One of the toughest things to deal with on the trip is outdated information. We have this camping guidebook from 2007, and its prices are sometimes off by a factor of 3x (ahem, California), sometimes still spot-on. It’s still useful when we don’t have internet service or phone service. We’ve learned to live with prices changing. That’s fine, we understand that they go up. But if something is closed, and it’s not noted on any piece of tourist info we come across, we don’t usually think to still call ahead and confirm things. We just trust that the three or four or five sources that all say the same thing are more or less right … which is why we were looking forward to camping in Monument Valley. That and because the Monument Valley website still says you can camp there.
Unfortunately, the Monument Valley campground is closed. It says so right on the entrance gate — they’ve printed out three signs that say ‘no camping’ complete with a piece of campfire clipart. So all you have to do to get this information is drive out to Monument Valley. Easy. So much better than visiting a website.
Lisa, not thinking to get information from the wall next to the car, asked the attendant about the campground we’d seen written up … basically everywhere. He didn’t respond, he just pointed at the signs. Then he added, “The campground is closed.” Oh, of course!
Fine, we understand that places close. That’s fine. But update your website. Don’t leave a page online that lies to tourists interested in visiting your wonderful park. It’s annoying. It’s unprofessional. It’s kinda pathetic. And if the place is only open periodically, add a note to the page telling visitors to call and confirm. Come on!
Now for Lisa’s turn: I call this episode Monument Valley Fail. Monument Valley is a much-filmed place — if you’ve seen any number of movies or travel shows, you know exactly what to expect. I wanted more than just the traditional view. I wanted to sleep under the formations, to see them at sunset, to see them in moonlight, to peer at them from under my pillow at (or near) sunrise. I wanted to linger longer than fifteen minutes, to just look at the place for awhile, to watch the light move across the formations.
Monument Valley is part of the Navajo Nation, and as such, it’s the right of the Navajo to control access to the place. Place means everything. We would all accept and welcome the child of the person who previously owned our house inside. Maybe we’d chat over a cup of tea, but could we tolerate that person bringing in their entire circle of family and friends for a tour of our home? What if we later discovered that someone had scratched their name in our bathroom’s travertine tile? Where and how is the boundary drawn? And how many souvenir shops do you allow on your lawn? I was majorly conflicted and disappointed.
Luckily, there’s usually a good ending to our strike-outs. If we hadn’t lucked out at Monument Valley, we wouldn’t have found the awesome spot we ended up camping that night, perched on a cliff above the San Juan River and still in sight of Monument Valley’s formations. We wouldn’t have been able to listen to the wind whistle through the ventilation holes in the pit toilet like a demented elementary school kid learning to play the flute. We were still under the same star-filled sky, two people in a minivan in the middle of the desert. Isn’t it funny that the realization that we are just tiny specs in a gigantic universe is always such a revelation? Nothing could be more natural.
Update: One more thing! How about adding some official scenic turn-offs so that people don’t just stop in the middle of the 65 MPH highway to snap a pic? A couple “scenic vista, 500 feet” signs would be wonderful. Especially for the motorcycles trying to get off the road without crashing into the dirt.