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Day FOUR – Blanding, Newspaper Rock, Monuments Valley
Another adventurous day! So many rock formations, cliffs, buttes, ranges, ravines and more!
We have traveled further south than I had ventured in my year of residency in Utah back in 1987. I know because as we leave Moab, we pass a large tourist sign for the “Hole in the Wall” stop, something I haven’t seen in more than 32 years.
Our first stop is the famed “Newspaper Rock”, a wall of petroglyphs that are protected behind a railing, but not immune from vandals. The Native American carvings in the layer of iron patina are in the shapes of horses, men, footprints, wagon wheels, snakes, and more. Someone may have deciphered some of these but the iconography is clear. We marvel at the pictorial record shown. (Some claim to see a WWW carved on the rock, but others see"WVU" or “Eears”…. It’s a Rorschach test.)
We resume our southward travel and come to Blanding where we stop at the Edge of the Cedars museum. We learn of pre-pueblo culture and see hundreds of artifacts recovered from the area. They range from pottery to headdresses, belts to tools, carved bones, wooden implements, and more. The museum, located adjacent to a modern subdivision, borders and protects three pueblo home ruins with underground kivas. One has been renovated and is accessible below ground via a bolted wooden ladder. The amount we don’t know about this culture strikes me.
We adjourn to the Homestead Steak House where we enjoy a light lunch under the glass terrace. Some have pulled pork sandwiches, or burgers and fries, or salad bar. The tables sport two types of ketchup… regular in a traditional bottle, and a SPICY version in the more modern squeeze bottle. Everyone takes notice! We enjoy a small bowl of ice cream topped with the restaurant’s own raspberry sauce (which in the evening is used to accent their steak dinners too!) Some pause to buy a bottle of locally produced salt, which some say is better, with more minerals than regular table salt!
We next stop at the Gooseneck State Park Overlook, and look down 200 feet at six miles of the San Juan River coiled back and forth in a canyon less than 2 miles long. It’s one of the best examples of an entrenched meandering riverbed in North America. The wind up the canyon walls is strong, and everyone holds our hats in place. Amazingly some foreign visitors sit upon the overlook's rock wall, or pose with toddlers for dramatic photos close to the edge. It makes us all nervous. Some of us snap pictures for them and urge them to come back to safety through pantomime.
Our final stop is in Monument Valley at the Navajo Nation’s visitor center and museum. We are now over the line into Arizona, but the Navajo do observe Daylight Savings Time, while the rest of the state does not. These are the buttes and mesas seen in so many John Wayne motion pictures. There is a display here of the contributions of the Navajo Wind Talkers, the 29 Navajo Code Talkers from WWII. Their contribution to saving American lives in WWI and WWII is well documented. We hope to be able to meet one of the last surviving Code Talkers tomorrow morning at our hotel breakfast before we leave, however we hear that yesterday, he canceled due to poor health. But we shall see.
Tomorrow, we journey to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. (But I must admit, the amount of barren rock and formations we have seen so far would be enough to satisfy me. We have seen SO much color, geography, geology and more, that it is difficult to absorb it all. That’s why so many are snapping digital pictures and buying souvenirs and books to bring home. Those living in the East just have no idea of the size of this desert southwest. It is stunning! And it’s already one of our best tours ever!)