The Navajo Nation has figured largely into our experience of New Mexico and southern Colorado, and despite the endless seas of brown dirt whipped into funnels of dust chasing us down the highway, this desert has hidden treasures.
“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.” -Antoine de St. Exupery
However, we were hard pressed to find the hidden beauty at the Four Corners Monument, being both a staging area for the selling of cheap tchotchkes and allegedly more than a mile off the actual intersection of the four states. (This fact is disputed by the National Park Service, but honestly, would it surprise you either way?) We spent the requisite few minutes waiting in line to have our pictures snapped standing astride the medallion and then hurried off towards Monument Valley.
Monument Valley made up for the Four Corners’ lack of historical interest and natural beauty, but just barely. I had always imagined the great stone monoliths rising from the desert around a narrow strip of highway, deserted and glowing red in the late afternoon sun. The reality is so very different from the imagination, and instead, we found ourselves looking down into the valley from the patio of a monstrous hotel, a snake of sedans winding along the dirt track thread between the towers of rock.
It was beautiful, especially as the sun dipped lower in the sky, but in a trend too often seen, the built up roads, hotels, concessionaires catering to the weekend tourist, the international vacationer, the spring breaker, the magic of the valley seemed diminished, on the verge of being lost. Lost in quiet thought, the sounds of motorcycles drowned behind us in the furious wind, we drove west into the valley of rock and sand beyond, wondering what had happened to the promise of the Navajo to be stewards of this land.