Longtime followers of this blog know that I love walking where film productions have trodden before me. Monument Valley is Nature’s ultimate soundstage. It appeared in scores of westerns back in the genre’s heyday (Stagecoach, The SearchersOnce Upon a Time in the West) and more recently shows up when filmmakers want to harken back to the genre’s heyday (Back To The Future Part III, Doctor Who, and the forthcoming Lone Ranger flick).

As we spied the iconic shapes in the distance, we got a show worthy of Hollywood: a dust storm swirling around the very formations I wanted to explore. Undaunted, we pressed on.

Straddling the Utah-Arizona border, Monument Valley lies within the Navajo Nation. It has a very National Park feel: they charge a small admission fee, there’s a modern visitor center, and you are allowed to drive a short loop, while a tour is required for the longer loop. We wisely opted not to drive my parents’ minivan on any of the loops; besides the dust and high winds, the rutted roads didn’t look minivan-friendly.

With Karen safely ensconced in the visitor center, I joined a tour and was rewarded with Nature’s majesty and movie history, all wrapped up in one.