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Mystery Valley
Mystery Valley
Riding within the majestic monoliths was my dream for a long time and my wish included also a camp out in the amazing landscape of the Monument Valley.
So I searched the internet for websites and info, contacted by phone and email several tour operators. The result: many of the tour operators I contacted didn't provide guided tours on horses anymore (or did not respond at all) and it is not allowed anymore to stay overnight in the heart of Monument Valley. The Navajo Tribal Council had changed the rules and regulations.

Then I found the website of
Navajo Country Guided Trailrides which offers all kinds of trail rides incl. overnight camp outs in this area. So I called them and Evelyn (the owner) offered a trail ride with camp out into the Mystery Valley (a part of the wide Monument Valley). This guided ride would lead over mesas and wide open spaces, to beautiful petroglyph and pictograph places, ancient Anasazi ruins and stunning natural arches - and it would be overnight.

The only problem seemed to be the group size. This type if trips are usually done for groups of 6 or more. So I contacted a friend who loves the Navajo Country. No question, my friend wanted to do the ride too. Several more calls to other friends and horse lovers were not so successful. I saw the ride already 'disappearing' but called Evelyn again.
Friendly and helpful as in prior phone calls Evelyn meant that she might have to include some other interested horseback riders to this trip and we shouldn't worry. I didn't have a problem with that solution and was just happy!
She gave me some instructions where and when to meet and what we should bring, told me what she would/could provide if necessary.
It was a done deal! Two weeks later my dream would come true.

As we drove towards the Navajo Country dark clouds covered the sky. That was not a good sign. We could see the rain ahead and just as we came closer to Kayenta the rain started. Actually it was raining cats and dogs.
In Kayenta we stopped for a quick snack at the McDonalds which provides also an interesting display of Navajo Codetalker items and to our surprise the rain disappeared just as we finished our burgers. We started smiling again and headed for our last miles.
We arrived at the corral, the meeting and starting point for the ride, just behind the wellknown mountain El Capitano at about 3:30 pm - half an hour to early. Being in a good mood we sorted our equipment and were ready just as Evelyn and some helpers came in their trucks. They told us that nobody else would join this ride, so it was just us.
Horses were selected, the saddles put on and our 'stuff' for the night (tent, sleeping bags, extra cloths,...), hay for the horses and equipment for the camp out (food, drinks,...) was placed onto the bed of a truck.
Our friendly Navajo guide checked the saddles one more time and then it was time to mount the horses.

Mystery Valley on horseback
Mystery Valley on horseback

The ride. We followed our guide the small trail up the hill behind the corral on our horses. First the pace was very gentle and he told us about the Mystery Valley and the history about it.
Soon we past the remainings of an old hogan and we were told that an old Navajo woman had lived there till she died. Here from the top of the hill we had a first view over the amazing Mystery Valley.

The air was fresh and clean and the clouds were gone. Now the streets way behind us and the valley in front of us I got that special feeling. It is hard to describe. It's a little bit of dreams, remembering the old black-and-white movies with John Wayne where I saw this stunning landscape for the first time, now knowing the real history of the Navajos and their battles for their own land, enjoying horseback rides anyway and being lucky to do this trip.
I had been several times in the Monument Valley area before, f.e. exploring it by car on the loop of the Tribal Park and it was always special. But this time it was even a stronger feeling. It felt like being a part of it.

Ancient ruins in a cave
Ancient ruins in a cave

Coming down the hill we past a small waterfall which only appears during and right after a rain, then we saw some old ruins and petroglyphs. Another stop was at the Honeymoon Arch which spans like a magnificent doorway from one rock formation to another.

Honeymoon Arch
Honeymoon Arch

We rode along the steep walls of monoliths and crossed a shallow creek where we let the horses speed up. What a feeling!

The sun was already close to the horizon as we arrived at our camp-side. Soon the truck with all the equipment arrived and we set up the tent while dinner was prepared on the open campfire.
I took some minutes to climb up a rock to take a few pictures, enjoy the sunset and play a few tunes on my Native American flute before I went down again to join the dinner.

Glowing rocks at sunset
Glowing rocks at sunset
Looking down at our camp
Looking down at our camp

We had delicious steaks, potatoes, corn on the knob, salad, fresh made fry bread while the horses got their hay. The small campfire painted the rockwalls gentle with red light and soft shadows and the stars stood bright in the sky as the Navajos told us about their life.
Soon it was time to crawl into our sleeping bags.

As we woke up in the morning breakfast was already prepared. Another beautiful day and hot, strong coffee and fry bread with sugar were waiting for us. Half an hour later we were ready for the ride back.
Our guide showed us another route. This time through wide open land where we enjoyed the speed of our horses - galloping on sand for some time. Then we went up a hillside - a perfect spot for a look back over the valley. It was like leaving a now good friend and for a moment there was sadness...
Soon we saw El Capitano in the distance and we knew that our ride will come to an end soon.

Coming closer to El Capitano...
Coming closer to El Capitano...
...and back at the corral
...and back at the corral

At the corral it was time to say good-bye, thanking our guide and Evelyn for the good care they provided. A wonderful trip was over - a trip we will never forget, keeping the views in our mind and the feelings in our heart.

Info: as of 2003

Link (opens in a new window):
Navajo Country Guided Trailrides horseback tours in Monument Valley and Mystery Valley E

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