After passing the eroded mesas of Monument Valley, highway US 163 crosses 20 miles of rather flat landscape past scattered Navajo houses to Mexican Hat, a small settlement named after a curious formation nearby consisting of a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base at the top of a small hill. The rock formation resembles an overturned sombrero.
You saw Santa and his Reindeer before Christmas, now here is the entire Newspaper Rock. There is no know methods of dating rock art. In interpreting the figures on the rock, scholars are undecided as to their meaning or have yet to decipher them. In Navajo, the rock is called "Tse 'Hane'" (rock that tells a story). Unfortunately, we do not know if the figures represent story telling, doodling, hunting magic, clan symbols, ancient graffiti or something else. Without a true understanding of the petroglyphs, much is left for individual admiration and interpretation.
Here is a small portion of Newspaper Rock which is a petroglyph panel etched in sandstone that records approximately 2000 years of early man's activities. Prehistoric peoples, probably from the Archaic, Basketmaker, Fremont and Pueblo cultures, etched on the rock from B.C. time to A.D. 1300. In historic times, Utah and Navajo tribesmen, as well as Anglos, left their contributions. This small portion reminded be of Santa Claus pulling his reindeer across the sky on his journey tonight. Merry Christmas Eve!
The Goosenecks truly are a wonder to behold. You can look into a 1,000-foot-deep chasm carved through the Pennsylvanian Hermosa Formation by the silt-laden San Juan River. The river meanders back and forth, flowing for more than five miles while progressing only one linear mile toward the Colorado River and Lake Powell. It looked like Ribbon Candy, only bigger.
Experience life on the edge! The spectacular view you see represents over 300 million years of geologic history. You are (pretend) standing on the edge of the Goosenecks of the San Juan, one of the most striking examples of an entrenched river meander in North America. Take a moment to experience the solitude, feel the vastness of open space, and enjoy the pristine beauty of this special place.
We stopped at the rustic and authentic San Juan Inn & Trading Post which dates to the oil boom days, and offers lodging, dining, and a bar and grill in the style of a southern Utah outpost. Here is their restaurant window.
Monument Valley is not a valley in the conventional sense, but rather a wide flat, sometimes desolate landscape, interrupted by the crumbling formations rising hundreds of feet into the air, the last remnants of the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region. Although the Navajo did not actually build totem poles, one the most famous features is the "Totem Pole", an oft-photographed spire of rock 450 feet high but only a few meters wide. Here is my image of it with the sand dune in the foreground.
Moccasin Arch is a large pothole natural arch eroded in DeChelly sandstone. It is one of several nice arches in Monument Valley. Here are some members of the group trying to stay out of the way (without success) of my ultra wide lens.
The next morning our group took a guided Navajo tour of Monument Valley. That meant getting up at Oh-Dark Hundred and bouncing along the dirt road into the vast hidden parts of the valley to get set up for a sunrise shot. No fake full moon added to my pictures. Good Morning Monument Valley!
Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast and iconic sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the southern border of Utah with northern Arizona, near the Four Corners area. The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation. The Navajo name for the valley is Tsé Bii' Ndzisgaii (Valley of the Rocks). The floor is largely Cutler Red siltstone or its sand deposited by the meandering rivers that carved the valley. The valley's vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, blue-gray rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide. The buttes are clearly stratified, with three principal layers. The lowest layer is Organ Rock shale, the middle de Chelly sandstone and the top layer is Moenkopi shale capped by Shinarump siltstone. The valley includes large stone structures including the famed Eye of the Sun. Monument Valley has been featured in many forms of media since the 1930s. Appearances include films, such as Westerns by director John Ford
It was late in the afternoon and the lighting was still flat and overcast but with a few color balance adjustments and filters I was able to take this Iconic shot of the Valley with Ansel Adam's Rocks in the foreground.
El Capitan, also known as Agathla Peak is a sheer volcanic pinnacle, 1,500 feet in height, and an elevation of 6,890 feet. El Capitan is a landmark commanding a view of the entire Kayenta - Monument Valley region. Agathla is derived from the Navajo Indian word 'ag ha la' meaning 'much wool', apparently for the fur of antelope and deer accumulating on the rock. It is considered sacred by the Navajo. El Capitan is an eroded volcanic plug consisting of volcanic breccia cut by dikes of an unusual igneous rock called minette. It is one of many such volcanic diatremes that are found in Navajo country of northeast Arizona and northwest New Mexico. El Capitan and Shiprock in New Mexico are the most prominent. These rocks are part of the Navajo Volcanic Field, in the southern Colorado Plateau. Ages of these minettes and associated more unusual igneous rocks cluster near 25 million years.
The light was flat and overcast So I shot this image with Dave showing what photographers do "to get the shot". Watch out for the barbed wire!
Look, Wupatki "Swiss cheese" rocks! The grains in this sandstone are cemented with calcite which dissolves with rain water. Weathering pits form, which collect more water, enlarging the pits. The dissolved calcite moves downward into any porous rock or soil. Concentration build, then moisture creates capillary action which draws the solution to the surface where it precipitates out, creating the white deposits on soil and rocks.
The eruption of nearby Sunset Crater volcano some time between 1040 and 1100 predated the founding of this pueblo. The settlement of Wupatki followed but it's uncertain if there was a direct cause and effect. People may have been drawn by the eruption and stayed. Or, perhaps those displaced by the eruption moved to this lower elevation. People gathered here during the 1100s, gradually building this 100-room pueblo with a community room and ballcourt. By 1182, perhaps 85 to 100 people lived at Wupatki Pueblo, the largest building for at least fifty miles. Within a day's walk, a population of several thousand surrounded Wupatki. Wupatki appears empty and abandoned. Though it is no longer physically occupied, Hopi believe the people who lived and died here remain as spiritual guardians. Stories of Wupatki are passed on among Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, and perhaps other tribes. Members of the Hopi Bear, Sand, Lizard, Rattlesnake, Water, Snow, and Katsina Clans return periodically to enrich their personal understanding of their clan history. Wupatki is remembered and cared for, not abandoned. Imagine these stories as you cast your eyes on this pueblo.
Once again I am back home from a wonderful trip through the Southwest. This time Northern Arizona and Southern Utah was my destination. May you enjoy these images as much as I enjoyed taking them. As I take you down this journey stay on the trail (sometimes), stay off the walls (mostly) and do not pick up pottery (never). You may (as always) download these images to use as a free screen saver -(Left click to view image full size, then right click to download).
Today’s image is the entrance to the Wupatki Pueblo.