“Beyond the glittering street was darkness, and beyond the darkness the West. I had to go.”
- Jack Kerouac, On The Road
Monument Valley - Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, Valley of the Rocks
This was my first visit to Monument Valley. I was amazed and awed as I stood in the visitor parking lot, above the valley floor, looking at the massive sandstone buttes. From here, I had spectacular views of the valley's most photographed peaks - East and West Mitten Buttes, and Merrick Butte. Monument Valley is what most of us truly associate with the "American West." There was a slight chill in the air – slightly windy, overcast skies. The following day turned out to be very similar, and I started to wonder if I should pack up and leave. I was experiencing bland skies, and the dust seemed to get into every piece of my equipment. But just then, the clouds began to move, the sky opened up a little, and so I decided to stay another night. Hopefully, I would experience a better sunrise and sunset the following day. Fortunately, the next day I had better conditions. I thought of hiring a guide and a horse to reach some of the areas that were not accessible without an official Navajo guide, but I then decided to do this on a return trip with more time and better weather. I explored the rest of the valley with my car; the road was steep and uneven and dust kept stirring up as I descended further into the valley's heart. Passing many of the towering cliffs, red mesas, and spire rocks, I encountered free roaming horses and very friendly shaggy dogs that would come right up at every stop. It seemed they were longing for some human interaction. Now, up close, a lot of the rock formation seemed even more massive, and I felt very small right next to them. I started to become fascinated with the different textures of the rocks, and the changing light kept me driving in circles on this 17 mile loop until it was time for me to leave as the sun started to set. Tired from a day of driving and photographing, I decided to settle down for the night. After another bowl of the delicious vegetarian chili - the food that sustained me on this trip :-) , I started reviewing my images on my laptop only to have my eyes fail on me. That’s when I knew it was time to go to sleep so that I stood a chance of getting up early the next morning to shoot sunrise. Not surprisingly, sunrise snuck up on me; the minute my eyes opened, I realized it was already happening. I quickly grabbed my shoes, vest, and hat and started running over to the lookout point. I so wished there would have been time for coffee, but it was too late for that. It wasn't the most spectacular of sunrises, but after two days with no color breaking through the clouds, I was excited to witness this. This is what I had been wanting to see! The mesa was colored in shades of orange, but the sky was still partially covered with clouds which kept moving around. The sun then broke through and lit up the entire valley slowly as it kept rising up. As warm as this looked, my hands were freezing cold and a strong wind had come in. I was trying to stabilize my tripod as I shot, totally enthralled by the sudden change in weather and scene. This experience concluded my visit to Monument Valley, and I moved on to Paria. But, before departing, I got that cup of freshly brewed, hot coffee. Yum!
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