Canines in Kayenta, Arizona and the wonders of Monument ValleyJanuary 10, 2012 No Comments
There’s a Sonic Drive-In that we love in Kayenta, Arizona. It’s right across the road from the motel we stayed in, the clean, utilitarian Hampton Inn Kayenta. Why do we love the drive in? Well, besides the limeades and salt-free fries we’ve come to love, we rescued a dog there. But before I get to that story…
About Kayenta Arizona
Kayenta is a small Native American reservation town, mostly tourist motels and a Navajo community. It’s the place to stay to experience Monument Valley’s red rock monoliths, if you’re trying to keep costs fairly low. If money is no object, there’s the Navajo owned View Hotel Monument Valley, with a fantastic view of the monuments and prices that rival New York City, or the older but still pricey Gouldings. Don’t get me wrong, the View Hotel is a lovely, modern structure built to blend into the landscape, and Gouldings motel-like accommodations have great views themselves and are right there at the monuments for some excellent star gazing. But if you can do your monument viewing and manage the twenty minute drive into Kayenta, you’ll save funds. And possibly a canine or too.
Rescuing a Stray Dog
Kayenta is, apparently, the home of many friendly and hungry strays. We had several trail us around the motel parking lot, and in fact, helped a woman with a no kill animal shelter nearby lure one such pup into her shelter-vehicle with kibble, the next day. But that night, after a full day of driving and walking around the monuments, after a non-descript hotel dining room dinner, we headed for the Sonic. And while ordering from our car, with a bountiful full moon keeping us company, several hungry dogs gathered around. And I found our meatless-family ordering burgers without the buns to feed them, too. Eventually, the Sonic crew got the idea, and pitched in with left overs. That night at least, the dogs were well fed, and my kids and I felt as if we’d done a very good deed. When we helped the animal care worker the next day, we told her of this canine car hop crew, and she promised to return to help them.
Now of course, you’re probably not going to bring your family to this part of Arizona just for the drive-in and the potential dog rescue.
Monument Valley after all served as the background for many movie westerns over the years, from John Ford’s iconic classics to the gun toting Thelma and Louise. We drove into the area from Moab, Utah, and stopped for a tip of the hat, so to speak at the landmark Mexican Hat sombrero-like rock formation just outside of the small town of the same name. Then, with the sky scraper-tall red rocks of the valley itself looming, we made many more photo stops before paying fees to enter the Navajo Tribal property and road that takes you up close to the wonderful, awe inspiring formations.
You can take a tour through the rough dirt loop road, by jeep or in the back of a truck operated by Navajo guides. Or you can drive yourself. We thought we’d drive ourselves on the seventeen mile dirt trail, which is why we only got about half way around the loop, and I can’t say I recommend the adventure of backing out of a rut so deep I was afraid I’d leave half my Rav4 behind. The enormous red cliffs and steep gorges are so stunning that you’ll want to see the whole thing, so unless your vehicle is decidedly high clearance, take the tour.
While you can get a good distance view of the monuments straight off of the uncrowded Highway 163, you’ll want to see them close up, too. If a driving tour isn’t for you, there are also guided hikes into the monuments, and we saw many elementary age children and up children on these, as well as babes in arms/backpacks. Stick to the vehicular tours if you have toddlers, as the terrain is rocky, if not particulary challenging. Either way, spend at least half a day exploring the magnificent setting.
Whether your walk or drive, Monument Valley’s red and rust sandstone creations rise at up to a thousand feet into the sky, vast and beautifully overwhelming mesas, buttes, and boulders. Each of the monuments is named, and each has a great deal of spiritual significance to the Navajo. We saw the East and West Mitten Buttes, which do resemble gloved hands, and which we were told are viewed as symbols of spiritual presences watching over the land. We were also taken by Elephant Butte, which does, naturally, resemble a large elephant. While you’ll find plenty of tourists taking the drive, Monument Valley is not a crowded attraction, drawing less visitors in a week than the Grand Canyon does in a day. You’ll have plenty of space to look up at the red rock wonders.
You’ll also want to check out the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum, in nearby Tuba City, Arizona, whose media savvy exhibits offer a great introduction about Navajo both artifacts and tribal traditions. My children’s favorite was the ability to go inside a recreated Navajo log hogan, where an interesting weaving demonstration was taking place.
A longer drive from the monuments is the well known Four Corners Monument, which is more of a curiosity than a must-see attraction. It is however, a the only location in the United States with four states touching boundaries: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. We found the line of tourists waiting to take photographs in front of the monument a bit daunting, but nonetheless, we waited our turn to stand in four different states at the same time. The scenery around the area is not particularly astonishing, especially after spending at afternoon in the company of the awe inspiring red rocks of Monument Valley, but if your children are like mine, and they know they can do the state-split, you’ll be headed there.
Leaving the area, chances are even if you didn’t stay in town, you’ll swing through Kayenta. And if you do, make a stop at the Sonic, and donate a burger or too, if you see any hungry tail waggers hanging out at the drive in.