Saturday, May 12, 2012

Valley of the Gods - an off-the-paved-road adventure

Roger here... So many things to see in and around Monument Valley.  We only had one more day.  What to do?  What to do?  

We wanted to do something unique that included the dogs.  The people in the site next to us recommended driving our car along a 17-mile gravel road in a Bureau of Land Management area.  Our little, very-low- clearance, Toyota Matrix on a hilly, twisty, gravel road?  Our neighbors said it would be fine.  (I am sure they had no trouble in their Hummer :-).  We decided that if the road was too challenging, we could always turn back.  So, off we went to The Valley of the Gods.  The opening photo looks like a group of "gods" overseeing their domain, don't ya think?

We drove 22 miles on paved roads to the small town of Mexican Hat on the San Juan River.  We then drove an additional ten miles to the gravel road.  We passed the Mexican Hat formation along the way.

After a moment of trepidation --- fording a stream within a hundred yards from the entrance --- I determined that driving on the road was actually fun, a new experience.  I just kept the manual transmission in second or third gear, and the Matrix performed well.  There were a lot of twists and turns.  Part of the fun was seeing the road ahead.

The scenery was wonderful --- similar in many ways to Monument Valley, but the thing that made this adventure special was the isolation.  We did see a few other cars on the road, but most of the time we were completely alone.  It was so QUIET.

There were places to pull off the road to take pictures, or just relax.  People are also allowed to camp there.  We stopped at several of these peaceful places.  We felt comfortable letting the dogs off-leash, something that does not happen often. 

It was fun to see them run and play.

Hey Bandido.... go get the tennis ball!

It has been a while since Bandido has been able to do his favorite job, retrieving tennis balls.  Good to see he has not lost his focus, even though this action shot is definitely out of focus.

At one of the stops we pulled out the lawn chairs and enjoyed a picnic lunch.

As we neared the exit, we traveled through mile after mile of intense wildflowers.  Every 500 feet, Dianne shouted, "Stop the car!"  I included one shot of the flowers.  Dianne added the slide show.
(It's only seven photos.  I was surprised to see all the flowers in bloom in the desert. -- D)

Our Toyota survived the adventure without damage --- just a little dirt.  Well, quite of bit of dirt.  Red dirt.
(Dianne again:  The red dirt is unavoidable; we kept rug runners all over the carpet in the motor home while we were there.)

The drive back to Monument Valley was uneventful except for the interesting "zig-zag" pattern that Dianne observed on one of the mountains, and the requisite free-range cattle grazing along the road.

We have two pet pictures of the day this time.  The first shows how tired the doggies were after their day of fun.

I hope that most of you see the humor in the second photo.  At our first stop, just after we let the dogs off-leash, Dianne decided to snap a picture of them running.  At the moment that she pushed the button, the pups assumed the position.  Dianne and I are still laughing about this unintended action shot.


Sue Malone said...

One of my favorite spots actually, a great boondocking site at the very back end. I camped there with a friend in a fifth wheel and we managed to get it back there safely. It was in late September and the treasured red dirt stayed on my pickup as long as I could manage it. I think some of it rolled out from under my truck during the winter snows. ah memories. thanks for bringing them back.

Nancy and Bill said...

Wow, great day and scenery!! The little car held her own:o))

Fun to do things a little differently!!

Anonymous said...

How can we find that same road? It looks like so much fun!

Travelwithwhippets said...

To anonymous.... We don't know how to contact you other than by responding to you question on our blog. The Valley of the Gods is located about 10 miles northeast of Mexican Hat, UT. We entered from US 163 and exited onto NM 261, then took 261 back to 163 to make a loop. The graded gravel road is 17 miles. Hope this helps.

Travelwithwhippets said...

To anonymous.... A small sign on 163 points to the road.