Fortunately yesterday’s brutal winds died down and the temperature rose a bit to make things much more comfortable. My plan after leaving Monument Valley was to visit Valley of the Gods about 30 miles to the northeast, which is supposedly a mini/compact version of the former. Unfortunately, as soon as I pulled into the packed-clay loop off the highway, I read a sign that said “Wet roads are impassable,” or something along those lines. Then I looked in front of me at the wash that was…wet. Honestly, it was only a couple of puddles, but I had no idea how deep they were. And I was in a rental sedan. Nonononononono.
So on I went towards Four Corners Monument. I had read in some online guide that the area surrounding the monument was isolated and bleak. It is definitely isolated, but I actually enjoyed the scenery; definitely a change from what I had been seeing the previous two days. Lots of rolling grassy hills, with scattered rock outcroppings and the snow-capped La Sal mountains in the distance to the north.
I knew the monument itself wasn’t going to be much to behold, but it was actually quite nice. It was a small concrete plaza with the metal circular marker in the center. There were about four rows of circular amphitheater-style seating, for what is anyone’s guess. This place is in the middle of nowhere and I can’t imagine what would draw so many people there that those benches would be filled. But, whatever. There were about a dozen or so people milling around, which is a dozen more people than I expected to be out here in November. This is NOT a destination attraction, lol…people come here like me because it’s sort of on the way to…somewhere else :). Anyway, I went to the marker and took the requisite photo of my feet in four states at once. I bought a little souvenir from one of the 40 or so vendor stalls that was actually occupied, and then I was on my way to Moab.
The roughly 2 ½ hour jaunt between Four Corners and Moab started out pretty blah. However, after an hour I was rewarded with one of those surprise-over-the-summit moments. One of the strangest juxtapositions I’ve ever seen was laid out before me–red rock canyons in the foreground, and huge snow-capped mountains with pine forest creeping up the sides in the background. I didn’t take this photo (once again, no safe place to stop for a photo, but it will give you an idea of my view for the next hour until I pulled into Moab. I was also able to pull over and take a picture of this gorgeous arch.
I’ll admit, I knew very little about Moab, Utah before arriving here today. I only knew it was located in the Utah canyonlands, was very scenic, and was a mecca for mountain bikers. Wanting to learn everything I could about each place I visited, I discovered that Moab was actually considered the “uranium capital of the world” in the 1950s after the mineral was discovered flourishing in mines here. Due to the “popularity” of nuclear weapons at the time and the Cold War, the town boomed and the population grew by 500 percent in a very short time. After the uranium mines closed in the 1980s, everyone left and much of the town shuttered up. Now it makes most of its money from tourism.