It is late May and it finally feels like summer in East Tennessee. The weather has been unseasonably cool and rainy, until just a few days ago, when – almost overnight – temperatures shot up into the mid-80’s. Now that’s more like it!
Out West, May is an ideal month for exploring the National Parks of Utah and Arizona. I took several road trips while residing in Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Lake Powell, and elsewhere. It was four years ago when my car seemingly drove itself during one of the hottest weeks of the year to one of the hottest places in the country: beautiful Monument Valley.
Sentinel Mesa, above, is a flat-topped sandstone butte and one of the dominant features of the landscape…
…and The Mittens, above, are just as famous. Forrest Gump ran past here, as did western movie stars on horseback in dozens, if not hundreds, of 20th-century screen westerns. The road crossing the middle of the frame is called the 17-Mile Drive, and it is a dusty, scenic touring route suitable for all but the smallest of cars.
My old car, parked somewhere along Mile 1 of the 17-Mile Drive. Perched atop the rocks is the stupendously ugly View Hotel, with rooms costing upwards of $300/night.
But oh, that view! You are seeing four separate panoramic shots from my hotel balcony, each shot stitched together into one.
The Three Sisters, on the right, mark the butte above as one of the more unique ones along the drive.
The Totem Pole. There was a scary moment when I pulled out of the turnout for the Totem Pole. My car’s tires spun hopelessly for several seconds before regaining traction. This was the farthest point of the 17-Mile Drive, and it would’ve made for a dangerously long, hot walk back to civilization.
A few hiking trails depart from the hotel grounds. The Mesa Rim Trail leads to a rock outcropping beneath Mitchell Mesa. Words cannot do this view justice. All I can possibly say is that I would love to return here when there is snow on the ground…which happens perhaps once a year.
This is a pepper plant, struggling to find water in the scorched earth along the Mesa Rim Trail.
The other “Mitten,” and the destination of my next hike!
Here I am on the Wildcat Trail, which circumnavigates both Mittens! The trail isn’t especially difficult, save for exposure to the elements – namely the blazing sun and the triple-digit temps. If I don’t appear to be drenched in sweat in this pic, it is simply because the dry heat sucked every drop of perspiration from my body.
Most of Monument Valley lies in Arizona, but my second night’s accommodation, Goulding’s Camp, was across the highway in Utah, and at one-tenth the price of the View Hotel’s air-conditioned rooms. To my surprise and delight, a short trail embarked from behind my tent and led to the hidden rock arch above.
Last light before bedtime.
I woke up before dawn the next morning, as I often do when camping, and drove towards The View Hotel for breakfast. But first: this stupendous sunrise.
I don’t believe in a higher power. But visiting places like The Grand Canyon, Taroko Gorge, the Swiss Alps, Yellowstone, and Monument Valley often has me questioning my beliefs. Whoever – whatever – created such stupefying natural wonders is truly a force to be reckoned with.
All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.