I thought I was prepared for the view out the windshield as we got closer to Monument Valley, but I wasn't. Growing up in the 60's, our house always had the TV on, and if there was a John Wayne movie playing, guareenteed the channel was turned to it. My Dad could recite every bit of dialogue as we watched, and my Mom would keep us entertained with stories of the stars and what other movies they had been in. Back then you didn't get to just "pick" what you wanted to watch. You anxiously combed the TV Guide booklet that came in the mail each week in search of a favorite movie, and then you made your weekly plans around it.
Back to John Wayne. The campground we stayed in was the original Trading Post for The Goulding's, Harry and his wife Mike. The brick building is now a museum, with a memorial to them out front. They traded on the ground floor, and their apartment, with everything still on display, was on the second floor. The entire 2 miles all around is now filled with a Lodge, Restaurant, gas station, store, campground etc. It is a BIG production now. But back in the late 1920's there was nothing here in the way of trading. I sat and watched as "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" played on the screen inside the museum and I was transported back to those special nights as a child. Dad singing along and my Mom smiling. The history of the film side of Monument Valley evolved during the Depression Years. It was a very tough time apparently for the Navajos and the Gouldings. They got a friend to take photographs, (wish I had written the man's name down) and some are on display in the museum. He drove to Hollywood and showed them to movie director, John Ford, who fell in love with the area. Within a couple of WEEKS, they were there filming "Stagecoach". Starring a young John Wayne. Both John Ford and John Wayne returned again and again to this area for other films.
We did the 17 mile loop through the actual park that is owned and run by the Navajo Nation. It is so beautiful and the people we stopped and talked to along the way were filled with the spirit of the valley. We did a couple off the beaten path, but approved hikes, as permission must be granted by the Navajos to enter certain areas.
A trip to last in the memory bank for years and years to come.
Hints: Goulding's Campground/ Full hook-ups, spendy BUT worth it. We usually always try and boondock (dry camp) so was a little hard to pay - but with the trails right out of the campground and the view, it was well worth it.
Valley of the Gods / 40 miles north
Mexican Hat / small town 30 miles north
Monument Valley Park / Navajo Nation / 20.00 for 3 day pass
Take all your food/water/booze etc in with you to this area. The few stores there are high, understandable when you see how far things have to travel.