Located near the infamous Monument Valley is an enchanting place called Mystery Valley, complete with Anasazi ruins and natural arches. With names like Honeymoon, Spectacles, Full Moon, Four Level, Stout, Needle Eye, and Pine Tree, they are a sight to behold. But the only way you can get to see these wonders is with a local Navajo guide, which is a great way to visit these sites. Offroading or hiking alone is not allowed. Our guide Larry was a true gem, he told us not only the history about each arch, but if it had a deeper meaning or why it was used by his people. Often he would refer to the arch’s name in his native tongue, and be forewarned, Navajo is not an easy language, but then he would also let us know the English name. Although I did catch him chuckling a bit at my incredibly bad attempt at his language. I often thought that the Navajo names of the arches would have the same meaning in English, but most of the time they don’t at all.
Like Monument Valley, people actually live in this area, but there are very few, and if they do, it’s mostly ranching or farming much like Canyon de Chelly. However it was an awesome sight to see a small flock of sheep and goats meandering by. They were looking extremely heavy from all of the wool they carried, and one flock even had a dog herding the sheep, although there was no people around. Coming from Southern California with all its highways, people, buildings and noise. It was nice to see that the way of life here has not changed for centuries. But I still need my History Channel!
As our guide continues the tour through the valley, he tells us about how the Anasazi lived in this area for centuries before the Navajo. In fact, at many of the arches you can still see remnants of the adobe homes high and out of reach. Larry explained that to the Navajo, the Anasazi are referred to as the “First Peoples”, as if there was a sort of “kinship” between to the two nations, even though they were centuries apart in time. But later I found out that the name actually means “enemy ancestors” [anaasází (<anaa- “enemy”, sází “ancestor”).] It’s a bit puzzling, however as he goes through the tour I notice that he does make a point to show more of the family side of the Anasazi. Especially when it came to the meanings of the pictographs and petroglyphs. He also pointed out the chiseled out “footholds” that they used to get to their home, and stated that they had to be a strong people to survive in this area.
The geology of the area, to me, was also truly amazing! Most of it was formed by de Chelly Sandstone, which is kind of a twisty gnarled type of rock, instead of the flat horizontals or straight verticals that we are used to. But then I am always drawn to the weird and wonderful… At noon Larry decided it was time for a break and made the group some GREAT hamburgers. Let’s just say that the food was GREAT! To be able to sit back enjoy a meal and listen to some of Larry’s stories was a really something special. And btw, after the meal the double seated “throne” was an experience, so sayeth the ladies of the group. lol
All in all, I had a wonderful time in Mystery Valley and it is a great way to start your tour of the Monument Valley area. I would strongly advise an all day tour, meaning Mystery and Monument Valley’s, and yes it does cost more, but was absolutely worth the tour. If you are staying at Goulding when you go, you can book the tour directly from the check in desk or of course you can search the net before you go…