My Great American Road Trip – Through Monument Valley

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The red desert in Utah
A red desert in Utah

After the long drive from Pasadena, I think we grabbed fries from McDonald’s and called it a night. I was still munching on the chocolate covered gummy bears we picked up back in Carmel and I had two pressed juices left. Our bed and breakfast in Flagstaff was very cute and decorated with what I would call a southwestern/native american/Arizona theme. Someone had gone a little overboard with the P-touch label maker and had covered the whole suite with instructions. This prompted me to text a photo to my mother – an avid labeler. The light switches said which light turned on, the outlets let you know that “only one item can be plugged in at a time,” and the bathtub requested to be rinsed after use. I took a bath, used only the faucet I was supposed to, and fell into a deep sleep.

Flagstaff is a good place to stay if you’re visiting the Grand Canyon because it’s the closest city with nice hotels and good food. Our B&B, The Inn at 410, is nestled in a quiet neighborhood near the city center, and we enjoyed a peaceful and delicious homemade breakfast out on the patio. Despite being very full, J wasn’t sure what food would be available in the desert, so we agreed it was a good idea to have a second breakfast (a la hobbits) at Josephine’s. At the time I thought Flagstaff would be the last stop for good food until we hit the east coast, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Flagstaff -> Telluride

Distance: 340 Miles
Driving Time: 6 hours, 27 minutes
Flagstaff to Telluride GIF

We went north from Flagstaff, heading straight for Monument Valley. The giant rock formation sits on the northeastern border of Arizona and the southeastern border of Utah, so the plan was to swing through Utah on the way to Telluride. While Utah has a lot of great national parks (some to be seen another time), we figured Monument Valley was not to be missed.

The approach to Monument Valley.
The approach to Monument Valley. We were definitely the only Mini amid all the trucks and RVs!
Monument Valley Utah
Monument Valley, Utah! That ombre sky though!
Utah State Sign GIF
The monument and me
The monument and me

I’m glad we did this part of the trip instead of heading straight east. There is nothing quite as dramatic as a humongous mesa rising out of an empty desert. It is truly amazing. One moment you’re looking at open road, and the next minute the earth turns the brightest shade of red and you’re in the shadow of a great plateau.

Desert plateaus

After the red dust turned into beige monochrome, we found ourselves driving in huge stretches of open desert plains. The landscape didn’t change for what must have been several hours until we gradually drove to a higher elevation and trees started to appear.

J was anticipating the road crossing into Colorado, joking that when we saw a weed store we’d stop and get me some pot chocolate. While I like to think of myself as very fun, I did have a vision of me high and motion sick, puking out the car window. Lucky for me, as we crossed the border there was not a single pot shop to be found along the way to our hotel.

The landscape, however, did not disappoint. Colorado, you are so beautiful!

Colorado cows

I can’t remember if we ate anything after Flagstaff, but when we got to the Dunton River Camp outside of Telluride, we were scrambling to think of dinner options. A very friendly hotel staff member greeted us at our car in the gravel lot and let us know we’d be eating on the terrace with the other guests. J and I walked up to a log cabin porch with long wooden tables in the most gorgeous rustic setting. The food was incredible, there were wildflowers all around, and in the distance was a snow peaked mountain! The arugula salad was so fresh you would’ve guessed we were still in California. Apparently Dunton has it’s own “forager” whose sole job is to source local fresh ingredients. YUM!

Walk up to dinner
Fresh arugula salads for dinner

This hotel was not cheap, but it was one of the most magical places I’ve ever stayed. We were shown to our river “tent,” a large canvas structure on a raised foundation. Inside the zippered flaps was a scene out of a western – cowhide rugs and an old-fashioned-style electric stove. It was quite a crisp night, so we turned up the heat and fell asleep to the rushing sounds of the river on all sides.

Glamping! 😉

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