Painting With (S)oils
Since we weren’t heading back to the East Coast this summer, the road to “home” was an entirely new view from Flagstaff onward. We had never really been to the northern part of Arizona state before, and it didn’t disappoint. Flagstaff’s mountain forests gradually gave way to scrub pine and cattle pastures, and eventually back to desert. But this desert didn’t look the same as the one we had left. There were no Saguaros, no Cholla, no Ocotillos. But Mother Nature chose a different canvas to show off her stuff.
The very earth itself.
It was kind of like traveling in a time machine. Cliff walls and mesas showed vividly the geological layers dating back millions of years, each level distinctly different from those it touched. And the colors, emphasized by the sunlight, were amazing.
I Could Almost See the Stagecoach…
Then, as we approached the AZ/UT state line, these began popping up.
These giant formations dot the landscape for miles in every direction, but the highway that led us into Utah also dropped us into the middle of the largest number of them. We had reached Monument Valley.
This gigantic butte guards one edge of the park.
I’ve mentioned before what a fan of dusters I am. This was a little slice of Heaven to me. I’ve watched John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda ride around these formations so many times, I felt like I had been here before. But seeing them on film is nothing like seeing them in person. Shaped by the forces of wind and water, these beauties are truly awe-inspiring.
A band of wild horses graze peacefully by the roadside.
It was so hard to leave.
Paths That Keep Crossing…
But we still needed to find a place to stay for the night. So, reluctantly leaving Monument Valley behind, we continued on our way through more of the amazing landscape, dropping into copper and magenta-striped canyons and climbing steep mesas, until we came upon some BLM land just north of Mexican Hat, UT.
This was Valley of the Gods, a back country recreation area somewhat similar to Monument Valley. The formations here are smaller, but no less interesting. We found a brochure on the BLM bulletin board that provided the names of each formation.
The Seven Sailors
Balanced Rock (L) and Lady in a Tub.
However, it had rained recently, and the road leading into the heart of the Valley was rather muddy in spots. Mike had noticed a group of campers near the entrance, and rather than risk getting stuck in the mud, he decided to approach the group and ask if they had already traveled the road and find out how bad it was.
And we were so glad he did. It turned out that one of the group was Serge from Quebec. We had met him at the 2018 R.T.R. and had crossed paths with him again at this year’s rally. He introduced us to the rest of his group, who kindly asked us to share their site rather than test the muddy road. We spent an enjoyable evening getting to know our new friends and exploring this incredible area.
The view of our campsite from the top of a mesa.
We rose early the next morning, said goodbye to Serge and his group, and got on the road once again. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves in Bluff, Utah, passing an interesting-looking display of log cabins and wagons. This needed a second look.
The Hole In The Rock Trail
Bluff Fort was settled by the Mormons after blazing the Hole In The Rock Trail in the winter of 1879-80. While neither of us are religious, we had to respect the courage and the tenacity of the settlers who persevered over all-but-impossible odds to find a route through this incredibly difficult terrain.
The park is small, but very detailed. Several cabins have been built by the descendants of the original settlers, and are decorated with quilts and antiques that have been passed down through the generations. As well, some of the cabins have a button that’s pressed when you enter, giving you an audio tour and a short history of the family that sponsored that cabin.
The interior of a cabin. Several of the items here actually came out with the first settlers.
Not a replica, but one of the original wagons that forged the Hole In The Wall Trail.
We spent an enjoyable hour touring the Fort, and then started north once again.
Here, Try Some Ritalin…
While traveling through Arizona, we’ve joked that the state must get bored easily. You can be driving through one kind of terrain, and 10 minutes later, be in a completely different kind of landscape. We’ve found out that Utah also has a short attention span, but this time, it’s with the weather. What had began as a beautiful clear morning…
Enjoying the drive.
…turned into this not 20 minutes later…
…and back to this in another 20 minutes.
I think Mother Nature has ADD.
Our journey continued…
Well, that’s another hole in the ground.
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