Kokopelli on my Back

We arrived in Monument Valley on Tuesday and got ourselves set up in the primitive campground. This is a campground in name only as it consists of a large expanse of rock and gravel. There are a few picnic tables and port-a-potties, but thats it. For $10  a night, I’m not complaining. There is the view though.

We hung out for a few hours, then ventured out to check out the new hotel here. They used to have a really nice little campground. Nice level sites, many with great views. The hotel was placed right where the campground was. All the rooms now have the spectacular view that the old campground used to have. They did do a nice job on design of the hotel and added a dinning room, gift shop and all the things you’ve come to expect in a tourist destination. We found out later that there are plans for a very nice campground that will replace the primitive one. Really sounds more like an RV park, with power and water, etc. It is only now getting started, so I would expect maybe this time next year, it will be in place.

We thought we would take a guided tour this time around. We’ve done the unescorted 17-mile drive through the valley several times before. All the other tours available require a Navajo guide and go to areas off limits to the public. This is what we are interested in. The one we chose was a 4 hour tour through Mystery Valley – so called because nobody really knows much about the ancient one’s who lived there. After signing up for the tour, we decide to do the 17-mile drive again. It was around 4 PM and the light was getting nice and low. It was also the last time I saw my wallet.

This is where Kokopelli comes in. Among the Hopi Indians of the southwest, Kokopelli is an ancient fertility deity usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player. He is also a trickster god and represents the spirit of music. After the drive, we returned home to the Lazy Daze, settled in, turned on the music – but the music didn’t play. The satellite radio wouldn’t come on. I’ve had this problem before and figured it was just a blown fuse for the 12v cigarette lighter. An easy thing to fix, but replacing it didn’t work. I was sitting in the driver seat, scratching my head, when I noticed the headlight switch was pulled out. Mary had forgotten to turn the lights out when we pulled into the campground and the battery was dead. If you don’t open the driver side door when you leave the seat, no alarm sounds and you aren’t reminded of the situation. We often just turn and get out into the rig directly. Not a big problem to jump-start from the RAV, but it was the true beginning of a series of events.

Next morning, we got up early-ish to take a 3 mile hike around one of the mittens. The last thing I went to grab was my wallet, which I couldn’t find. We searched everywhere. When I couldn’t find it in the RV, we searched the RAV. The RAV has a couple of places where things get lost, but we’ve learned to look to first. The wallet was nowhere to be found. We both searched every possible place many many times. No go. I went over to the tour operator booth in hopes someone might have found it in the parking lot and turned it in (I remain an optimist). No go. I asked at the information center, the gift shop, administration, restaurant and new hotel. Bupkis.

The only other possibility was that it dropped out of my back pocket somewhere during the 17 mile drive the evening before. So, yes, we drove the 17 mile drive again. We only stopped a half a dozen times, and we pretty much knew where those places were. A long shot, yes, but better than having lost it. Didn’t find it. Came back to the RV and began the process of canceling cards.

Anyway, I did cancel my credit and ATM cards and gave up looking for the wallet – grudgingly. We had to make our 2 pm tour date and as soon as I finished up with the card canceling, our guide showed up and we had to leave. I grabbed my pack with camera and water, my sunglasses and a sweater and walked over to the truck. I realized I should bring a hat and tripod, so went to the car where those things were. I got them and went back to the truck. Then I realized I didn’t have my sunglasses – I was already pretty frazzled, but I couldn’t figure out how I could loose my sunglasses between the RV and the tour truck. They had to be in the RAV. Went back there, searched EVERYWHERE. No glasses. Did a quick search of the RV – same result. Decided to just go on the tour and worry about it later. I was sure Kokopelli was messing with me.

This is not the way to spend your day.

As to the tour, our guide, Tano Haycock, picked us up in a 12-seat open back truck at our rig and off we went. Since no one else signed up for this tour, it was just the two of us and Tano. Mystery Valley is a bit south of Monument Valley. Really just on the other side of the large mesa you see as you drive in. Tano was great – he was back on the reservation after working many years in construction around the Salt Lake area. Like many others in this economy, he lost his job and decided to come home and work the family business running tours. He has his own business as well, but was helping out his father-in-law as a driver on this day. To get to the start of the tour, we rode together in the cab of the truck while on the highway, then switched to the outdoor seats in the back. While in the cab together, Tano spoke about the history and culture of the Navajo people. He spoke about the matriarchal structure of the society – of how the woman ran things. He mentioned how he now had 4 daughters. That should put him in good standing when they are old enough to take over.

Growing up in the area, Tano was able to show us a lot hidden natural arches he knew about. Our first stop was to a double arch that, after scrambling up to it’s entrance, he stopped for a moment and explained that the Navajo still hold this entire area sacred, and as such, are compelled to pay respect. He recited a prayer in Navajo before he would continue the tour. A cynical person might say, oh what a nice little show he put on, but everything in his manner now, and later, spoke of sincerity. We looked around the arches a bit, then moved on to a makeshift ladder consisting of two tree branches leaning up against a steep sandstone incline. Once up the ladder we saw a very deep pothole filled partially with water. It only had a little water in it, but Tano talked about how as kids, they would find these places have have their own personal swimming pools.

He showed us some really wonderful ruins of the ancient ones. We saw a small ruin, called Baby Hands House, where very small hand petroglyphs were chipped into the stone. He also took us to Square House, which consisted of a really well preserved ruin up high that we got to actually enter – really up close and personal. On the ground below were collected hundreds of pottery shards and even some tiny corncobs – all dating to the 1200’s. Looking around the area, we saw many more shards scattered on the desert floor.

More stops brought us to sites with incredible pictographs. At one point, he dropped us off at one site and told us to meet him down the road a bit after we were done exploring. We caught up to him at Honeymoon Arch. There was a small ruin here as well as the arch, but this was also where Tano treated us to a musical surprise. First he sang a song to the beat of a traditional Navajo drum. We asked about the meaning of the song and he explained it was about the importance of family and coming together. He then produced a lovely wooden flute and played a very touching number. I was still feeling kind of anxious about loosing my wallet, but hearing the songs had a very peaceful effect. It didn’t matter so much anymore. I kind of felt Kokopelli loosen his grip and slide from my shoulder.

Our final stop was to a ruin and pictograph site called, Many Hands. There were hundreds of hand imprints here, as well as many strange figures painted onto the wall of sandstone. What was unusual was that at this site, the paintings all seemed quite exposed to the elements and in bright sunlight. Usually you see the paintings inside caves on the walls in well protected locations. Exposed pictographs would usually wear away with time and the elements. Not here. There was also an unusual pictograph portraying what could only be interpreted as a game of some sort – A running man with many grooves chiseled in below him.

We then returned to the RV and I took up the search for my sunglasses again. Again, searched everywhere in both RV and RAV. We both did. I finally decided the only answer was to have a good stiff drink, but checked the RAV one last time. Right in one of those places where things tend to get lost (the space next to the passenger,seat and the console), and that we both searched, both by hand and by vision, was my wallet! It was just sitting there in the place we both checked countless times. Un-be-lieve-able.

But I still couldn’t find the sunglasses. Again, we just gave up and had the rum and coke. Mary was trying to cheer me up because I was such a brainless twit. As we sat on the couches in the back, looking out at the wonderful view here, she said something like, “Yeah, they’re probably just sitting on the roof of the RAV”. “Yeah, right” I said, but as I said it, I thought I should at least look out the back window to the RAV parked right next to us – and there sat my sunglasses, right where I put them.

Kokopelli was done playing with me and returned my items. I am happy I kept a pretty good attitude about the whole thing and was able to enjoy to tour. We finished the day watching the sunset over the Mittens once again. Tomorrow, we head north into Mexican Hat, Valley of the Gods, and Utah proper. Natural Bridges National Monument is our next main destination for a few days of hiking through another amazing landscape.

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