Over the past seven years on the running trip, I bet I could count on two hands the times people have jokingly referenced Forrest Gump in conversations with me. It might be a combination of his desire to run, haircut, and ping pong skills, but I’m still trying to figure that out. The movie, starring Tom Hanks, Sally Field, and Robin Wright, features an iconic scene where Forrest just stops running after 3 years, 2 months, 14 days and 16 hours. That scene was filmed in Monument Valley, our running spot for the day.
Day 7 would be our last day running. Initially, I was going to combine this day and our final travel day back to the Phoenix airport into one big blog post, but let’s just say I went a bit overboard on taking pictures today. You’ll see why.
So, tomorrow, a bonus blog post!
Waking up in Page, Arizona, we were two hours west of Monument Valley. After turning north in Kayenta, Arizona, we began to see the monuments appear.
Scenic view turnouts are frequent on HWY-163. Always take the scenic view exits.
After paying our fee to enter the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, we parked at the Visitors Center that offered one of the best sites in the park – West Mitten Butte, East Mitten Butte, and Merrick Butte. The road you see in the picture is the scenic loop road that we would take a few hours later.
A great picture of the two of us despite Griff’s Hawkeye shirt. Speaking of shirts, I want to thank Melissa Hopkins of the Lost Dutchman Marathon for the awesome long-sleeve shirt! Held in Apache Junction, Arizona, just East of Phoenix, the race offers a marathon, half-marathon, 10k, 8k Trail-Run, and Fun Run, with proceeds directed to local youth organizations focused on the economically disadvantaged. The race was voted best Marathon of the Valley 2018 by Phoenix Magazine! We plan to drive through Apache Junction tomorrow, and I’ll be giving the shirt another wear!
But first, we decided to take advantage of the Wildcat Trail, a 3.8-mile trail to get in a run for the day. I can honestly say that this was probably a top three run of my lifetime. So incredible. At the start, I thanked Debbie Smith again.
Part of the reason the run was so great was the padded dirt trail itself. After a week on our feet, this surface was ideal.
In front of another monument in the distance, I thanked Kevin & Renee Lefter. I’ve worked with Renee for the past 14 years, and it’s always a treat when Kevin is around. We all attended a wedding in North Dakota last year and have stories to last a lifetime.
In front of West Mitten Butte, I thanked my favorite resident of France, Ben Fleming. Ben, a Fraternity brother from Iowa State, has lived in Paris for quite some time now. Tillie and I visited him a few years back when we were enjoying Paris. I appreciate your ongoing support Ben! The Wildcat Trail circled West Mitten Butte, so we got to know this monument well.
The clouds cooperated for great pictures for most of the day.
I realized earlier that day that we wouldn’t have time to visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument. My travel itinerary was a bit bigger than we could chew, and we wanted to spend as much time as possible at Monument Valley. So, I thanked Tyler Cronk here. Tyler, another Iowa State Fraternity brother, is always a generous donor for my trips. I crossed paths with Tyler this past spring at an event in Ames.
We made a friend along the way. I think the bird was posing for us.
More running views.
Following the run, we jumped in the car to take in the scenic loop drive around the park. A look at Three Sisters.
And John Ford’s Point. This view is one of the more famous in the park. Movie director John Ford used this location for many of his films’ scenes. Two of his most famous films include Stagecoach and The Searchers. I enjoy the picture below, because it really puts into perspective the scale of Monument Valley.
Quite the view, eh? Thanks again Rob & Julie.
More scenes from the park.
A view from Artist’s Point.
Our final stop in Monument Valley would be Forrest Gump point. As I mentioned earlier in the post, the scene from Forest Gump when he stops running takes place on one of America’s most impressive road vistas south of Mexican Hat, Utah on HWY 163. Today, you can find hoards of tourists lined along the road, taking turns standing in the middle of the road to get the famous shot. It’s a bit of a dicey road with cars zipping past. Most slow down, but some do not. I was a bit bummed by the sunlight while we were on site. It was really bright and made the picture a tough one to take. Oh well.
We took our turn making way to the middle of the road, and I was able to thank Nicholas Scalice, a fellow Phi Delt for his donation. Thanks again Nick! I hope you are well my friend.
Man, Monument Valley was great, and I’d recommend placing it on your bucket list. Our next stop for the day would be our resting spot within the Navajo Nation, about 25 miles north and west of Chinle, Arizona. When perusing Airbnb in advance of the trip, I found a property that I instantly knew I needed to book. There are very few Airbnb properties in the Nation, but I was pumped to find and book one that looked incredible and had amazing reviews.
On the way to the property, we drove through a number of painted rocks. With the sun starting to go down, the lighting on the rocks was incredible.
A fun windmill shot just down the road from our host.
Let me introduce you to our Navajo hogan property for the evening. We saw hogans on nearly every property we passed. The hogan is a sacred home for Navajo people who practice traditional religion. Every family even if they live most of the time in a newer home — must have the traditional hogan for ceremonies, and to keep themselves in balance.
Inside of the hogan blew us away. Look at how nice this is! Notice the dirt floors. When raked, it almost looks like it has been freshly vacuumed. We did not utilize the wood-burning stove because the Hogan now has electric, and there was an electric heater hooked up. The property had no running water, but we knew this before we arrived. We were prepared to “rough it” for a night. It really wasn’t roughing it though.
The best part about the Hogan? The many friends that came with it! Upon arriving, we were immediately welcomed by Miller and Lola, two of the friendliest dogs I’ve met. We were instantly friends, and they played protectors throughout the night, even among the other animals on the property. Being around these pups was a feel-good experience at the end of our trip. Travis and I both have dogs, so it was a treat.
Also on the property, five horses…
Sheep, goats, and a free-range herd of cattle. Miller showed of his skills by rounding up the cattle for us. We were very impressed.
We were free to roam the property and decided to take a two-mile hike out to a slick rock with a view. The dogs led the way, scoping out the scene in front of our hike. It was amazing to watch them work.
Check out that view!
My main man Miller.
And what do you know, to finish an amazing day, we were rewarded with a rainbow that spanned the valley and some of the most beautiful skies I have seen.
Thinking back on the day, I guess Forrest’s words do resonate with me – “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.”