Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Monument Valley

West Mitten, East Mitten Merrick Butte
We finally got here after a few days travel and it was really worth it. This land is an ancient world filled with Native American Culture and dramatic geology.
Monument Valley (Navajo: Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning “valley of the rocks”) is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona-Utah state line, near the Four Corners area. 
As far as history is concerned, archaeological evidence indicates that the ancient Anasazi people inhabited the valley until around 1300 CE. Today over 100 sites and ruins have been found dating from these ancient people, including rock art. The Anasazi abandoned the area in the 1300's, leaving it empty of humans until the arrival of the Navajo not long afterward. 
The Yei Bi Chei and the Totem Pole
Monument Valley area has been featured in many forms of media since the 1930s. Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, "its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they think of the American West. 
Visitors may pay an access fee and drive through the park on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt road (a 2-3 hour trip). Parts of Monument Valley are accessible only by guided tour.
The Eagle Eye
We had a wonderful Navajo guide named Muzi Bent Arm who really gave us a wonderful private tour of Monument valley and took into areas with access restricted to Navajos and their guests. We were able to see the Totem Pole, the Yei Bi Chei Dancers emerging from their Hogan, the Eagles’s Eye, Ear of the Wind, all in the restricted area. Very Cool.
The Hub
Monument Valley is officially a large area that includes much of the area surrounding Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a Navajo Nation equivalent to a U.S. national park. Oljato, for example, is also within the area designated as Monument Valley.
Ear of the Wind
As a sign of the significance of this place, we met a lot of foreign tourists during our visit, who had no problem driving the hundreds of miles used to get to this very remote location. Monument Valley is very well worth the trek out here.
Highly recommended!
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Owl Canyon

Great Horned Owls
After the Antelope we stopped at Owl Canyon. Not quite as dramatic as Antelope but it is the residence of two majestic great horned owls. They’re not there often but lucky for us, they were home that day, dozing in one of the crevices, coming into the main canyon. Our guide, Raymond, said that the owls have lived in this canyon for as long as he could remember, always in a pair.

As we wandered deeper into the canyon, its smooth walls seemed to part before us. It was so quiet–the three of us were the only people there. All conversation was reduced to quiet whispers.
Gradually, the canyon enveloped us. Monochrome sandstone hid an explosion of colors that showed itself as we walked into the cave. All remnants of 250 million years of rainwater and sand erosion. Raymond told us that the floor height of the cave varied. He said that where we were standing, last year was 10 feet lower.
As we returned out of the canyon, the owls were still on their perch, sleepy but watchful.
The Owl Canyon is truly a unique and magnificent sight that  includes important wildlife that has lived there for generations. As with all slot canyons here one must have a guide to see this sacred Navajo Tribal Land.
 Highly recommended!
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Antelope Slot Canyon

Monument valley in the Cave

The Aman concierge got us a great Navajo guide named Raymond to take us on a tour of Antelope Canyon with minimal tourists. Antelope Canyon is a popular location for photographers and sightseers, and a source of tourism business for the Navajo Nation. It has been accessible by permit only since 1997, when the Navajo Tribe made it a part of the Navajo Tribal Park. 
Photography within the canyons is difficult due to the wide exposure range made by light reflecting off the canyon walls. Raymond was fantastic. He knew just what to do with the light. We went early and pretty much had the caves to ourselves. When we left there were 100’s of tourists just getting there.
Tami Holding Light in Her Hands
So what is a Slot Canyon? There are many slot canyons with Antelope being the most famous. Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone primarily due to flash flooding. Rainwater, especially during Monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways are eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic 'flowing' shapes in the rock.
Angel's Wings
Antelope Canyon is called Tsé bighánílíní, "the place where water runs through rocks" by the Navajo. It is the most frequently visited by tourists, due to two considerations. First, its entrance and entire length are at ground level, requiring no climbing. Second, beams (shafts of direct sunlight radiating down from openings in the top of the canyon) are much more common in Upper than in Lower. Beams occur most often in the summer months, as they require the sun to be high in the sky. Winter colors are a little more muted. Summer months provide two types of lighting. Light beams start to peek into the canyon March 15 and disappear October 7 each year.
Rubbing the Bear's Face
Check this place out! The Antelope Canyon is truly a unique and magnificent sight. It’s otherworldly.

Highly recommended!
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Amangiri Resort Entrance with Pool 
After a fairly easy 4 hour drive from Las Vegas we reached the Amangiri resort in Utah. It’s near lake Powell and the Arizona border. Made sure to have satellite radio in the rental car.
Had to keep a close eye on the road to see the small turn-off sign for the hotel but once we reached the small town of Canyon Point the sign was right there. Drove up a winding little road until we reached the gate which opened to another couple of miles to reach the seemingly isolated Resort.
Walking to Our Suite
The architecture blended into the desert and we were met at the stairs by a charming and kind concierge. We were incredibly impressed with the knowledge and friendliness of the staff and appreciated how they went above and beyond to make our stay special. 
Suite 35
It 's unique to have such a perfectly designed 5 star hotel adjacent to such a beautiful desert scene with great outdoor activities, Hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, boating, etc. There are unique details and view points everywhere throughout this hotel. Subtle fountains, natural rocks, framed views of the desert, all more incredible than the next. The hotel design and setting is simply stunning.
The suites themselves are fantastic. Large open rooms with privacy and panoramic views of the desert. Having the desert roll right up to your room is incredible. The peace and tranquility here is an experience difficult to equal anywhere else.
We stayed in Terrace Suite 35 with beautiful views. The room has a comfy bed and seating area in front of it. The bathroom was super nice with ample closet space, soaking tub and a separate toilet area. Our outside sitting area with a fireplace was a lovely place to relax - quiet and peaceful! 
Main Pool
The pool is unbelievable, built around a huge rock and has plenty of lounges and sun beds. The food was delicious. There are indoor and outdoor seating areas and we also enjoyed cocktails in the desert lounge one evening before dinner. What a great place to relax.
Champagne Before Dinner
We planned a few adventures in the coming days and were very happy to be at the Amangiri Resort. We shall return.
Highly recommended!
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Road to Monument Valley

Strip View of City Center from Room at The Mandarin

On the road to Utah we stayed at the Mandarin Oriental LV Hotel. It was such a nice a place to spend a couple of days before we picked up a rental car for the drive to Amangiri Resort in Canyon Point. The stay at the MO was a great start.
Virgin America First Class
Our trip to the fantastic Navajo Tribal Park in Utah began with a flight to Vegas via Virgin America Airlines. Appreciated being in First Class, comfort all the way.
At the MO we had a strip-view room on the 38th floor. Incredible view. Thoroughly impressed by the attention to detail in the room and the hotel as a whole. The automation in the room (temperature, lighting, sound, television, blinds, etc.) was great .
With not having a casino at the MO, they are able to place a great emphasis on room and service quality. The front reception was very attentive to any needs we had and was extremely helpful. Upon check-in, we visited the Pool Cafe and had some excellent drinks and light snacks before dinner at the MOzen Bistro. Had a nice evening.
All Food and Drink was Included with The Cabana
The next day we rented a Cabaña by the pool from 9am to 4:00 and we received great care and service. Fantastic place to relax.
Music at the Mandarin Bar
After a nice day at the pool, we headed to the famous Mandarin Bar on the 23rd floor. Considered #1 in Vegas for drinks and style. The drinks and view were great, but even better was seeing an old high school friend playing guitar in the house band. They played tight professional music and it was even the drummer’s birthday. Had a bit of time to reminisce about the old neighborhood with John and it was great seeing how happy he was playing music. They’re a must see and play Sundays 5- 8 in the evening. Can’t wait to get back.
View from the Bar
The next morning we had a delicious MO breakfast at MOzen, got the rental car and off we went to The Amangiri in Canyon Point, UT.
Mandarin Oriental LV is highly recommended!
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