Virtually everyone on earth has at least heard of the Grand Canyon and it absolutely is spell binding. The Grand Canyon sincerely belongs on everyone’s bucket list but so does a much less known gem a mere 150 miles east of the Grand Canyon’s south rim. That place is in the Navajo Nation and is called Monument Valley. The undeniable beauty of Monument Valley is more than enough to get your full attention, but even more exciting is its relatively modern history.
Harry Goulding and his wife Leone more commonly known by her nickname Mike, moved to Monument Valley in the early 1920’s. They purchased a large plot of land and quickly set up a trading post. At first they worked and lived out of tents but eventually they were able to build a permanent structure which today houses the Goulding Trading Post Museum, yet another must see attraction. But then came the Great Depression which struck the Navajo even harder than most.
Desperate to find a solution to their financial crisis Harry and Mike Goulding gathered up their last $60.00 and headed off to Hollywood to sell film production companies on the idea of using Monument Valley as a location site for their western movies. It was an all in huge risk but it paid off grandly. Through a combination of perseverance and good luck they met the famous director of the day John Ford. When Ford saw the photos of Monument Valley provided him by the Goulding’s he agreed to film his next major film, “Stagecoach” in Monument Valley.
It was only a matter of days before the film crew and cast including super star John Wayne showed up in Monument Valley to begin shooting the movie. Recognizing the deeply distressed situation of the local Navajo, John Ford soon hired many of the local Navajo to play roles very easy for them to quickly master; that of American Indians. For their work they were paid union scale wages a deed which greatly enhanced the living conditions of the Navajo tribe in Monument Valley.
From that break out moment Monument Valley steadily grew both as a great location for dozens of films and as a compelling attraction for photographers, artists and tourists from around the world. The Goulding’s eventually built their beautiful lodge with a pleasant dining facility that serves a variety of foods including the spectacular Navajo Taco. Don’t ask, just get real real hungry and then try it.
Yes The Goulding Lodge is fantastic, the dining is grand the museum is fascinating but above it all it is the eye popping spectacular natural beauty of Monument Valley that will grab you and hold you like few other places on earth. I have included with this article a few photographs of just some of that abundant natural beauty in Monument Valley. There is much more and no photograph can adequately present the power of the images of Monument Valley seen through your own eyes.
Should you want to visit Monument Valley and perhaps spend a day or two at The Goulding Lodge you may do so by simply clicking here: GouldingsLodge Website. They offer both lodge and camp ground accommodations. But you may also consider another option just about 20 miles south in the Navajo town of Kayenta, Arizona, Navajo Nation. There are several hotel and restaurant options in Kayenta and there is also one other very unique and powerful attraction at the local Burger King and it isn’t the Whopper; It is the Navajo Code Talkers Display. Somewhat hidden within the restaurant is this powerful display that portrays the enormous value of the courageous Navajo men who helped America win the war in the Pacific. In just one famous battle, The Battle of Iwo Jima six Navajo code talkers worked around the clock sending and receiving over 800 messages. According to Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division: “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”
So you may spend only one day or even several days taking in some of the most majestic naturel beauty on earth and also learn about a group of American Indians from the Navajo tribe who made a huge and valiant contribution to America’s victory in the Pacific during World War Two. If you love to travel then this is one destination you will absolutely want to assign to your short list of future destinations.
Photos: Ron Irwin
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