Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 31: Mesa Verde to Monument Valley (Tribal Park, not a NP)

Day 31: Mesa Verde to Monument Valley (Tribal Park, not a NP)

Television was supposed to be a national park. Instead it has become a money machine. It's a commodity now, just like pork bellies.
Fred W. Friendly

Pics: Sunrise in Mesa Verde NP, THB’s I-touch #1, Four Corner close-up (very close up, the guy taking the picture is sitting on the marker), various shots from Wildcat Trail hike in Monument Valley, and last two from our hotel room balcony.

THB wakes at 2am for a stargazing moment: it’s really good, especially when THB remembers to put on his glasses this time. Surprises a huge deer about 20 feet from the door to our room.

Breakfast in two places: the room for coffee and granola bars near sunrise, then at Mr. Happy’s Café in Cortez. Mr. Happy has a fixation on singers from the 60s, and from the pic you can tell the real Bob made his top 10 list. Ask the waitress, and she puts on Bob Unplugged while we have our café au laits (another waitress unfamiliar with this drink), a pumpkin muffin and cranberry scone (just okay). Music video: priceless; Food: $12. And, next door to Mr. Happy is an unusual biz combo: tanning and massage parlor paired with a tombstone retail outlet.

Drive is back into the red dirt geography, we’re sort of on the other side of Lake Powell from the first part of the trip, and it is again fascinating. A brief stop at Four Corners: Navajo control this site and charge $3/person to see/stand on the spot and as a bonus give you access to 50 booths selling Indian jewelry. At least THB gets his passport stamped.

We arrive at Gouldings Trading Post, Museum, Lodge and Restaurant in time for lunch: veggie burger for DB and Navajo taco for THB. The latter is fry bread (think giant donut/sopapilla spread out to plate size and then laden with chili, then covered with shredded lettuce, some shredded cheese and a small smattering of tomatoes. THB eats about 60%, more than enough for a family of 3. Total $23.

On the way into Gouldings, we see a dead cow on the side of the road. We discuss if it is a photo op and finally THB sez: only if we can get a utility box in as well, and there isn’t a box nearby, so no pic.

Monument Valley is living up to its name: lots of big interesting rock structures spread out in a gigantic valley. We decide to take a hike: it is in the low 70s and very (totally) exposed and as usual there is not a cloud in the sky. In fact, the only rain on this trip was during the drive from the Denver airport to Walsenburg, and it was mostly dark during that drive, so nothing to see off the highway anyway.

Midway on the hike we see a small cross (see pic) with a date from exactly a year ago. That’s a first on this trip…a trailside memorial. Tombstones, dead cow, and now a small cross along the trail; we pick up the pace. 1.5 hours to cover the 3.2+ miles.

We are staying at the only hotel “in the park;” this is a tribal park, not a NP. It is expensive, $240 a night, tops on the trip. Of course, every room has a great view over the valley (see pics from the balcony).

Just like at the Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde NP, the View Lodge in Monument Valley does not allow you to charge your meals to your room, even though the restaurant is part of the Lodge. And, internet only in the lobby (in both) and the lounge at Mesa Verde (so you could watch football on Monday and baseball on Tuesday). How strange…and, we are seeing foreigners again: French in Mesa Verde and Germans and Japanese in Monument Valley. Guess the proximity to Las Vegas is driving this, along with the power of the euro and early retirees in European countries. And a few more children, maybe 10% in Mesa Verde, and teenagers in Monument Valley.

Dinner at the hotel: Mutton stew with fry bread for THB and Navajo Taco for DB, with faux wine and iced tea…The Navajo Reservation is alcohol free. Dinner thus is a remarkable $33.

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