A Second Anniversary Vacation for Abby and Richard
• Driving to Monticello, Utah
For our second anniversary, Abby and I gathered our dogs, Chihuahuas Sierra and Max, for a trip to Utah. Our driving day, straight through to Monticello, Utah, was about 16 hours, but we had fun, and the dogs did just fine in our laps. By the time we arrived, it was cold in Monticello. We stayed in the Navajo Trail motel, which we liked very much.
• Butler Wash, Muley Point, and Valley of the Gods
We hiked with the dogs to Butler Wash ruins and natural bridge (sometimes referred to as a natural arch), where they minded well and seemed to have a great time.
We drove to Muley Point overlooking the San Juan River, where we left the dogs in the car and scouted around for a few minutes.
We stopped briefly at the Mokee Dugway, the steep gravel highway leading up Cedar Mesa from far southern Utah, that we visited in 2003 on The High Road. We were amazed at the number of stickers that had accumulated on the sign in the three and a half years since our last visit.
Once down the Dugway, we took the Valley of the Gods road, which leads across an expanse of desert punctuated with pinnacles, washes, boulder fields, and one small campground. The sky was beautiful.
We had a wonderful dinner together in Monticello at MD Ranch Cookhouse.
• Monument Valley Guided Tour
We left to dogs nested in our room in Monticello. We had breakfast the MD Ranch Cookhouse.
We took the guided tour of the Monument Valley Tribal Park. The entrance is just north of the Utah-Arizona state line, but the tour resides inside Arizona. The tour was $50 for each of us, and Abby and I strongly recommend it.
Our guide, one of dozens of loosely-organized Navajo Tribe members, took us and a German couple through the park to four impressive natural arches. In the process, he told us stories of the land and its features, and at one point even sang a chant for us.
His vehicle was an ancient Ford pickup with benches mounted on the bed for us to ride, covered with a rickety awning, all held together by duct tape. Abby liked our tour guide so much, especially his singing, that she tipped him $20.
We returned to the visitor center at Monument Valley, where we took time to photograph the hogans on display, which are traditional dwellings.
The hogan (hooghan, literally, “place home”) was the basic Navajo dwelling, and in the early 1800s conical, forked-pole hogans (“male hogans”) still dominated, although by the end of the century they would be replaced by the roomier, hexagonal or octagonal, cribwork hogans (“female hogans”). Piñon or ponderosa pine logs serve as the larger timbers for the framework, with juniper often taking a minor role in the construction.
We had lunch at The View Restaurant, then stopped at the quintessential Monument Valley photo op, the Mittens Overlook.
• Needles District at Canyonlands National Park
Abby took the day off to crochet and nap with the dogs, so I took the Hart’s Draw Road from Monticello to the Needles District of Canyonlands. I saw lots of deer, hunters, snow and Aspens.
I hiked from the Squaw Flat trail head to Lost Canyon, then south until there were too many wet crossings, so I turned back.
I made the Squaw Canyon/Big Spring Canyon loop, which connects at the southern end in a steep, spectacular bench and cliff complex that was some of the best hiking I’ve done in the park.
Abby was cold in the evening, so I got a cup of buffalo barley soup from MD Ranch Cookhouse and brought it to the room. She said it warmed her to the core.
• Anticline Overlook
It was a very odd weather day, so after we heard a ranger on the scanner report hail at the Fiery Furnace trail head in Arches, we decided against hiking to Delicate Arch.
We drove out onto Hatch Point and had a look at the Anticline Overlook. We both had a great time shooting in some very complex light and a chilly breeze.
On the way back to our motel, we ran into some very beautiful and surprising blowing snow in the Monticello area. It was simply a great time with my wife.
• The Drive Home
It was a cold, snowy morning in Monticello, a perfect end for our second anniversary adventure.