Monument Valley (Sept. 21, 2011)

Hi All,

After being chased into Mexican Hat by the bad weather on Saturday, it was nice to see a beautiful sunny day on Sunday, September 18th. There were four geologically interesting items on my to-do list in the area before heading to Four Corners and into Colorado: Mexican Hat Rock, Moki Dugway, Goosenecks State Park and Monument Valley.

Mexican Hat Rock was the first stop and is called that because it looks like a sombrero resting on a person’s head. Although there is a gravel road leading to viewing area behind the rock, I opted to take this photo from the paved highway.

Mexican Hat Rock

Moki Dugway is the name given to the top of a narrow, windy road, which is an unpaved portion of the paved highway designated Utah 261. The gravel section scales the face of a butte, several hundred feet high, just north of Mexican Hat. Fortunately the gravel segments are not difficult to negotiate and most of the hairpin turns are paved. Unlike when I arrived in the area the previous day, the road was dry and easily negotiated. In fact there was a group of bicyclists riding up the gravel road on their 10-speeds. At a viewpoint near the top I took a series of photos to make this panoramic photo showing the vista toward the southeast.

Moki Dugway

A friendly tourist from Denmark took this photo of me at this viewpoint.

At the Moki Dugway overlook

After returning safely to the valley, the next stop was the Goosenecks State Park. The remarkable feature of this area is how the San Juan River cut a twisted path through the valley. According to the information panel at the viewpoint, geologists consider the Great Goosenecks of the San Juan River to be one of the finest examples of “entrenched meanders” anywhere in the world. In this panoramic photo, the river is nearly 1,000 feet below the viewpoint where I stood.

Great Goosenecks of the San Juan River

The next area I visited was Monument Valley, well known through the numerous Westerns filmed in the area for TV many years ago. As I approached it, I stopped alongside the road to take several photos to make this panoramic photo. Although they don’t look that large, the buttes are huge and as I approached them, their size became much more apparent. I didn’t find any reason to take any extra time in this area and continued on to Four Corners.

Monument Valley

When I arrived at the Four Corners Monument, I was disappointed in how the area had been turned into a typical tourist trap with an admissions booth and vendor shops surrounding the monument. I decided that it wasn’t important enough for me to spend any time or money there and just continued toward Durango, Colorado.

When I reached Durango, I checked the weather northward along US-550, particularly between Silverton and Ouray, known as the Million Dollar Highway. Last year and on my previous visit to the area earlier in this journey, I had encountered heavy rain along this highway. Since then I have been planning to revisit the area on the return leg of my journey, if the weather was clear. Fortunately the weather gods smiled and granted me glorious sunny and dry weather. Now that fall had come to the area, the leaves on the Aspen trees in particular were turning color to light greens and bright yellows. I took this photo along the highway coming into Silverton.

Along US-550, the Million Dollar Highway

As it was nearly 5:30 when I arrived in Silverton, I decided to stay at the Prospector Motel once again, which thankfully had a vacancy. The weather was so beautiful that afternoon that I decided to ride across the Red Mountain Pass towards Ouray and return to Silverton so that I could take several photos despite the long afternoon shadows, just in case the next day’s weather wasn’t so nice.

That concludes the travelogue update for September 18th. On Monday I left Silverton and rode to Boulder via Aspen and Leadville. My next update will report on that trip.

Best regards from Boulder,

About Don

I'm a retired computer programmer who enjoys touring the country by motorcycle.
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