Thursday, 5/6/21: Valley of the Gods

As soon as we crossed the boarder into Utah on Highway 191, this scene greeted us.

Time to move on. Next stop, Utah. There is a BLM campground, Sand Island Campground, that is on the banks of the San Juan River, just outside of Bluff, Utah. For a BLM boondocking campground it is expensive at $15 a night ($7.50 with the Senior discount), but that is where we were headed.

As soon as we entered Utah, the mesas, buttes, and mountain sides changed from the beautiful, as we were used to, to the stunning. From the Davis Mountains in Texas, and throughout all of New Mexico, we have gotten hooked on the mountains as our constant and noble companion. But we were not prepared for Utah’s colors. The bright reds, maroons, oranges, and tans blazed like over-the-top Elvis velvet art.

For the first time, we got skunked. Even at 9:48 am, Sand Island’s 23 campsites are all occupied. One large 5th wheeler had just beaten us to the last open site by mere minutes.

It turns out that Sand Island, being full, did us a favor. My backup plan, finding a dispersed campsite along the Valley of the Gods Road worked out just fine. There are a zillion sites along the 17 mile gravel road, all with views too awesome to describe, all total boondocking, and all free. The road is in rough shape so I was delighted to find that the first group of sites, called Seven Sailors, was wide open.

A site is basically a large fairly flat gravel pad. Most of these pads are single sites scattered throughout the Valley of the Gods. At Seven Sailors, there are a handful, I counted four distinct pads with other spots that could be used in a pinch, grouped a bit closer together, about 150 feet apart.

There was a 5th wheeler set up on one pad about 300 feet away. We plopped down under a particularly stunning dark red butte on what we believed to be the best site. We even found a spot that was perfectly level.

I am assuming that this BLM site is called Seven Sailors due to the formations on top of this butte. I only see 6 actual sailors, but Wanda swears that a seventh one is hidden from this angle.

As soon as we were setup, we drove the 17-mile Valley of the Gods road. We couldn’t take our eyes off the surrounding spectacle. I was almost grateful that the road, being in such bad shape, forced us to drive so slow giving us the time to soak it all in. With the condition of the road and stopping every few feet for a another stunning photo op, it took a couple of hours to transverse the measly 17 miles.

The Navajo Nation controls Monument Valley. Sadly, with COVID, the Navajo has closed down all of the their tourist sites. We were able to get to a point in the highway where we could get a decent photo of the famous formation in the distance. It was along a stretch of Highway 163 where signs warned people not to stop. Of course, everyone did and the Navajo had tables of trinkets set up to sell to us gawkers. I think that this is the spot that the Forest Gump movie filmed the monument from.

Not the best photo of the iconic formations of Monument Valley. There are, of course, many more formations in the valley. This scene is the best known.

The little town of Mexican Hat was named after this formation just outside of town.

These are scenes from the Navajo Nation just outside of Mexican Hat. You can see from the last picture what inspires some of the Navajo designs.

We backtracked to the town of Bluff, just a mile or so from the Sand Island Campground. There wasn’t much in Bluff besides a gas station, two restaurants, and an outdoor Mormon Historical Museum. The museum was free and it was nicely laid out. It recreated Fort Bluff, a little Mormon community that struggled to blast a road through a rock cliff to ford the San Juan River. They had re-created log cabins filled with genuine furnishings from the time. There was an ingenious water wheel operating and lots of antique wagons in good shape strewn about. As I said, it was all nicely set up.

One of the two restaurants bragged about the best steaks in town. The other bragged about utilizing only locally grown and raised foods. We went with local. They had a wood fired pizza oven and we should have gone that route, but they literally wanted us to clear out our bank account for each 10” pizza. We split a delicious giant chicken sandwich and an order of tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole. That only took half of our bank account. But, if the chicken was locally raised, it was good.

The gas out west is interesting. At home, the lowest octane is 87. Out here it is 86 and even 85. I have no idea if that is good or bad, or if elevation has anything to do with it. Saturn runs fine with it so I am not overly concerned.

My other observation is the humidity, or lack thereof. Getting the idea from our camping buddies, Tom and Babs, we brought our AccuRite indoor/outdoor temperature/humidity display from home. When we were camping up at 8500 feet near Santa Fe, it was fun to note that while it was a comfortable sleeping temperature of 62º in V-Jer, it was 30º outside in the crisp morning.

But it is the humidity that is fun to watch. In New Mexico, it was usually around 20%. That is low and my toe and finger nails turned brittle. Here in Utah, the humidity is 1%. Now that is about as dry as one can get. That says a lot about taking tons of water along on hikes. I believe we transpire liquid through our skin like leaves on trees.

Glossary of terms used for newcomers: 1) V-Jer. The name of our camper. 2) Saturn. The name of our Van. 3) Duende. Our mischievous gremlin that breaks things. 4) Tata. The good gremlin that helps us fix Duende’s dirty work. 5) The Black Hole. This is what we call Walmart because every time we go in for just a couple of items, we come out spending way more than we figured. 6) QT. Quaint Town.

Dave and Wanda

Mask Up To Save Lives.

Virtual Business Card

North America . Europe . Mexico . Asia . Product Reviews . Books & Maps

Please send us your thoughts and any errors we may have missed. We're on the road and cellular service is intermittent in the remote areas. As soon as we get online, we are eager to read all of your messages.

Text: 715-252-6664 | 715-252-3326

Email: alloverthemaptravelventures@gmail.com

Visit our Website
Pinterest Share This Email