Funny, isn’t it, how once you just STOP over-thinking, and take the time to listen to your instincts, the day just gets better? We hadn’t planned on spending the night in Monument Valley. We had booked through Sunday night at Overland Expo and planned a long driving day to Moab. Instead, by Sunday noon, feeling disappointed with our Expo experience, and fed up with the unrelenting dust and wind, we made a snap decision to just pack it up and move on.
The view through the windshield quickly turned monotonous as we headed north. Miles and hours passed as we started to plot where we could spend the evening. Momentarily distracted by a stop at the trading post at Dinosaur tracks, we pushed onwards, striving to make the Arizona-Utah border by sunset.
By the time we reached Monument Valley, there were no campgrounds in sight and by this time we were hungry, tired, and approaching cranky. As we gassed up, the attendant happened to mention Goulding Campground, within the park. Our sluggish and unpleasant attitudes disappeared immediately as the first enormous rock formations came into view. Reaching for the sky, surrounded by nothingness, the massive sandstone brought to mind every old Western movie we’d ever seen.
The scenery went from monotony to striking with one simple bend in the road. We pulled into Goulding Lodge and RV park and were absolutely grateful we had hit the road that day. Grateful for the unexpected opportunity to spend the night among the dramatic red rocks. Grateful for being granted their one last campsite. Grateful for an amazing sunset over the majesty of Monument Valley.
But most of all, grateful we had listened to our gut instinct. Instead of a long afternoon in the swirling dust of Mormon Lake, we hiked to the cliffs above camp to watch the day turn into night in some of the West’s most spectacular scenery.
Goulding Lodge is worth a stop in it’s own right. In 1921 Harry & Leone purchased 640 acres here and started a small Trading Post. A brisk business with the Navajo tribes dropped off dramatically during the great depression, and they headed to Hollywood with their last $60 in an attempt to convince John Ford to film his latest movie on their property. Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, was filmed on their land and the rest is history.
Added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1980, Goulding Lodge now offers up more than just a lodge and campground. A fascinating museum tells the story of the region, and there is a store, pool, and variety of tours. Simply put, combined with the scenery and the excellent staff, it was a lovely place to spend an evening.
We sat at camp, enjoying listening to a multitude of languages swirling around us, absolutely content. Our one brief night was much too short, and the next morning we pushed on to Moab, but we will be forever glad we listened to our internal voice and, in doing so, were lucky enough to experience this little piece of American history.