother earth, the spot that the Diné, the people, the Navajo consider the most sacred place in the universe. The spot is Monument Valley, a 91,696 acres natural beauty known for it’s iconic sandstone buttes that jut up to 1,000 feet into the sky from the flat desert floor. It’s been on my bucket list for decades, ever since I saw my very first shot of the place, an iconic black-and-white print by Ansel Adams that’s haunted and tempted me ever since. This is an area I have always wanted to see…and it does not disappoint.

Long shadows on the road just after sunrise

Long shadows on the road just after sunrise

Sunrise in heavy cloud over the Monument Valley Buttes

Sunrise in heavy cloud over Monument Valley

Despite all my preparation, all this previous knowledge there are really no words for how magnificent and overwhelming this place really is. From the very first entrance to the valley where the road seems to  track and disappear into infinity, to the very first glimpses of the towering buttes standing proud and strong in wide, flat desert nothing can prepare you for how small, how awed you will feel in their presence.

The scope of everything here is so very large, so very tremendous that it will leave you simply….speechless.

We arrived here two days ago and checked into the one and only RV park in town (Gouldings). The weather forecast was fickle and dreary, but we decided we would open up to the experience and take what it gave us. The very next morning I braved the sub-freezing cold to take some sunrise shots under heavy cloud. I awoke in the dark, bundled up to the T in 5 layers and stubbornly headed up to set-up my tripod on the road. I may have been the only fool out there (and I may also have lost a few fingers waiting for that morning light) but it was oh so worth it! What splendor to see the sunrise touch those elegant buttes and bathe the valley in its’ early light.

Nothing can really capture the enormity of the valley. See anyone you know in this pic?

Nothing can really capture the enormity of the valley. See anyone you know in this pic?

With our guide by an old dwelling in the valley

With our guide by an old dwelling in the valley

Later in the day, after I had sufficiently thawed, we took a tour with one of the local Navajo companies Spirit Tours. Our guide was a young local who was intimately knowledgeable about the history of Monument Valley. She told us about its movie links (there are many), Navajo legends (stories handed down orally from generation to generation), silver mines (now all lost) and also happened to be a professional Navajo singer (we were treated to a traditional song in one of the remote cave locations not open to regular tourists).

Despite many shades of grey clouds and even a sprinkling of rain it was a fabulous afternoon. The tours are somewhat pricey but thoroughly recommended. They take you to parts of the Valley not open to others and give you a deep and unmatched appreciation for the culture. Don’t miss out!

Perfect chilly stillness at first morning light

Perfect chilly stillness at first morning light

Vast landscapes seen from inside the valley

Vast landscapes seen from inside the valley

Sadly our short stay here is up and we’re moving on. We’re headed deeper into Utah today and may or may not have internet access for a while. For the next days I will give myself to the red rocks and the spirit of the ancient peoples. They say the Navajo passed through three worlds in various forms of being before emerging from Mother Earth into this world, the Sparkling World. In the presence of Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii, (“pale colors splashed in rock”), in this sacred valley, I can feel all those legends come true.

Inside the Navajo park

Inside the Navajo park

A faint rainbow at sunrise behind one of the Mittens

A faint rainbow at sunrise behind one of the Mittens

The "totem pole" inside the valley

The “totem pole” inside the valley

Polly poses by an arch outside our RV park

Polly poses by an arch outside our RV park

More early morning goodness

More early morning goodness

Very first light on Monument Valley buttes

Very first light on Monument Valley buttes

Tagged with:
 

43 Responses to The Heart Of Mother Earth – Monument Valley, UT

  1. Sue says:

    Oh Nina, your post gave me goosebumps….You captured the feeling of Monument Valley perfectly. Thanks

  2. Mary says:

    You take some amazing photographs :) Thank you for sharing

  3. Karen says:

    Monument Valley is one of the places that my soul long for. Your words and pictures tantalize me even more. Since my trip to Utah was pushed back a bit I shall live it through your eyes!

  4. Gunta says:

    You stir some wonderful memories. Monument Valley is indeed a sacred and awe inspiring place. Happy Trails…

  5. You enjoy boon-docking I believe. Head for Goosenecks State Park just a short ride North-North- West of where you are. Free camping and a view that is hard to beat. We have been there twice now and we will be back. Careful if you decide to go left along the ridge when you arrive. We had all the stuff come out of all cabinets even when going 1 mile per hour. Get a “spotter” outside and direct the driver around the small rocks sticking out of the ground. Don’t miss this – just go. You will not regret it !

    • libertatemamo says:

      That’s exactly where we’ve headed!! We have a slooooooow internet signal, but a fabulous view of the river.
      Nina

  6. Smitty says:

    Could you hear John Wayne in the valley? Such a special place, though we hit it at 118 degrees in June… We do plan a more appropriate weather season visit again in 2014.

    Congrats on your BW Adam’s shot – very cool (some pun intended) sunrise shot…
    Smitty

    • libertatemamo says:

      For sure! We heard all kinds of folks in that valley. It echoes quite a lot of history, both native & film!
      118 is HOT!! It wandered between 40 and 65 while we were there. A little chillier in the early AM with a brisk wind. Still, very pleasant weather!
      Nina

  7. Allen says:

    Mr Adams would appreciate your committment to the perfect shot. Nicely done Nina.

  8. Bob says:

    Never been there, but now I think I want to go. Nice pics.

  9. The Good Luck Duck says:

    Whoo. That sounds great. Beautiful shots.

  10. Jerry B. says:

    We’ve been all over the Southwest but there is NOTHING that can compare to sunrise in Monument Valley. I think it’s the most spectacular view anywhere and a photographers dream. We’ve stayed at Gouldings but prefer the Tribal Park at the rim, next to the visitor center. No hookups but you can’t beat just walking a few feet to see that valley.
    In your travels try to get to Goblin Valley for some unusual photos. I think Utah has some of the best scenery in the country.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sadly the Tribal Park is closed right now otherwise we would have stayed there for sure. It will open again in the summer.
      Nina

  11. Jerry G says:

    Hope you planned a month for that area. Mesa Verde NP is welllllll worth the slight detour heading north. On your way in to Canyonlands NP there is a great boondocking site on Blm land to the south of the road before entering the park. There is a Blm campground in the Island in the Sky section of the park at is a great spot to stay while checking out that area including Arches. Too many hikes and 4 wheel drives to mention. Heading towards Capital Reef NP you’ll go past Hole in the Rock Road to the south of Hwy 12 and there are a handful of free sites just a mile down the dirt road, then take the toad and drive in to the slots, Peek-a-boo and Sleepy. One is quite difficult by the way, I think it was PeekABoo.. The 60 mile 4 WD Trail thru Cathedral valley is beautiful. Drive “The Fold”, another 4WD, @ 4 hrs. There’s a boondocking site just before Goblin valley SP where you will find Little Wild Horse Slot. The Calf Creek hike is very nice ending at a waterfall. Kodachrome SP is a nice spot to spend a few days hiking that area. Stop at the Blm office near there for tips. Some 4 WD roads are impassable when wet. Of course then there’s still Bryce and Zion. Enjoy. It is one of the most spectacular areas of this great country.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We spent a week around Mesa Verde 2 years ago, and did the whole Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef tour 3 years ago. All worthy visits I agree. This time around we’ll be concentrating on eastern side, so Moab will be on the route!
      Nina

  12. Pam says:

    Monument Valley is my favorite place on earth. We first stumbled upon it by accident. Before we became fulltimers, we had a Class B RV and use to take almost yearly cross-country roadtrips. These were crazy trips where we would drive anywhere from 200 to 500 miles a day, every day, for around three weeks. I called them extreme roadtrips.

    On our first extreme roadtrip, we were in Moab and heading towards Flagstaff. I don’t know how I missed the fact that we’d be driving through Monument Valley in my planning but it came as a complete surprise. We were entering from the north and came to a place where my husband said “Oh my God, this is where Forrest Gump stopped running!” We stopped right in the road and just stood there staring. Our visit there that day was way too short but we returned to Monument Valley two more times after that. We even spent one night in the new hotel a few years ago. I barely slept that night between staying up until last light to take pictures and getting up way before sunrise. It was magical.

    Sorry this post was so long, I just love, love, love that place. Your pictures and words were beautiful. We’re doing the New Mexico state parks this spring and thought about heading up there but I think we might wait until the Navajo campground reopens. We’ve even thought about spending a whole season there sometime, maybe working at the Gouldings store to offset the campground cost.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Awesome story. Thanks so much for sharing it!
      Enjoy your time in New Mexico. The state parks there are all wonderful.
      Nina

  13. Ward Wessels says:

    Hope you guys found the “small” natural arch that is just a short hike to the north from Goulding’s RV Camp. The hosts can tell you where it is. Its worth the small effort. I really appreciate your blog, photos, and Paul’s financial page.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, that’s the arch that Polly is posing in front of in the lower pics. We hiked there twice daily during our stay. A lovely little surprise.
      Nina

  14. Rochelle Furtah says:

    Some say “State your intention and it will come”…and that’s certainly what has happened to me. We purchased a motorhome recently and are in the midst of planning our trip to the Southwestern US: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and then back to Northern California. I cannot remember how I found your blog…but extremely glad I did. I am devouring every bit of information I can on traveling via motorhome and the places to go. We’ve equipped ourselves for boondocking and want to avoid RV parking lots whenever we can. Your posts have been perfect for getting a real feel for what we have ahead of us. We will be seeking out the locations/camping areas you (and your commenters) have recommended. Your photos are stunning. I hope to capture some like them. Your blog is one of the best I’ve come across and I really appreciate the effort you put into your writing and photos. This has helped reduce the little anxiety I have about our next adventure. I look forward to more of your postings in the future. Rochelle

  15. Neal W. says:

    beautiful pics as usual….enjoy!!

  16. placestheygo says:

    Sorry you had to get up in the freezing dark but the pictures are amazing! Thanks you so much for the magnificent pictures.

  17. Janet says:

    Just beautiful images you have captured. Thank you for getting up before sunrise and freezing, we appreciate it!! We definitely need to get back to the West!

  18. geogypsy2u says:

    These are absolutely superb images. Going with a guide here would be good. Such a magical land.

  19. Kyle Kuns says:

    A truly amazing place. I really like the photos where the buttes are in silhouette. When I was there over twenty years ago I only saw it in late morning/early afternoon light.

    • libertatemamo says:

      You could easily spend a whole day just watching the light and color change in the area. I want to go back and stay when the tribal campground opens up again. It would be so cool to stay by the rim.
      Nina

  20. First passed through Monument Valley in May of 92 & it has been on my mind ever since to return & spend some quality time in that area. How fortunate for you to be there with a moody cloud laden sky overhead. It’s those kinds of skies & that kind of lighting which make for exceptional photos & you sure got yourself some. Good stuff…… AL:))

    • libertatemamo says:

      I did feel very lucky to get so many light contrasts. Some of the shots were tricky with grey sky, but that inspired the black and white. Our guide told us the Navajo love the clouds too.
      Nina

  21. Michele says:

    My husband and I stayed at the only hotel at Monument Valley about 3 years ago – The View. Amazing. He too braved the early morning to get that perfect shot. And succeeded. We had a personal guide actually, two, one in the morning and then another in the afternoon. Very very cool. The best -was when my husband booked a ‘private’ hot-air balloon ride over Monument Valley! That, if you ever go back is totally well worth the price! We really hope to go back. Just seeing your pictures, gives me tremendous memories of our time there and goose-bumps!

  22. jil mohr says:

    One of my most favorite places…have been there a few times and every time I go back it is like the first…great photos…I look forward to hearing/reading about Gooseneck….need to know if I and our 5th wheel can make it :)

    • libertatemamo says:

      You could easily make it here. It’s a paved road the whole way with no scary parts. The only place you’ll see a big drop is when you get to the end and view the canyon. You can camp right on the edge or back from the drop, so there’s something for everyone. Fabulous spot!
      Nina

  23. Thanks so much for the pics. We have 24 mos to go til full timers and your blog has helped me to pause from the packing and sorting and start a journal of these “must see” places. Enjoy Utah, Kris

  24. Sherry says:

    The spiritual sensitivity of this post is what I most love about your blog. It is what I aspire to in mine and seldom achieve. My desire is visit and stay in these transformative kinds of natural places. Especially on the East Coast they are very difficult to find or I’m not reading the right travel books or blogs. :-)) You have definitely put Monument Valley on my list. I love too that you show your respect for this glorious planet upon which we depend totally by capitalizing Mother Earth. In this and other things I find you a kindred spirit and really hope our paths will cross one day.

  25. LuAnn says:

    Monument Valley is one of our very favorite places in the southwest. It always reminds me of my friend Barbara who passed. She was always drawn to this sacred place. Your photography is brilliant Nina.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.