I finally did it, I have begun my summer travels for 2015. I had been wanting to begin earlier but I was traveling with my good friend Steve and he ran into some health problems and needed me to stay and help him through them. Friends come before travel plans so I stayed and did what I could for him. Of course he was grateful and thanked me repeatedly but every time I just reminded him that I knew if the roles were reversed he would do the same for me. Having friendship like that are worth whatever cost that comes with them. Oddly, I never had any friendships like that before I became a nomad. Once I became a hermit I started to make deep friendships. I firmly believe the same can be true for you.
Once Steve’s problem got resolved, I was free to head out. My Summer Travel officially began on April 27th 2015.
All my travels are open to anyone who cares to join me, but only rarely do people take me up on the offer, and then for just a brief time. Of course my girl friend Judy would normally be traveling with me, but this summer she is back East getting ready to welcome a new grand-baby into the world. In just the same way that friends come before travel plans, so does family, so this summer she is back with them.
This year I’ve had the very good fortune of having a good friend of mine Suanne join me for a part of my trip. She is a part-time traveler and takes long trips in her Prius. I did a page about her on the website here: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/other-conversions/living-prius. Normally she takes long, multi-month trips and travels constantly, fulfilling her itchy feet, but this year she is doing something different, she is being a snowbird and staying longer periods of time in just a few places. She joined us in our Prescott camp and endured a very heavy dose of that nasty Testosterone when there were four men in camp and just her as the lone female influence. She has the patience of a saint to put up with that crew!
She is traveling with me through most of May when she has to get back “home”. To see her blog post about our stay in Monument Valley, go here: http://suanneonline.blogspot.com/2015/05/amazing-monument-valley.html
One of the things you have to give serious consideration to when you make your travel plans is the weather. Some of my destinations are too cold to visit in May and some are potentially too hot so you can’t just run around willy-nilly going anywhere you want, you have to make your best guess as to the weather and go where it’s mildest. The first stop on my itinerary was Monument Valley which is located right on the Utah-Arizona border and because it is high desert I was concerned it would get too hot while we were there. The weather held out for us and it was in the low 80s the whole time and very pleasant. My van and her Prius got a bit warm but nothing we couldn’t easily handle.
I am always amazed at how many people don’t know about Monument Valley. When discussing my travel plans, numerous people asked “What’s that?” when I said I was going there. My guess is that’s because it’s not a National Park; if it were, everybody would know about it and be lining up to get in, it’s that impressive! The only reason it isn’t a National Park is it is on Navajo Nation land. It’s so unique, it’s very hard to describe. Overly simplified its beautiful red rock country filled with these giant monolithic structures that are just amazing and the sand all around them is a beautiful pink/salmon color. But it’s much more than the sum of its parts. The sky is a deep blue and very often there are these pure white puffy clouds. In the spring the desert vegetation is all a beautiful green and the fantastic combination of the red, pinks, greens, blue and whites all around these monoliths is just stunning.
So many people just pull in, snap a picture and then drive away and I feel sorry for them. This is a place that can deeply affect your soul but very few people slow down enough to really see it. You need to spend at least a full day there watching the sun rise and set to see how the light inter-plays with all the colors to turn it into something magical. At no time in the day does it ever look the same. I had hoped to be there for a storm that passed through but we just missed it—sometimes the light during a storm can be magical in a place like Monument Valley.
Monument Valley is located in the Navajo Nations so they are in control of it; it isn’t owned or operated by the U.S. government in any way. When you enter it you pay an entrance fee to the Navajo Nation and need to obey their rules. The entrance fee is $20 per vehicle with up to four people in it and it’s good for 4 days. We wanted to spend at last one night there so we could photograph it but because it is all Navajo land there’s no free camping nearby, The nearest camping is up at Goosenecks State Park in Utah about 20 miles away and it is no longer free, it has a $10 a night fee to camp there now. Driving to and from the Valley every day would be both tedious and expensive so we decided to stay at a campground in the Monument.
We found out there were primitive tent sites available in a truly fantastic location right at the head of Monument Valley overlooking the most beautiful monuments (the Mittens) and it cost $20 a night. Fortunately, they agreed to only charge us for one site as a couple even though we had two cars so we split the cost and only paid $10 a night each That was cheap enough that we stayed two nights. The campground is very nice! It has a very clean and large bath house with showers. I By splitting the fee with Suanne, I only spent $10 a night and that’s what a shower would have cost me at a truck stop. I didn’t see hook-ups for the RVs but there were dumpsters and a spigot to get water.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much we both loved it! Every time you looked up here were these incredible giant red structures that were majestic beyond words. And the background of the blue skies, pink sand and puffy clouds were just knock-your-socks-off gorgeous! We commented many times to each other just how much we were enjoying being there and how it was some of the best money we had ever spent.
There is one road that goes back as a 20 mile loop deeper into the Valley and you can drive it in your own car. Some years the road is pretty rough but this year it had been graded and even Suanne’s Prius made it through without any problem. If her Prius can make it, any car can make it! The drive is included with the $20 entrance fee. However, you are not allowed to leave the road and some of the most beautiful parts of the Valley are off-limits to you. There are organized Navajo guided “Jeep” tours running through it constantly and they can take you to more popular places not on the main road. Most of them you sit on a special structure on the back of a truck that’s open for a great view but has a cloth roof so you are in the shade. You can also take horseback rides into the Valley or hire an individual Navajo guide in his 4×4 vehicle who can literally take you anywhere in the Park you want to go.
For all your summer travels I highly recommend an atlas for each state you will travel in. The two best are Delorme and Benchmark. I have one of each for states I spend a lot of time in, but if I can only have one, it would be the Benchmark. Get them from Amazon here, and I’ll make a little money and it won’t cost you anything (even if you don’t buy an Atlas, but you buy something else, I’ll still make a little money if you use this link:
Benchmark Utah Road & Recreation Atlas
Delorme Utah Atlas & Gazetteer
A book I own and highly recommend when exploring the entire Four Corners area of the Colorado Plateau is:
Color Country: Touring the Colorado Plateau
I could go on and on about how spectacular, stunning, magnificent and hypnotizing it is, but mere words simply can’t express it—they just aren’t adequate. Hopefully I’ve captured a tenth of it in these photos and you are inspired to make Monument Valley a destination of your own. You’ll be very glad you did!