Monument Valley a.k.a. The View, The Lizard and The Smell

What a day for scenery this was.

I’ve never really been into John Wayne films, I’ve seen a few, not as many as I probably should have but being where they filmed them was pretty fantastic.

If you’ve seen a western, a John Ford western film or a John Wayne western, then you will have already seen a lot of Monument Valley.

However we still had a few hours on the coach before we would arrive, on the way we would see some sights too.

An Indian CasinoOur first stop was at the Twin Rocks Trading Post in Bluff.

The town of Bluff is quite small and is bordered by an Indian reservation. The Twin rocks are a natural formation that the Trading Post sits underneath.Me outside the Trading Post and under the Twin Rocks, I think I’m getting ready to perform my Tommy Cooper impression.Here I met an officer of the Law. I’m rubbish at remembering names so I can’t remember hers unfortunately. The woman was an officer in the Navajo Nation Police. She had been on an assignment in the area for a few months but had never been to Bluff. She was on her way home and stopped to see the Twin Rocks, and I took her picture in front of the Bluff Utah sign that I show above.

Souvenirs bought and photos taken, we were on the way to Gooseneck Canyon.

There are some lovely colours out there.

Gooseneck CanyonI got a bit fixated here. This is a wonderful thing to see and it just keeps on going down; once again the pictures really don’t do it justice. Getting fixated at this spot meant I actually missed quite a lot to my right.

Here’s a Youtube video showing what I missed.

Here’s another Youtube video showing the canyon in 1976

Some wildlife!The Lizard and The SmellThis is the toilet block at Gooseneck Canyon, which is the only permanent structure for miles around. In these parts it is called a ‘vault toilet’, you may know them as ‘long drops’ or ‘pit toilets’. If none of those words mean anything to you, let me elaborate. It’s a toilet basin over a hole that drops into a concrete box that fills up with whatever is put down there.

On this section of the trip I experienced these long drops a couple of times, this was by far the worst one. As time was called on our stop at the canyon, I thought it best to have a quick pee (which is all I’ve done in these buildings by the way!), as we still had some miles to cover before getting to Monument Valley.

As I set off, I had my camera around my neck and my sunglasses on my head. Our tour guide Roz offered to take my camera, so I handed it over. I made my way in, locked the door, opened the toilet lid and peered down; I’ve no idea why – just curious I guess. As I prepared to relieve myself, I spotted movement to my left. I’m afraid of spiders and knowing that Utah has some proper ‘ard spiders (funnel web, wolf, black widow, orb – you get the idea) I gingerly turned to see what it was.

Thankfully not a spider but a very green lizard, about 6-7 inches long and very agitated. I’m not sure who was more scared! It ran from wall to wall, then up the wall before finally escaping under the door. I composed myself and carried on with why I was in the toilet. As my stream of pee (sorry not sure how to explain this any other way) landed in what ever was down below, the most disgusting smell rose up and filled the room. I’ve not smelt anything like it before, I gagged, my sunglasses which were on the top of my head slipped forward and I had to just bat them away from the bowl, as I held my breath for as long as the process took.

Finished, I closed the lid, composed myself whilst trying not to breath too much of the stagnant air and made to leave the room…but the lock wouldn’t budge. PANIC! I slammed the lock as hard as I could and the door opened, I was free. As I left the toilet another of the group was going in, he was thoroughly briefed about the smell and the dodgy lock.

As I recounted my tale to my fellow passengers, we pushed onto Monument Valley.

Mexican Hat

Monument Valley in the distance

A few of us had been trying to get a picture of the straight roads, which isn’t the easiest task when you are photographing through a bus window while it’s moving. I manged somehow to snap this and it’s turned out to be my favourite photo of the whole trip.

We stopped at Goulding’s Lodge to see the view and to have lunch. For the second time I made the mistake of sitting and waiting for a meal that took a long time to arrive, leaving me with very little time to look around.

The scenery was breathtaking once again, just amazing to see it, having seen it on the TV screen many times. The buildings at Goulding’s Lodge were used by John Ford to fill in as the buildings in a fort for the film ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’. The fort itself was constructed a few miles away, clever use of camera angles did the rest.

As I had little time to explore I missed the opportunity to go and look at a small building that was used in the film. It was a potato shed at the time but was used as the exterior of John Wayne’s office; the interior scenes were filmed in Hollywood.

Me and The Duke


Our ultimate destination was Flagstaff and the Little America Hotel.