Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Trek America Day 14 & 15: Betty & Rusty's Cowboy Camp and Monument Valley

The last two days have been an experience that's for sure.  It began, as all good days should do, with a stop at In and Out Burger for lunch.  I have heard a lot about this burger chain and it has a sort of cult status, much like Five Guys and Shake Shack, but as far as I'm aware there's no In and Out in the UK.  The menu is very simple, either a hamburger, cheese burger or double burger, plus fries and drink.  I ordered a cheeseburger "animal style" which comes with onions on top, with fries and an iced tea.  Note: iced tea doesn't come out of the machine iced, you have to add ice and lemon and sugar yourself otherwise you'll end up with a cup of luke warm tea like I did. Numpty.
The burger was very good, much jucier than McDonalds and more filling. I do prefer maccy d fries though. The burger was also much less plasticy than a maccy d.  Review over.
We arrived at Betty and Rusty's in the early afternoon.  It was very hot so we didn't bother putting up tents, we had a quick scoot round our new home (portaloo toilet, picnic benches and a ramshackle wooden hut for cover) then got ready for the horse trek.  I had to change horses because they couldn't find a saddle with stirrups that went short enough for me, but it worked in my favour as the horse I ended up on was gorgeous and very well behaved, unlike some of the others who kept stopping to eat every bush we rode past.  The stirrups were still a bit long still though and at the end of the ride I had very sore knees to accompany my sore arse.
The ride was beautiful, up through desert hills surrounded by Saguaro cacti, some of which were hundreds of years old and were heights of 15-20 metres.   It was very peaceful and relaxing and a really nice way to take in the surroundings. My only complaint was that we went at a very slow pace and it would have been nice to go a little bit faster for the people who'd ridden before.  One of the cowboys we were out with wasn't particularly sympathetic to the first time riders either which was a shame as it probably made their experience less fun.
The trek was around 2 hours and we returned hungry, hot and sweaty.  Betty had cooked up a huge feast of the massivest steak I'd seen in my life, with bread, salad, potato and salsa, and a ridiculously hot but tasty home made sauce.  We ate steak, drank beer, sang by the fire and fell asleep. We hadn't bothered putting up the tents as it was so hot. There was some debate as to where to lay our heads and some opted for outside but I'd seen frogs and ants as big as my little finger (maybe some exaggeration) so I decided to sleep in the wooden hut, others slept by the fire and some in an old wagon.  We fell asleep to the sounds of coyotes and horses.
In the morning I woke up to "shit, where's my shoe".  The dogs had stolen Sun and Simon's trainers and Sun had to wander about with odd shoes on looking for the lost trainers which was amusing.  He found them eventually, smelly with dog drool. 
Betty had made us a huge cowboy breakfast, scrambled eggs (I liked these ones!), potato hash, biscuits and gravy, and of course the home made spicy sauce to go with the eggs.  These biscuits were much less salty than the Cracker Barrel ones and I much preferred them.  The gravy was made of milk, flour and sausages and was delicious, perfect for the morning after a night of beer.  
The beauty of sleeping under the stars/in a shed means no packing down of tents so we were ready to leave nice and quickly ready for our drive to Monument Valley.
We left at 8ish and arrived at 4ish with a couple of rest stops in between. 
Monument Valley is a reservation owned by the Navajo tribe.  They have a fairly tumultuous history and due to past wars tjat I don't know enough about now own and govern the land that Monument Valley can be found in.
I used up all my GCSE English creative writing skills in the Big Bend post so I am at a loss as to how to describe Monument Valley. (You'd never have guessed I have a degree in English Language would you) Instead here are some words to describe it: breathtaking, surreal, orange, red, sandy, alien, a geologists dream. 
We were staying the night in the middle of the park, down dirt tracks so we couldn't take the trailer.  We packed an overnight bag and hopped into an open backed Jeep ready for our tour of the valley.
Our guide, Jasper, was brilliant. Witty and knowledgeable and a crazy driver, he pointed out all of the rocks (buttes) and the stories behind them.  Every now and then he'd floor the Jeep down hills and round bends making everyone whoop.  We stopped to play on rocks, race down sand dunes and observe ancient cave drawings. 
We clambered out the jeep at the Big Hogan, so called because it's a large cave with a hole in the top, resembling a hogan (a mud/wood igloo type hut where the Navajo would sleep).  The rock at the base was slanted so we lay on it, dug our feet in the sand and Jasper played his flute, which sounded beautiful as it echoed round the cave.  Trippy.  Another stop was at the ledge where John Wayne rode his horse.  There's a man with a horse there now and you can pay him 5 bucks to sit on the horse and have your photo taken.
The place is really magical and fascinating.  Millions of years ago it was all under water but the tectonic plates it lies on moved and clashed together, forcing one plate up and onto the other, so the area moved up above sea level.  Over hundreds of years the sandstone rock has been eroded by the wind and rain to create the shapes we see now.  My particular favourite was the one called the sleeping giant, it reminded me of my stepdad Tim!
The tour probably lasted around 3 hours then we headed back to camp for a hearty dinner of Navajo Tacos.  These are different to your usual taco and I think I prefer them.  The taco is a plate shaped piece of fried dough which is topped with chili, cheese and salad.  It was filling and delicious and even beat our resident vulture Jisu, who nearly always has seconds and sometimes thirds and will happily polish off everyone's leftovers.  He is also skinny!
Pudding was smores round the campfire.  I felt like I was in a Judy Bloom novel, it was great.  I kept setting fire to my marshmallows, oops. We chilled round the fire for a few hours before heading to bed, a sleepover in the hogan.  Probably the coolest place I've ever slept, a dome shaped wood structure covered in compacted red mud, with a stove in the middle and a sky light in the top.  We were warned of the skin walkers, an ancient Navajo belief that shape shifters will steal your soul and put it into an animal.  If this happens you only have 4 days to live.  This horror story combined with the large centpiede I saw in the hogan before bed meant I didn't get the greatest sleep, plus the stove kept the hogan VERY toasty and I was sweating buckets in my sleeping bag which was done up to the top to save me from skin walkers and centipedes.  Such a baby.  This was the first time in the trip we'd all slept in the same room and Sarah ended up sleeping outside, describing our combined noises as a "symphony of hippos".  This made me laugh and considering we hadn't showered in a few days we probably smelt like a bunch of hippos too!! I've been purposefully standing as close to the fire as possible to make myself smell of smoke.
Ben woke us up in the morning in time for the sunrise.  We've become accustomed to early starts and operate a slick camp pack up machine.  We ate a breakfast of cereal as we watched the sun make its slow ascent over the giant rocks.  It was stunning and the rocks glow a beautiful orange when the sun hits it.
We had one last crazy drive up to the visitor centre which definitely woke us up, before heading back on the road.
We made a quick pit stop at the point where Forrest Gump stops his running (I'm going to rewatch this when I get home. I haven't seen it in yonks) and now we're on our way to the Grand Canyon.  This has been on my bucket list for years so I am VERY excited to cross it off!


  1. Aw man! It looks like you're in an old Western! Very cool indeed. (Plus, I can see cactuses in one of your photos this time! Lol!) -x-

    1. Baha! they were MASSIVE!!! all the proper photos are on my camera so need to edit them and do a post with some of my favourites xxx

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