36 Hours in Monument Valley
- powered by Tim Dahle Nissan
For this 36 Hours trip, we decided to try something different and borrow a Nissan Titan XD truck from Tim Dahle of Murray and boy howdy! were we glad we did! The long almost-6 hour drive was seriously a breeze! The interior of the cab is roomier and more comfortable than our minivan, so the hours didn't seem nearly as long! YAY! However, as we pulled into Monument Valley, we quickly realized that our intent to utilize the 4-wheel drive feature on dirt roads was not going to be happening as a Navajo guide needs to be with anyone as they travel on dirt roads (except for the 17-mile loop in Monument Valley National Monument). But really, there is no complaint because regardless of where we were...THAT view!!!
We arrived Monday evening and didn't really get to appreciate the expanse of the valley the first evening as it was getting quite dark, but I think that was the best way to be introduced to Monument Valley...because it was a spectacular surprise in the morning!
We stayed at Goulding's Lodge which is incredible on its own, but once you hear the history of how this place came to be, it makes it that more special. The operating manager, Scott Laws (if you want to see some amazing pictures, check out his Instagram page @scott_laws_photography) shared the history with me (I LOVE stories to give schema to areas that I visit and this is no exception). So here it is:
"Here is the story about how Harry got John Ford to come to Monument Valley:
Harry & Mike (Leona's nick name, A story in it's self) Went to Hollywood in person and meet with John Ford - The story has been told to me second hand.
Mike told the Lafont's (current owners of Goulding's) her version of how they meet with John F.
During the great depression, while in Flagstaff Harry had been told of a Movie scout group, That had come from Hollywood in search of a new location to shoot western films. So Harry returned home to Monument Valley to pick up his wife, bed roll, several cans of beans, and some black and white photos he had of Monument Valley. They then headed off to Hollywood. It was a 3 day 2 night trip. They camped along side the road at night and Mike prepared the beans for their meals. When they reached Hollywood Mike had a cousin in California they stayed with. The next morning Harry went to find John Ford. Mike stayed in their old model T Ford and knitted while she waited for Harry.
Harry walked into John Ford's receptionist office and asked if he could see John ford. The receptionist asked if he had an appointment? Harry replied "no" The receptionist stated that no one saw John Ford with out an appointment. Harry explained that he had traveled a long way to see John F and that he would only take a few minutes of his time. The receptionist explained that John F was very busy and his next available appointment was a few weeks out.
So Harry left John F office and walked out to his vehicle and with out saying anything to Mike he grabbed his bed roll out of the back of the Model T, and reentered John F office. He begun to unroll his bed roll on the floor of the receptionist office. The receptionist asked what he was doing, he reexplained that he had traveled a long distance to see John F and if he wasn't available then he would wait until he was. The receptionist picked up her phone and called for security to come and remove Harry from the office. So Harry in a last chance effort began to place his black and white photographs he had of Monument Valley on the backs of the chairs, in an upright position. When the individual came to throw Harry out, saw the photographs, he asked Harry where they were from. Harry explained the location of Monument Valley. With in a few minutes John F was called to come to the receptionist office. Harry then meet with John F and explained where Monument Valley was and how to get there.
Harry and John F made some agreements and then Harry left his office. Harry explained to Mike on the trip back how the meeting went, but then the fear set in as to how they were going to take care of such a large crew. By the time the Goulding's reached Flagstaff several large trucks with food and equipment were waiting for them in town to follow them to Monument Valley. Hollywood had already made the arrangement in which they were worried as to how they were going to accommodate them.
2 weeks after the original meeting (year 1938) the filming began for Stagecoach Staring John Wayne and was released in 1939 Harry Goulding and his wife Leone, whose nickname was “Mike”, came to Monument Valley in the early 1920’s. Harry was a sheep trader looking for a new business opportunity and a place to call home. Monument Valley had once been part of the Paiute Indian Reservation. When the reservation relocated, areas of land opened up for sale. The Goulding’s were able to purchase a substantial plot of land in Monument Valley and quickly set up a Trading Post.
The Goulding’s conducted business with the local Navajo people, who traded hand-crafted items like rugs and jewelry in exchange for food and other goods. After living and working in tents for several years. Harry and Mike constructed a permanent building, which currently houses the Goulding’s Trading Post Museum.
When the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s, the Navajo Reservation suffered immensely. Harry heard of a movie production company scouting for locations to film in the Southwest. He believed that bringing a movie production to Monument Valley would help the local Navajos with much needed income.
Harry and Mike set out on a journey to Hollywood, California with their last $60. By luck and perseverance, Harry met the famous director John Ford. When Ford saw Harry’s photos of Monument Valley, he knew it was the perfect location for his next movie. The Goulding’s received an advanced payment, and in a few days John Ford and his crew began filming “Stagecoach”, starring John Wayne.
Over the years, the Goulding’s continued to host movie crews, photographers, artists, and tourists. They built lodge rooms and a dining facility to accommodate their guests. Since then, Goulding’s Lodge has expanded to host thousands of visitors from all over the world who come to see Monument Valley.
Harry and Mike Goulding retired after Knox College of Illinois took over the Trading Post and Lodge in 1962. The Goulding’s moved to Arizona, where Harry fell into poor health. In 1981, the LaFont family bought the property, the same year that Harry passed away. Mike later returned to her home in Monument Valley where she spent her final days, passing away in 1992.
Thanks to Harry and Mike’s pioneering spirit, Monument Valley has become an icon of the American West and people from all over the world can appreciate its amazing beauty."
Anyway, THIS is the hillside family suite we stayed in. So close to the mountains and the view from the porch is expansive - the ENTIRE valley with the Mittens!
And this is the cool truck that took us on our full day-8 hour tour. Gouldings has lots of different tour options but we decided to spring for the full day and we were so glad we did. There is a ton to see and do in Monument Valley but very little of it is accessible without a Navajo guide so you really just have to swallow the cost and go for it on this one.
We stopped often on this tour to explore and learn about this beautiful area.
These little kids had the best time running up and down the sandstone. But the best part was often at the top, there was some sort of native ruin still standing!
It is hard to tell in this picture, but it was quite a steep climb.
Initially, we had another tour with us, but they were all adults and our angel tour guide recognized that they would have a better time away from the craziness of us! So, off they headed ahead of us!
What's so fun about it is you get to sit in the truck with the windows up and see these views fly by and then we'd stop and get to climb and explore.
Now eight hours on a tour with 10 little kids could have been a disaster but thanks to our amazing guide, Laverne, it was peaceful and beautiful and one of the most memorable experiences we've ever had. We parked below this hill and walked to the top as LaVerne explained how there are still 11 families that still live in Monument Valley and the sacred trust they have to keep the area pristine.
At times, we felt we were in Arches National Park as there were so very arches everywhere!
This shot is when the kids "raced" the jeep to the next stop. I mean, seriously, how fun is that?!
Laverne, our Navajo guide, took the time to learn each of the kids names and teach them these sacred stories of her heritage. taught them what makes the juniper trees so special and how they cooked their food and what they wore. As parents it was amazing to see our kids really connect with another culture.
This is about as up close and personal as we have ever been to ancient ruins and there were also pottery shards on the ground that Laverne pointed out to us and let the children touch.
Another beautiful arch that we were able to climb.
Part of the full day tour includes lunch which was pretty cool. We had these box lunches filled with chips and cookies, and drinks while the dads and guides cooked up burgers.
Such delicious and huge burgers for our hungry tummies!
After lunch we headed to the famous Valley.
Laverne was so considerate to pull over and let us take pictures of the Mittens. This is the left Mitten.
And the right Mitten.
Along the 17-mile loop that is accessible to everyone, you can see the Three Sisters.
We ended the day at a traditional Navajo Hogan where we learned about the different building shapes and what they mean.
Then the real highlight of the day happened inside this perfect hogan:
Each of the girls got Navajo Buns. They absolutely loved it!
Honestly, Monument Valley is a very spiritual, sacred place. I'm afraid we would have missed the entire magic of it had we just tried to explore it on our own. Gouldings Lodge and our friend Laverne created memories for us that will last a lifetime.
We are so grateful that this adventure was powered by Tim Dahle Nissan of Murray and can't wait for the next adventure!