© 2012; 2011 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Nicolas Laios. Information.
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.

Around the Four Corners – A Solo Travel Report

Text & Photos By Nicolas Laios

I was in Las Vegas attending a conference for the fourth year in a row, and I found myself with time to explore. The standard escape to the Grand Canyon seemed mundane. Six hours on a tour bus, take a few pictures, then cram back onto the bus – not for me. Instead, I hired a rental car with unlimited mileage and headed off into the sunrise towards the Four Corners.

Navajo Country

A dingy sign proclaiming "Dinosaur Tracks" is on Highway 160, also known as the Navajo Trail. The Navajo Nation, America's largest Native American jurisdiction, covers 26,000 square miles.

"Over here! This is a T-Rex right here! One, two, three, four, five!" Dinosaur tracks, Navajo Countryshouted John, enthusiastically pointing out all the different tracks he could see.

The tracks were hard to see at first. I expected a sandy surface yielding to my steps, but the ground underfoot felt like solid rock. John's archaeological qualifications were somewhat doubtful, but I appreciated his delight in pointing out all the various trails in the area, and, with his help, I soon learned to spot tracks.

Once the reptilian charm faded, I looked around. A few native artisans had set up stalls next to the improvised gravel parking area. I was truly cut off from the rest of the world, with only John, his fellow Navajo and the long dead dinosaurs for company.

Tuba City

About five miles down the road is Tuba City Arizona. With a population under 10,000, this is the largest community in the Navajo Nation. Tuba City got its name, not from any affinity for musical instruments, but rather from Tuuvi (or Toova), a Hopi leader who had invited Mormon settlers to locate in the region. The Mormons later named the town-site in his honor. The actual Navajo name, Tó Naneesdizí, translates as troubled or tangled waters probably because of nearby underground springs.

The Tuba City Trading Post, in business since the early 1870s, is packed to the brim with native art. A local highway rest stop also contains a surprising selection of souvenirs. The most coveted gifts are hand-woven Navajo rugs with prices ranging in the thousands of dollars. I settled for a petrified coral necklace and a turquoise broach.

Driving on, I reached a roadside Hampton hotel at Kayenta three hours later. Hopes of a nightcap were quashed when I realized that no alcohol is permitted within the Navajo Nation.

Of Mesas and ValleysNavajo Tribal Park, Monument_valley

The following morning, I drove straight north to the Navajo Tribal park of Monument Valley. Stone monoliths jut up as the road stretches ruler-like across the landscape. There are off-road trails to view the rock formations up close, but my rental car had plenty of miles it needed to do before it could suffer through something like that. I opted for some scenery shots with my camera.

Four Corners

This region is generally known as the Four Corners because four states, Four Corners Monument where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meetArizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet at a single point. The Navajo tribe has set up a small kitschy roadside stop. Is it worth the detour? Probably not, but I had a strange compulsion to go out of my way to see it. I spent just enough time for a random tourist to take my picture standing in four states at once.

Onward I drove to Colorado where the scenery changed drastically. Yellow and reddish hues made way for green pastures and ranches.

In the early afternoon, I arrived at Mesa Verde National Park, mainly known for its centuries-old ruins. Zigzagging uphill, the road sliced between large trees tightly clinging to the sides of surrounding mountains. Halfway to the ruins, my car struggled to the highest point in the park at an astonishing 8,572 feet with a view to match.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, ColoradoThe most spectacular ruins were too remote to visit without a hike and an assisting Park guide, so I looked out in wonder from a vantage point. How did the people who once lived here, the Anasazi, manage to build a civilization at this altitude on sheer cliffs with no modern tools?

The sun began to set as I reached the park exit and drove 30 minutes to my hotel in Durango. I collapsed into bed to dream upon this mysterious corner of the United States. It really was an unexpected delight, well worth the 414-mile (666 km) drive from Las Vegas.

>> NL

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