Monument valley is normally a hot, dry, dusty place. A desert. You need to carry water as you trek across it lest they find your poor coyote chewed bones spread across the dunes. But in the Spring things can change dramatically as you see here. Storms come rolling in out of the Baja and dump a huge amount of water on land that is ill-equipped to hold it.
As the rain hits it begins to run off the land filling the arroyos and washes to capacity, picking up sand and small rocks, tearing along in a ferocious torrent until it begins to move the larger boulders and other debris along with it. A short distance away there is a famous slot canyon called Antelope canyon where you can see full-sized tree trunks lodged 50′ up in the crevices of the canyon walls, placed there by water from a storm just like this one raging through it.
This day the storm was one of the milder ones. There was rain but it didn’t last that long. There was runoff but it was manageable. Fog and low-lying clouds obscured the buttes and towers giving the observer a very different picture of Monument Valley. No stagecoaches tearing along the road in front of the Mittens and Mitchell butte today. And if there was you wouldn’t have been able to see it as the visibility was practically zero down at ground level.
This was a day of looking at the valley from a distance. There was no admittance into the valley as the roads inside are made up of sand and clay and turn into a quagmire as soon as water touches them. Driving on them without four-wheel drive was next to impossible and pretty close to impossible with it, as the muck sticks to your tires and will soon fill up your wheel wells with a solid granite-like mixture you have to dig out with a small spade.
This condition doesn’t last very long because as soon as the sun comes out it dries everything up and the road returns to its near concrete-like state. This is a strangely beautiful time to view the valley, one not seen all that often. The mammoth rock formations appear out of the fog like huge ships passing by in the strange muted light, soundlessly, leaving no wake. Every sound carries across great distances. You can hear the final streams of water falling down the stream beds, rocks striking each other until they come to a new resting place. There seems to be a dearth of bird calls, the ravens quiet until the fog begins to thin and drift away. Then they call out in single note if you can call a ravens call a note, it’s more like a raspy croak, checking on each other to see how they fared through the storm.
The weather is changing despite the denials of some of our leaders and it is uncertain what the future will bring. There is a drought going on out on the west coast and since many of these desert storms begin there the question is will we see rain in the desert in the spring. I believe I’m just going to go and see for myself. Come on along if you want.