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Arizona Highways Magazine

Arizona Highways Magazine December 2017

For more than 90 years, Arizona Highways has delighted readers with award winning journalism and photography, reflecting Arizona’s stature as one of the top vacation destinations around the globe. Every issue showcases the most amazing photography and valuable information you need to enjoy the unique and diverse travel destinations in and around the state.

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2 min.
editor’s letter

“Eternity becomes a tangible substance in the hollow stillness of Monument Valley.” That was the caption for our cover photo in May 1978. I don’t know who wrote it — it might have been Tom Cooper or Wesley Holden or Gary Bennett — but the words are apt, timeless and beautiful. And so is the photograph, which features Yei Bichei and the Totem Pole framed by a scraggly Utah juniper. The image was made by Josef Muench, who was the first of our many photographers to point a lens at Monument Valley. Ansel Adams was an early arrival, too — his color photograph of the Mittens, which ran in our March 1946 issue, is one of the best we’ve ever published. Another pioneer was Barry Goldwater. Although he’s better known as…

9 min.
a different approach

A veil of rain fell across the desert, barely touching ground, leaving only a scatter of tiny craters in red sand. The term is “virga.” It means rain that hardly connects with the earth, a sweep of water through the sky, desert too dry to let much of anything land. The droplets return to vapor and back to cloud. From far away, it looks like a mile-wide waterfall that dissolves before meeting its destination, a bucket poured out of the sky, gunmetal-gray streaks almost to the earth. We knew it would be here, a green point on the map advancing in first light, best time to be flying. The pilot checked weather predawn, and rain over Monument Valley was 20 percent throughout the day, patchy with big open spaces between clouds.…

15 min.
valley of the monuments

IT WAS DAWN IN MONUMENT VALLEY. From out of utter darkness, as still as it was complete, was born a sight never to be erased from the colored slides that our memory holds sacred. As a pale light appeared, it etched in tender grays, a magic skyline of shapes. Then before the mind could fully grasp their nature, they darkened, until for a brief moment they were etched in black, jagged, irregular, varying monuments in stone. That was over before long and the sun, swinging into its full power, put to flight the pink of the clouds and the whole desert came ablaze. While the eager eye was chasing across the landscape from point to point with wonder, the scene dulled a little. The earth settled down, shrank into itself,…

4 min.
the big pictures: monument valley

“So this is where God put the West.” — JOHN WAYNE“There were no lies here. All fancies fled away. That’s what happened in all deserts. It was just you, and what you believed.” — TERRY PRATCHETT Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Created by the Navajo Nation in 1958, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park includes many of the valley’s world-famous formations, including the Mittens, the Totem Pole and Yei Bichei. The park’s entrance road is along U.S. Route 163 near the Arizona-Utah state line, and the entrance fee is $20 per vehicle, which covers up to four people. Once inside the park, you can explore Monument Valley’s formations via an unpaved, 11.6-mile loop drive that features several scenic overlooks, such as John Ford Point and North Window. In good weather, the drive is…

3 min.
the changeable earth

I was alone the first time I went to Monument Valley. Nearly two years ago. Late April. The day was warm, but the night cooled the way night does when the desert remembers winter. I’d been teaching at the high school in Tuba City, made the drive to the tribal park, spent the night, returned to Tuba City the next afternoon. After class, I went back to Phoenix. It was one of those hasty, ill-planned trips that make a person’s head hurt a little and a heart want to be wherever it isn’t. Still, when I set up my tent and watched the light wilt and die over the valley, behind those famous Mittens, I knew I was sitting in a postcard, in a photograph someone made a long time ago. I’VE SPOKEN…

6 min.
the sublime nature of monument valley

YOU KNOW MONUMENT VALLEY even if you’ve never seen it in the flesh: those silhouettes of rocky fists and fingers punching the sky, the hauntingly empty seas of rippled red sand, the otherworldly sunsets and storms gathering above. All this has been red meat for three or four generations of photographers and cinematographers, and thus has Monument Valley become a kind of Jungian archetype planted in our consciousness. Like the saguaro, it has come to mean The West, indelibly and maybe eternally. We would worry about it becoming a cliché, a cartoon icon like the curio-shop coyote, if it weren’t just so damn big and powerful. Geology naturally resists being trivialized, and its grand gestures on the Colorado Plateau, the canyons and mountains and sandstone monoliths of Arizona and Utah, are…