This weeks destination was Monument Valley in Utah, which many regard in native folklore as ancient sentinels that watch over and protect the land…

With Christmas over and the kids both leaving for their respective trips, Sam down to Florida to visit her mum and grandparents and Zach back to Montreal to spend New Years with his friends I was at loose ends.

I knew that I didn’t want to be at home given the wintery weather, so had booked a trip… . Yes, I know I just got back from a month away but what the hell.

I was hoping that Phoenix would provide a little respite from the chilly Canadian winter, which it did!

My plan was to rent a car, and as it so happened when I fronted the Avis desk the apologized and said the only car they had was a Jeep Wrangler.

Clearly a better choice given my intended itinerary than the mid sized car I had asked for, so I reluctantly agreed. 🙂

When I got to the Jeep it was brand spanking new, with only 3 miles on the clock. Don’t you just love the smell of a new car!

I had decided to stay a couple of nights in Scottsdale prior to setting off on my next big adventure.

I’d chosen the Mountain Shadows resort which lay in the shadow of Camelback Mountain, and one of my favourites to hike. The hotel itself is a bit of an icon given that it was originally built in 1961, and still retains many of the original design features although significantly upgraded to provide a true resort experience.

I would definitely recommend the hotel, lots of services and close to great hiking, shopping and dining.

My first morning I climbed Camelback via the Cholla trail, but it was the first time that I’d done it while raining. The mountain itself was shrouded in low cloud and at time the visibility was down to 10 metres or less, which, if you’ve climbed it know that in places it can be a little scary given that you have extreme drop offs either side.

The worst part was that my hiking boots aren’t great on slick and slippery surfaces, which the rocks on Camelback were. I had a few slips and slides on both my accent and decent but came through unscathed. 🙂

The next segment of my adventure was to drive to Monument Valley in Utah, but of course I had to stop by Sedona on my way cos’ its an iconic place to stop and explore. Check out the link above to get a sense of the sheer beauty of this cool little town.

One of my favourite places is to visit in Sedona is the Chapel of the Holy Cross that is built high up on a small plateau that overlooks the valley in which the town sits. A great vantage point but also a unique design to this little chapel.

However, not long after leaving Sedona the road began to rise steeply into the mountains, via winding switchbacks and ever increasing snow toward Flagstaff.

In fact, there was up to 20 – 30 centimeters (8 – 12 inches) on the ground, and depending on the wind was creating whiteouts along the road with blowing drifts of snow.

This was not what I had expected, especially since I’d left Phoenix earlier in the day in little more than a t-shirt and light jacket. Time for my winter jacket, which fortunately I’d packed! 🙂

After reaching the plateau north of Flagstaff the landscape changed again dramatically to broad open plains. Large boulder formations dotted the geography, some rising hundreds of meters above the surrounding country.

I was now in the Navajo Nation.

As I turned off Hwy 160 at Kayenta for the final 40 kilometre (25 mile) drive to Goulding, located just over the Arizona – Utah border, the sun was getting lower on the horizon and blindingly bright.

I must admit I do love those clear, crisp, blue sky days! But it wasn’t until late afternoon that I reached the National Park ranger station at Goulding.

Once inside, and away from the biting cold there was a hand written sign posted on the wall to say that the park was closed to all traffic…


Clearly, not what I had planned. That being said there were a few places that I could take advantage of for photographs without driving around these gorgeous rock formations.

One of these was at end of the road adjacent to the ranger station where there was a relatively modern (1970’s) hotel and carpark.

I took as many photos in the late afternoon light as I could stand, given the subzero temperatures and strong icy wind that was literally blowing me sideways while trying to shoot.

Back to the safety of the car I drove back toward the highway, crossing over for the short drive to the lodge that I had booked for the night.

Goulding Lodge was built in 1928 as a trading post, lasting through the Great Depression and made famous by John Ford (famous Hollywood director).

There have been more than a dozen movies shot in, and around Monument Valley, in the early days mostly westerns – the Searchers, Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine… More recently Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, National Lampoon’s vacation were also shot here to name but a few.

The sunset was spectacular, with deep blues and purples slowly darkening the sky to reveal a starlight extravaganza. I was blown away by its beauty!

Nothing could top that I thought to myself as I made my way back to my room from the restaurant.

Well, that was until sunrise the next morning. 🙂

Imagine waking to a brilliant contrast of colors and landscape, so unusual that you have to literally pinch yourself to grasp the magnitude and grandeur of where you are in the world at that very moment. Yep, that was me!

I distinctly remember the light slowly bringing everything into focus as pinpoints of light (car headlights) glided along in the distant desert landscape.

The sun peeking over the horizon in a blast of light so strong that it takes your breath away, and brings to life the fiery red rock formations all around you…

This is Monument Valley!

So much more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.

Until next week, as the adventure continues…


p.s. For other great travel locations don’t forget to check out my blog archive –