I started the day with some early birding around Kelly Place. I managed to add a couple of species to the triplist: Cedar Waxwing and Hairy Woodpecker.
After breakfast, I drove down the road to the Sand Canyon trailhead in Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. An Elderhostel group was also staying at Kelly Place, and also doing some of the Sand Canyon trail. I ran into them several times during the hike.
There are several spur trails on both the Sand Canyon and East Rock Creek Trails. These go to points of interest, usually Anasazi ruins. I visited some of these, so the hike ended up being longer than the nominal 5 miles of the Sand Canyon/East Rock Creek loop. The trails run together for the first 1 3/4 miles, then the East Rock Creek trail loops back while the Sand Canyon trail continues another 4 1/4 miles to the Sand Canyon Pueblo.
I found this a pleasant hike. You get to examine some of the ruins, the scenery was good, and quite a few flowers were in bloom (yes, the pinyon-juniper habitat does have flowers). It took about 3 hours to complete the hike. Then I was on my way to Hovenweep National Monument.
At Hovenweep, I walked around to the Square Tower overlook, then returned. You can't get close to the square tower, but other ruins are very near the trail (you're required to stay on the trail). These are in a somewhat different style that the other ruins I've seen.
After leaving Hovenweep, I noticed the wind picking up. The wind was pretty strong when I stopped at the Goosenecks of the San Juan (a Utah state park). It made it unpleasant to stay long. Moreover, I don't like standing near the edge of a precipice when there are strong, gusty winds. While in the vicinity, I also stopped to take some photos of Mexican Hat Rock (near Mexican Hat, UT).
Then it was on to Monument Valley, which is a Navajo Tribal Park. After I checked in to the hotel, I headed out for a drive on the loop road (really a lollipop). The Navajos recommend that you use a high-clearance vehicle on the drive. While it is possible to drive around safety in a low-clearance car (many of us did so), you'll find it a lot less taxing if you are in an appropriate vehicle. Generally, I would say taking a tour would be a good option, but stay away from the open vehicles on a super windy day like today.
Monument Valley has been an American icon since John Ford's movie “Stagecoach”, and with good reason. Even with the wind and blowing dust it was amazing to drive around the monuments. I ended up going as far as the John Ford overlook before returning to the hotel. I should mention that the hotel room had a terrific view of the valley, and I took a number of photos from the balcony.
So far, I have found 140 bird species and 13 mammal species during the trip.
The View, Monument Valley, AZ