Thursday, October 30, 2014

Goodbye, Taos...Hello, Monument Valley

Days 9 and 10 (Wednesday and Thursday, October 29 and 30)

In the immortal words of Britney Spears, "Oops, (we) did it again!"  By that, I mean that we couldn't leave Taos without one more terrific breakfast at Michael's Kitchen!  Dang, that food is so good! And the coffee warmed us up since it was a brisk 29 degrees in Taos on Wednesday morning!

Our early morning start meant we had the road between Taos and Farmington almost entirely to ourselves.  From the desert up into the Carson National Forest and back down many beautiful sights!  Scores of cattle grazing as we passed through ranch land between Tres Piedras and Chama...the twisting roads...clear blue skies...and, yes, the radio chiming in with John Denver at just the right time--all made for a beautiful morning.

After a quick stop for lunch in Farmington, we made our way through northwestern New Mexico and into Arizona on US 64.  Sadly, we saw great poverty as we passed through Shiprock, NM and the Navajo land beyond.  We couldn't pass up the opportunity to stop at the Four Corners Monument and take the obligatory photos standing simultaneously in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah.

Marker at Four Corners Monument--NM, AZ, UT, and CO

It was mid-afternoon as we passed down toward Kayenta, turning north toward the Utah border and Monument Valley.  As I drove, I remembered my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Albrecht.  Her hobby was oil painting, so I recall we did a lot of art in her class!  I have a memory of her teaching us about perspective by having us all take out our rulers to use as our straight-edge.  Then, carefully following her directions, we would bisect our sheets of manila paper (who remembers manila paper?) with a line for the horizon...the sky above, the earth below...and then she would remind us that, if we were on a highway driving toward the horizon, the road would appear to narrow into a point in the distance, even though the road itself was not shrinking.  So, we would all draw our uniform highway pictures, some of us going so far as to use our rulers to form perfectly triangular mountains in the distance (ah, creativity!).  On Wednesday, I finally saw for myself what Mrs. Albrecht wanted all of us budding artists to imagine, draw, and color with our Crayolas!

I found myself emotionally overwhelmed at times by the beautiful scenes we encountered!  We arrived at our hotel, The View, located within the Monument Valley Park and operated by the Navajo.  I believe the hotel itself is about 6 years old.  All 90 rooms look east over the valley...and to describe the view as "breathtaking" would be an understatement.

Arriving in late afternoon gave us the opportunity to see Left Mitten, Right Mitten, and the other formations literally right before our eyes from the balcony, just as the sun began to lower in the western sky behind us...

Left and Right Mittens at sunset, Monument Valley, 29 Oct 2014

What a beautiful sight!  After dinner, the cloudless evening and remote location provided a perfect evening for stargazing...but it was a bit too cold!  Tonight, we will be more prepared to bundle up and enjoy the night sky.

Friday morning brought an amazing sunrise.  I wish I could have captured a better photograph of the beautiful dawn...

Right Mitten at sunrise, 30 Oct 2014

...but it was remarkable, I can assure you.  The colors began to appear about 40 minutes before sunrise...deep blues, violets, and oranges across the vast horizon.

There is little to do in Monument Valley but to take in the incredible views...Words really wouldn't do it justice, so here are a few of many photos from our 2-hour drive throughout the valley this morning.

Three Sisters, Monument Valley, 30 Oct 2014

Something that has impressed me about this place is the silence.  I don't know if this will make sense...but this is not a light and breezy silence.  The quiet is almost heavy--not in a bad or sad way, but in a full way.  One almost gets the sense that it would be difficult to break this type of silence, and you really wouldn't want to try.  As we talked about this today, perhaps it is the difference between silence and stillness...

Tomorrow, the drive to Flagstaff for four days...Grand Canyon and Sedona, here we come!

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