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The Rudine Team

MONUMENT VALLEY

by Ken Rudine
Monument Valley - Mittens
Monument Valley Mittens view from Visitors Center
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
The movie producer John Ford made Monument Valley a destination for photographers while making movies using actors like John Wayne, Henry Fonda and the Lone Ranger. If you donít have these images burned into your past memory, this is probably a place you can skip. But if you can appreciate monolithic rocks separated by measurements in miles, then you must see this valley. It is because of these rocks; here in their solitude yet gathered as a group, that compels your contemplation.
Wigwam Motel Route 66 Holbrook, AZ
Wigwam Motel Route 66 Holbrook, AZ
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Sleeping a night next to the Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in Holbrook, AZ we left about 9:15 for Kayenta, AZ 241 miles away. I-40W was bright and clear for the first forty miles, and then we felt a strong southwest wind buffeting our vehicle. Now the wind began to pick up desert dust.
Navajo foot bridge and highway bridge over The Little Colorado River at Cameron Trading Post Hwy 89
Navajo foot bridge and highway bridge over The Little Colorado River at Cameron Trading Post Hwy 89. Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
On this divided highway occasional bursts of heavy dust laden wind could obscure the road for seconds without causing panic. As we passed Walnut Canyon it was raining. This went on until we neared Flagstaff where a rain shower mixed with the dusty wind. Taking on fuel there, I had one hand on the pump and the other on the luggage rack for support against wind gusts of perhaps 50mph. The temperature was 64F but the chill factor made it feel much lower.
Dust on Highway 89 north before turn off to Hwy 160
Dust on highway 89 north before turn off to Hwy 160
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
On Hwy 160 to Tuba City this American Express jewelry
On Hwy 160 to Tuba City this American Express jewelry closed due to dust
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
We headed north on Hwy 89 toward Page away from the dust and the rain climbing to 7,251 feet where it was 56F and then about 40 miles later we were at about 4,600 feet and 74F. Before we turned on Hwy 160 the dust storm had completely surrounded us once again. The other side of Tuba City we decided to stop along the highway and eat our lunch in the car, a previously prepared sandwich. Along this strip of highway we saw a sign WILD HORSES NEXT 15 MILES. Our GPS told us Kayenta was one hour away.
Navajo Code Talkers, heros in WWII, Japanese not familiar with Navajo language
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Wild horses grazing
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
A coyote runs away after crossing the highway a few miles before the Monument Valley entrance road.
A coyote runs away after crossing the highway a few miles before the Monument Valley entrance road.
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Monument Valley Mittens view from Visitors Center
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
We had photographed Monument Valley in 2004, but those photos were not very good and ever since I had wanted to do better in every way. But as Mother Nature raged away before our very eyes, I knew there would be no clear photos made this day. So in this first week of October, a time particularly chosen for favorable temperatures, we discovered paying attention to a time of calm winds would be far more conducive to clear air photos.

We checked into a motel in Kayenta at 3pm. My wife the driver got a short nap while I unpacked and replenished our ice. Finally settled into our room the next thing to be decided was whatís for supper? This is a very small town and according to the motel information booklet the one restaurant, a pizza place is closed Sunday aka today. So about 6pm we get into our car to see what is available. To our surprise, we found another pizza place, which is open.

The wait for our pizza was nearly an hour and during that time I spoke to the waitress about the time. She said they practiced daylight saving time on the reservation. I said in other words it is now 7:30pm Navajo Daylight Time (NDT). She laughed and said that is what WE call it. That means we arrived at 4pm not 3 as previously stated. Then I asked about the dust storm and she said this is "normal". The K-TOWN pizza was tasty.
Wild horses grazing on the highway to Utah
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Wild horses grazing before reaching Kayenta
Wild horses grazing before reaching Kayenta
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Monument Valley is a half hour drive from Kayenta. We arrived about 9:45NDT, paid the $5 each admission charge and parked. The air was clearer than we had expected, but not what I had hoped for. At an art show I asked a photographer how he made such clear photos at Monument Valley and he said he had been there 36 times. Several Navajoís approached us regarding touring the roads around the Monuments. We decided to just go to the Visitors Center and make our photographs from there. After a couple of hours doing that and looking over the gift shop we decided to move on. We knew we had a long day ahead of us and only half a day to do it. Mexican Hat beckons.
Utah - Mexican Hat rock viewed from Hwy 163
Mexican Hat - Valley of the Gods
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Copyright Ken Rudine
December 1, 2009

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