There were times on Thursday night when it looked like this was going to be a very short blog called something like A Weekend Stuck in a Snowstorm in Brian Head, Utah.
According to the weather forecasts on Thursday evening, the storm we’d seen building while hiking around the desert earlier that day wasn’t due to hit in force until late Friday afternoon. But as we lay in bed listening to the raging wind hurling snow at the windows, it was obvious that the storm had a timetable of its own.
The day before we’d had the dilemma of Zion vs. the slot canyons (see my last blog). Now we had a much more serious decision to make: try to get off the mountain before the storm really took hold or find a room in Brian Head to wait out the bad weather. We decided to attempt to reach lower elevations at first light. The conditions on the road were horrific, but by driving cautiously and slowly we made it down in one piece. Phew!
Snow became rain (in the desert!), became blowing dust. So by the time we reached the Navajo National Monument in Arizona, the visibility wasn’t much better than it had been back in Brian Head.
Even so, it was incredible looking down into the Tsegi Canyon at the Betatakin ruins, sheltered beneath a gigantic natural scoop in the rock. Although constructed over 750 years ago, in many ways the buildings looked as if they’d only recently been abandoned.
Our next port of call was a place Rich had wanted to visit since he saw his first John Wayne movie when he was a boy. The rest of us were pretty excited as well! Unfortunately, when we arrived in Monument Valley all we could see was an enormous dust cloud. Luckily we were staying overnight. Things are bound to be better in the morning, we thought. Then we saw the weather forecast – nothing but rain, and perhaps snow, for the rest of the weekend.
Thankfully the weather, once again, had its own ideas. On Saturday we woke before dawn to discover cold but clear skies. We wrapped up warm and headed outside to watch the sun rise over Monument Valley. Although we were all shivering (in fact, Sue was crying with the cold) it was a sight that none of us will forget in a hurry.
The better than expected weather also meant that the dirt road that winds its bumpy way between the buttes and mesas – the Monuments – was, to our delight, open (it becomes impassable when it’s wet). We spent a fantastic couple of hours driving between the stone giants, with Rich taking more photographs than you would think possible.
Many of the Monuments are named after things they’re supposed to resemble. We had loads of fun trying to spot the elephant in Elephant Butte, the camel in Camel Butte, the nun in the Three Sisters… My favourites were the Mittens, two of the most famous Monuments in the valley, even though I think they look more like teapots. For some reason Rich and Sue seemed particularly fond of Merrick Butte.
All too soon, we were on the road again. By the time we crossed into New Mexico, we were driving through another snowstorm.