Southwest – Day 17

Southwest USA Retirement Trip

September 2019

29 Days – 6,500 Miles – 19 States

7 National Parks – Several State Parks

6,000+ Photos

1 Trillion Insects Squished by Car Windshield

 From 108 Degrees to Snow

From 282 Feet Below Sea Level to 12,000+ Feet

Bison, Elk, Prairie Dogs, Lizards, Wild Horses

Elvis, Aliens, John Wayne Westerns

Walking In The Footsteps of Forrest Gump

And More! 

Kayenta, Arizona to Cortez, Colorado (Mesa Verde) through Monument Valley and Four-Corners.

After a great breakfast at Wetherill Inn, we were heading north to visit Monument Valley.

Heading north from Kayenta on Rt 163.   That dark area to the left is one of many large solar-panel electricity farms we saw in the SW.
The rock formations to the left and right ahead are featured in the next 2 photos.
Nearly full moon over one of the rock formations up on a cliff.
The houses halfway back give you an idea of how huge the rocks are!
Driving north from Kayenta, it started looking more and more like the pictures I had seen of Monument Valley.
Almost to Monument Valley.
Getting close to the Utah Border and the entrance to Monument Valley on the right.
Entering Utah for the third time this week.  Although Monument Valley is in Arizona, the entrance is just north of the border in Utah.
Many of the formations are visible from the highway, but it is well worth the $20 admission to drive up close.
This is the view of Monument Valley from the highway.

Monument Valley

Panorama from the Monument Valley Visitor Center.  Well worth the admission.
From Left to Right – Sentinel Mesa, West Mitten Butte, East Mitten Butte, Merrick Butte,
Elephant Butte (foreground), Spearhead Mesa (Background).
From Left to Right – West Mitten Butte, East Mitten Butte, Merrick Butte, Elephant Butte (foreground), Spearhead Mesa (Background).
You can see the park road that circles around the different formations. 
Since it is Native American land, you must hire a guide or pay for a 3-hour tour to see parts of the loop.
We saw plenty from the Visitor Center, thank you. 
See why they are called “The Mittens”?  
Sentinel Mesa to the north/east of the Visitor Center.  Vibrant colors!

Two signs up along the Visitor Center viewing platform.

Apparently, this was one of John Wayne’s favorite locations to film Western movies.

John Wayne by the Mittens.

John Wayne’s favorite place to view Monument Valley. 
John Wayne’s view from his favorite spot.
From Left to Right – Sentinel Mesa,  (unknown background), West Mitten Butte, East Mitten Butte, Merrick Butte.

After viewing the valley, we walked into the museum, where we found many interesting exhibits.

One of the exhibits that interested me was the Navajo Code Talkers in WWII.
At the outbreak of WWII, it was estimated only 30 non-Navajos could understand the language.
This Navajo code goes down in history as the only wartime code that was never broken by the enemy.
Navajo Code Talkers.
Examples of Navajo Codes. 
Learn more about the Navajo Code Talkers in WWII:  
Now it was time to leave and head east toward 4-Corners, the only spot in the USA where 4 states meet.
Arizona – Utah – New Mexico – Colorado

Heading northeast from Monument Valley.
Huge rock formations everywhere you look! 
As we put Monument Valley in the rearview mirror, we stopped for one last photo from the outside looking in.
Just around the next bend, this long straightaway appears to head off in the distance.
Why is this significant?  You will find out in a minute when we get to the far end and turn around to look back this way.
Looking back to where we took the previous photo.  Look familiar?
How about now?  This is called Forrest Gump Hill.  It’s where he stopped
and said he was tired of running and was going home.
Watch the video of this scene: 
Thumbs up – I’m ready for a cross-country run! 
That is, after I grow out my hair and beard a bit like Forrest. 
Nice view of Forrest Gump Hill without the crowds.
A few miles up the road, we came to the town of Mexican Hat. 
How do you suppose it got its name?
(See next photo)
Just on the edge of the town of Mexican Hat is this incredible balancing rock formation.
I guess it looked like a Mexican Hat to the early settlers. 
Wish I had time to hike up there! 
Heading east from Mexican Hat toward Four Corners.
Fascinating how the landscape seems to change every hour.  Getting closer to Four Corners.
Are we there yet? 
Almost!   Wait, what is that up ahead?
Time for a quick detour.


Bluff Fort was built in 1880 by a group of Mormon settlers.   Over 70 families (250 people) answered the call

to establish a mission in this area known to be a refuge for lawlessness.  They were to be a buffer

for the pioneers already settled here, as well as establishing law and order and

maintaining friendly relations with the Native Americans in the area. 

Read more about Bluff Fort:     and

The fort has been rebuilt to resemble the original settlement.
This map gives an overview.
Statue of Mormon pioneer children.
Bluff Fort Museum – 1880s SUV.   We packed lighter than this, but not by much.
Pretty nice pioneer workshop. 
Supplies for the road. 

Bell on the church building.  Another photo that I like better in Black and White. 

Church at Bluff Fort.  
Maybe I could have been the organist???  It’s a foot-pumper, so you get a workout while playing music.
One of the many gardens in the area.
There were somewhere between 40-60 cabins originally.  These are re-creations. 
Another example of what an original cabin was like.
I guess sod roofs were common.  It doesn’t sound like it was helpful during rain, though. 
View of the sod roof from inside the cabin.
Each cabin was furnished with old, antique furniture and daily essentials.
It’s a miracle this stuff doesn’t just “walk away”. 
Inside of another cabin.
The medicine cabinet.
Another cabin. 
And one more. 

Back on the road!

OK – we’re back on the road toward Four-Corners.  No more detours! 
This is just east of Bluff, Utah.
Almost there!   This is near Aneth, Utah, in the far southeast corner.
Only 15 miles to go!   Welcome to Colorado – the 13th state on our trip!
Turning around to say goodbye to Utah, but we’ll be seeing her again in just a couple of days. 
Our current elevation:  4,760 Feet.
Welcome to Four Corners monument.
Looks like this is as close to the four corners as you can drive. Just a 2- minute walk from here.

The Four-Corners Monument. 
At this point, I guess I’m standing in New Mexico.  Just to my left and across the gray line is Arizona.
Up ahead, past the center of the circle, Utah lies to the left of the line and Colorado to the right.
This plaque shows which state is where.
It also shows who surveyed the lines, which is talked about in more depth shortly.
Standing in the corner of Colorado next to the actual spot.  (Beth has a toe in New Mexico)

This 6-inch disk marks the exact spot in the middle of the circle where the 4 states meet.
Each state had a granite marker shown below.
Interesting stories about how the border lines were established (and re-established) and the conflicts that ensued,
including acts of Congress and Presidential vetoes.
The line separating the territories of New Mexico and Arizona was established as 32 degrees of longitude west of the Washington Meridian by Congressional Act February 24th, 1863, signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
The Washington Meridian bisected the Old Naval Observatory dome at a longitude of 77 degrees 03 minutes, and was the reference longitude for 11 western states until the Greenwich Meridian was adopted in 1912, conveniently designated as zero degrees longitude.
In 1875, US Surveyor Chandler Robbins triangulated from the known latitude and longitude of the Ship Rock, surveyed 11.6 miles west to the desired longitude of 109 degrees 03 minutes, then north to the east-west line previously established by Ehud N. Darling.  At that point of intersection, Chandler set a marked stone  monument.
Prior to surveyors setting the Four Corners Monument, this boundless land was inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloans, followed by the DinĂ©, Ute, and other indigenous people.  Over time, this land was claimed by Spain, taken in war by Mexico, ceded to the U.S. by treaty and organized into territories.
Mormon settlers declared the Provisional State of Deseret in 1849.  The Congressional Compromise of 1850 created the territories of Utah and New Mexico, separating the free North from the slave South along the 37th parallel of latitude.
U.S. Surveyor Howard B. Carpenter established the territorial line between Arizona and Utah in 1901, running from West to East, ending the survey at the Four Corners Monument.  Today, the Four Corners Monument marks the point where the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, and the States of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet in peace.
Colorado Territory was created in 1861 for its gold, silver and other mineral resources.  Its western boundary was designated as 32 degrees of longitude west of the Washington Meridian.
Colorado became a state in 1876. In 1878, U.S. Surveyor Rollin J. Reeves started from the Four Corners Monument and marked a line going north along the boundary of the State of Colorado and the Utah Territory, with a team of surveyors using a 66-foot-long chain and a transit/compass made of wood, glass and brass.  The original marked line has been upheld in legal challenges over a more technically precise location.
The Four Corners Monument, first set by Chandler Robbins in 1875, has been replaced and upgraded in 1899, 1931, 1962, 1992 and 2010.
In 1868, U.S. Surveyor Ehud N. Darling surveyed the 37th parallel of latitude to establish the territorial boundary of Colorado and New Mexico.  He placed specially marked stones at intervals along the surveyed line that started at the northeast corner of New Mexico and ended 8,192 feet west of what is now the Four Corners Monument.
In 1903, U.S. Surveyor Howard B. Carpenter resurveyed the 37th parallel along a technically more precise location, reporting that the new survey line was located significantly north of the line established by Ehud N. Darling in 1868.
Neither a joint resolution of Congress that was vetoed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, nor a lawsuit filed in 1919 succeeded in relocating the established state line as originally monumented by Darling, which had been accepted, recognized  and used by citizens and government as the official state line. 



(Don’t read the following if you are sentimental about this marker)

From the National Geodetic Survey Website

Nonetheless, there remains the question of how close the Four Corners monument is relative to its intended location. In fact, there is a discrepancy between the actual location, which we know to a high degree of accuracy, and our best knowledge of where it was intended to be located. But, instead of a 2.5-mile discrepancy, as reported in the initial news items, this offset is in fact only about 1800 feet, or less. Not only is the offset only about one-tenth of the alleged location error, it is in the opposite direction; the intended monument location is west of the actual monument. There is, however, uncertainty in precisely quantifying the relationship between the intended and actual monument locations due to changes, since 1875, in some technical details of the geodetic reference systems utilized. The actual offset might in fact be considerably less than our estimate.


From a Conde Nast Traveler article by Ken Jennings (of Jeopardy fame)

Unfortunately, 19-century surveying technology wasn’t precise enough to follow the meridians and parallels precisely. The Utah-Colorado state line, for example, wanders a mile and a half away from the legislated border at one point. The Supreme Court ruled in 1926 that the initial survey should remain the official border, even where it was screwed up, but the fact remains that Four Corners is not where Congress tried to put it in 1863. The real spot, we can now see with GPS, is 1,807 feet to the west.  But there aren’t any souvenir stands up there, if you’re trying to buy a blanket.


As we walked back out to the car, we thought momentarily about an early supper.
We wisely chose to wait an hour and had a great supper in Cortez.
Here’s a roadside scene straight out of an old western movie.  
Note the horses up on the bluff.

Only 20 miles to supper and the hotel!
Still lots of interesting scenery.  This is not how I pictured Colorado – I envisioned mountains and tall trees.
Almost to Cortez CO. 
Home for the next 2 nights.

Tomorrow, we will be driving 15 miles east to visit Mesa Verde National Park and see the cliffside dwellings, then returning back here.

Thanks for joining us for today’s adventure.  Hope to see you tomorrow.

Mileage Today:  167 Miles

Trip Total:   4,031 Miles