Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Monument Valley and the Colossus of Memnon

Mesas became McDonalds...
Hopi blurred to Hampton Inn...
Kachina turned to Kayenta....

This last one is the name of the northeastern Arizona town where we spent the night after taking our leave of the Hopi reservation. Firmly in the grip of American consumerism, Kayenta (from what I saw) could have been any town between Reno and Raleigh. Once my mind submitted to that reality, I was able to enjoy a fine rest and full breakfast at our hotel (a name at the beginning of this post--you guess which one).

We got a late start the next morning, due to a great deal of unpacking and searching for the one indispensable item in our possession: the car key, without which we would be extending our stay here by several days until a spare could be flown in from California. It was a tense situation until the key was found in a grocery sack. Too bad we had already called a towing company to open up the car...

An inconvenient truth: we had no idea where to find the key

When we finally left town, some spectacular scenery greeted us as we drove north on Hwy 163... Monument Valley. The Navajo who live here call this Tsé Bii' Ndzisgaii (I'll let you pronounce it, but it means Valley of the Rocks). Monument Valley is not at all what I consider a valley, but instead a scattering of buttes and mesas rising in splendid isolation hundreds of feet above the floor of the desert.

Every guidebook you look at will tell you that this location has been the backdrop for many a Western, but even such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Forrest Gump include scenes shot here.

So many formations and angles that it's hard to keep track of them. The top photo is centered on a spot called Mitchell's Butte, and the bottom one is--I believe--looking at Monument Pass.

No wonder this place is an icon. Stare at these rocks long enough, and the mind will start to see things and make associations. Some of the names on the map include words like Stagecoach, Saddleback, Elephant... One rock I saw reminded me of a place I had visited in Egypt several years ago. Don't tell me that you can't see a resemblance:

This spot in Monument Valley...
N36.81959 W110.24969

...reminds me of this 3,400-year-old statue near Luxor, Egypt.
N25.72055 E32.61055

The map calls this Owl's Rock, but I'm calling it
The Colossus of Memnon
. You heard it here first.

Next: Goosenecks of the San Juan


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