I awoke this morning just before sunrise, and was treated to a view of the desert floor beneath us being lit by the sun as it rose, hidden behind Merrick Butte. This lit the valley floor very selectively, and kept my images from being blown out by the full disc of the sun.
The View has a 17-mile driving trail — the Valley Loop — that can be taken without the aid of a Navajo guide, so Darla and I decided to take a spin through it. It was quite a drive, taking us a few hours to cover the unpaved, rough road. There are about a dozen marked stops along the way, and we took full advantage of them, taking the time to gaze at many of the buttes in the valley floor.
At one of the stops, we met Ron Atine, a Navajo nation member, selling jewelry. We got to talking, and learned that he led tours into the desert to Sand Spring, just across the gulch from where we met him. He told us that he had another couple going with him tonight into the desert, and wondered if we’d be interested. With her knee problems, Darla elected to pass, but I decided to take Ron up on the invitation.
After taking Darla back to the hotel, I drove back down into the valley, and met Ron, helping him breakdown his sales setup so we could get started. Another couple from Europe was there to go along. Ron zoomed down into “proceed only with a guide” roads down into the gulch, and I followed closely behind. The Europeans were having some trouble keeping up, despite them being in a Ford Escape with 4WD. They finally caught up, and we began our march across the sands in the desert.
The sandstorm had re-sculpted the dunes, making for the most pristine sands I’ve ever seen. It was simply gorgeous. We walked a ton — and hiking in the sinking sand was tough! — but saw so much beauty in the desert as the sun set. It’s a trip I would definitely do again!