Started the day with a one mile hike to the Betatakin Ruins viewpoint in Navajo National Monument. I was the only one on the trail (daybreak) and enjoyed the company of various rodents and lizards plus verdant blooms in the desert.
The canyon surrounding the ruins is beautiful. The hike has a pretty decent incline with a few benches along the way and down at the end.
I headed into Monument Valley after mailing a postcard in Kayenta, AZ. I decided against the Navajo (Dine`) Nation Park (fee area not included in NPS Pass). Instead I drove 10 miles (each way) out to Olijato Trading Post only to find it closed. There was quite a bit of wildlife on that foray, but few humans.
The Goulding Trading Post was open and quite a bit of fun. The museum on site was an interesting collection of films shot in Monument Valley, with a focus on John Wayne. The Lodge/Motel rooms all have views of the valley. Grandma tells me that she and Grandpa stayed here years ago when this was first built and really enjoyed her stay.
My favorite views of the valley:
Mexican Hat, Utah was a cute town named after a balanced stone that looks like and upside down mexican hat. The "Navajo Blanket" rock formation to the east of the rock is absolutely inspiring. I have never seen anything like it.
North of Mexican Hat is a turn off (UT 261) that has NUMEROUS signs warning about a rough and winding, steep road. This was overkill for the typical, well maintained passenger vehicle.
Goose Necks State Park (3 miles off the main road) was interesting, but not a must do. A great view of Monument Valley can be had there. They had a dry camp area with pit toilets, but I was not ready to stop for the day.
While I considered the 17 mile dirt road to the Valley of the Gods, the impending rain helped me decide otherwise. So I started up this road that was oh so dangerous. Well...not really, but take it easy and pay attention to what you are doing and the temperature gauge (a/c off). The views were astounding!!! Including a great view of the road I decided to avoid.
The Kane Gulch Ranger Station (not visitor center) has pit toilets, overnight parking on asphalt (for a fee) and a 4 mile hike to ruins (another fee not included in my annual pass).
On to Natural Bridges National Monument, as the skies open up and the down pour begins (but totally misses the NM). Bridges has a nice visitor center with an interesting film. The campground had "sand boxes" (for lack of a better description) for tent sites ($10 per night). The loop was gorgeous. Take it slow and walk out to all of the overlooks-they are all worth the walk!
First bridge from two different view areas-front and back of the same bridge.
"Bridges" are formed when water carves out a shorter path resulting in a hole that becomes a bridge. These two bridges are also viewable from the loop with a short walk.
On my way into Blanding, Utah for a coke, I saw a sign for a $25 motel room at the Blanding Sunset Inn 88 W Center (435) 678-3323. All I could think of was a nice hot shower-ooooh sounds too good to resist. The little place was clean and comfortable.
By now you must be wondering, when if ever I am going to eat anything. Well, sometimes scenery wins out over food and that has been the case until now. I have not had much chance to indulge in the regional food specialties until now. I asked the motel attendant where she would go for dinner if she could go anywhere. She indicated the Old Tymer at 733 S Main. So off I went. I asked the waitress what most people ordered and what her favorite item was. She indicated a hamburger and her favorite was the "ribbon fries". Okay french fries rate as a Utah specialty?? The burger was a passable frozen patty. The ribbon fries were great! Cut on a spiral slicer the thickness of chips, they were soft with crunchy edges. OoH so good!
ROUTE: US 163 North>UT 261 North>UT 95 East>US 191 North
Lodging: Blanding Sunset Inn
Meals: Old Tymer at 733 S Main Blanding, UT (**** for the ribbon fries **overall)
Attraction: Betatakin Ruins viewpoint in Navajo NM, Monument Valley, Olijato Trading Post, Goulding Trading Post, Mexican Hat, Navajo Blanket, Goose Necks State Park, Valley of the Gods (next time), Kane Gulch Ranger Station, and Natural Bridges NM
$$$: Fuel $10 Food $8 Postage $3 Souvenirs $6 Motel $28 =$55