United States 3: Grand Canyon to Monument Valley

With the Grand Canyon challenges completed, the team set off on the next leg of the race.  Driving east along the Canyon Rim, they stopped in at the varying scenic turn offs along the way.  Then on the long descent from the Canyon Rim to the plains below, they received their first surprise detour.

A surprise detour is a challenge that is sprung on the team at any moment during the race, and usually will significantly alter travel plans.  In this instance, the surprise was to drive a couple of hundred miles further east to Monument Valley where they would receive their next clue.

For the Half Life fans out there

Driving east, they entered what could only be described as a moonscape, a vast barren land devoid of anything living, except Navajo settlements amongst the rock piles and sand aggregate hills.  Simon again wished for a rope as there were stretches of exceedingly straight and long roads through this area.

Until that is, they crested a hill and entered the Monument Valley region.  Their pace of travel slowed considerably as every opportunity was taken to stop and take photographs of the buttes.

The team entered the Navajo Tribal Park, and quickly decided to see if accommodation was available for the night at the Navajo Monument Valley View hotel.  There was one room left so they were in luck yet again.

The view from the team’s room
Valley Panarama

The team enjoyed the spectacular view whilst dining in the hotel restaurant.  They then joined the crowds watching sunset and 2wd car get rescued from the 4wd track before watching ‘Stage Coach’ (starring the Duke, John Wayne).  Their hosts, the Navajo who worked at the hotel seemed to all be young with great senses of humour.

Late afternoon Monuments Sunset Monuments
Monument and Moon

Again alarms were set early and Ang and Simon commenced the main task for this leg of the race.  They watched the sun rise, then headed off to walk the Wild Cat Trail, a 6.5km round circuit that passes up close to the buttes.

Sunrise Monumets by day

Despite some mild concern regarding rattlesnakes and actual wild cats, the team enjoyed the spectacular walk.   They covered the first section easily and were on the return journey when they lost sight of the stone cairns that marked the path.

Slanty Valley

Picking up an alternative path through the desert flood, the team walked along what seem to be a goat track (with a few human footprints thrown in for good measure).  It turned out that it was indeed a goat track as the team happened upon a herd of goats guarded by a lone dog and three to four Navajo on horseback, high up on a ridge.  The team knew they were being observed as they made their way back to the visitor area.  Simon said, “now I know what John Wayne must’ve felt like”.

Then it was north out of Monument valley, stopping only for brief moments to recreate pivotal moments from the Beatles and Forest Gump’s careers, and onwards to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Ang does this all the time Monument Valley Road
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