About two hours east of Lake Powell is Monument Valley, sitting on the AZ-UT border. This Navajo Tribal Park has been in tons of films from Stagecoach to Forrest Gump to the more recent Lone Ranger. John Wayne claimed, “Monument Valley is the place where God put the West.” Damn right.
We stayed at The View Hotel, where every room has a view of the famous Mittens buttes. (Here’s my “you learn something new everyday”: The difference between a butte and a mesa. Both are flat topped hills or mountains, just a butte is smaller.) Another check mark off the “I’ve always wondered…” list. But back to the hotel, which was seamlessly built into the landscape. There is only one hotel here, thank goodness, and they did it right.
You can drive through certain parts of the park on your own to see many of the famous formations, but I highly suggest taking a tour with Navajo Spirit Tours. Not only will you get to see parts of the park that others don’t get to venture to without a guide, but you get to learn so much about the Navajo people and the land here.
We feel really blessed to have had Don as our guide. He had so much to tell us about his past and his people. It was mesmerizing listening to him sing songs and speak in the Navajo language. While sitting in the Big Hogan, Don told us he was going to sing us a Navajo song to bless travelers. We were super excited.
When he sang, it was like we were transported back in time, or like we were in a movie. Needless to say, the song was beautiful and I wish I could share it with everyone. But here’s the video blooper footage that came out of this. Yup, my man recorded everything before and after the song was sung because he confused the record button with the off button! (Insert your favorite expletive here). I was so sad about this at first, but can only laugh hysterically now that I’m writing this. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be captured on film. Maybe it’s something that everyone should experience firsthand. It’d send chills down your spine – in a good way.
From where we were sitting, look up and you can clearly see the eagle. It’s amazing how this land befits the people living on it, people whose beliefs are just so in tune with their natural surroundings. The Navajo actually call themselves Dine (pronounced Dineh), meaning the People. However, Don explained that it’s much deeper than that. It also means Mother Earth and Father Sky coming together, man and woman are equal and one.
Navajo Nation is the largest Native American reservation in the United States, spanning about 25,000 miles, or the size of West Virginia. Their story, and the story of every other Native American tribe is a sad one. After the U.S. defeated Mexico, the Navajos were rounded up and forced to walk 300 miles (known as “The Long Walk”) from their homeland to Fort Sumner, New Mexico where they stayed at an internment camp with an Apache tribe. Deaths occurred, not only during the march, but at the internment camp as well. Four years later, the Navajo signed a treaty with the US government and were able to return to their sacred land.
The Sun’s Eye. I hadn’t expected to see as much beauty as I did in Monument Valley. Before we came, I thought it was just the famous buttes we saw in the movies. But it was sooooo much more. The rocks, the earth, the formations all lend you to feel this surreal sense of being one with the natural surroundings here. It’s like the spirit of the universe speaks to you and is within you all at once. Hard to explain without sounding a bit cheesy I guess, but if you go, you’ll see what I mean.
What was a total unexpected surprise for me were all the Anasazi petroglyphs we saw here. I knew this ancient civilization was somewhere in the southwest, just didn’t know that they had lived in what is now Monument Valley. Below is a petroglyph of big horned sheep.