Monoliths and dramatic buttes begin long before we reach the park itself, huge hints of what is to come. I keep asking Lane if we are there yet and isn’t that rock formation in the distance one of the Mittens? (We are not and it is not.) As we drive, the sun drops lower and lower in the western sky.
But at last we arrive at the Monument Valley Tribal Park itself and the Mittens and all the other famous stone icons of the west are right there.
The detour to Antelope Canyon (and the need to wait to get on a tour) means sunset is already nearing when we pull into the park. We run into the inviting gift shop and museum for advice on how to best tour the area in the short time we have. Along the way we pass the inviting restaurant with its patio that overlooks the valley. This would be a great place to stop and enjoy the scenery and a meal. . . maybe tomorrow.
Inside we pass the gift shop. It is a huge open room filled with wooden cases stacked with amazing Indian jewelry. One case alone must hold over a hundred gorgeous inlaid bracelets. I stare greedily into the case. I could spend a week in here just looking at everything, but we have less than two hours before the sun sets. I can shop or I can go out and see the park.
We get some advice on traveling through the park and head out.
The road is a horrendous rutted sand track that bounces over the uneven terrain, but the scenery is amazing. The first sites we reach are the Mittens, with West Mitten in shadow and East Mitten bathed in the late sunlight.
I almost expect John Wayne to come riding toward us from behind one of the mesas.
About halfway through the 17 mile loop I suggest we find a scenic spot and await the sunset.
We consult our map and head to John Ford’s Point. The view is nice, but not what I want. Instead we drive a short way down a nearby dirt track with a turn-around at the end. Perfect. I set up the tripod, open a soda, and we watch the light change for the next hour until it is gone and the spectacular scenery is swallowed by darkness.