“I'm pretty tired, I think I'll go home now.'”
Famous lines from Forest Gump, spoken at a famous spot, in Monument Valley.
We were pretty tired of the heat at Lake Powell and spent way too much money to stay at an RV park right in Monument Valley to get away from it. This is one of the first spots I didn't have a plan for, and it wasn't a park, per say, so I didn't have any hiking in mind either. This left me with the question of what am I expecting in this place? Photos? Experience? Rest? This question actually bothered me for our entire time here, and a few days after we left.
Most of our time was spent recharging at camp. Thank goodness for the air conditioner in the trailer. When we are hooked up to shore power, the trailer turns from a hard sided tent into a lovely hotel room. We can use electricity and watch TV to our hearts content. We also had WiFi for a few hours during the day when no one was around to hog it all. The spot was nice enough. We could see the valley formations and the deep red rocks of the area right outside our door. Free showers included (though it was sulfur water) and an indoor pool (which we never swam in because our eyes burned from the chlorine fumes when we walked in.)
Monument Valley has a Navajo Nations Park where most of the famous photos are taken from, but at $20 per vehicle, we decided to skip that area. Like many of the formations in the Colorado Plateu area, these famous formations are a result of erosion over time, and are a deep red due to the exposed rock made of iron oxide. These large striated rock structures have been an icon for the American Southwest, and I was excited to see the landscape, but I was a bit uneasy about what to do.
I was stressing for no reason, and fretting about not making the most of our time here. I eventually came to the conclusion I just wanted to see it. Even if it was just a drive through, just seeing this iconic landscape was enough of a reason to be there. Sure, you can spend a small fortune to ride a horse, or go on a covered wagon ride, or a number of other tourist exploits, but the money did not seem worth the experience. And, as we have seen a million times along this trip, most people do those things to get a picture of themselves doing those things, and make it look epic, when in actuality the experience is kind of dull. The extra days in the area were just to recharge from the people overload over the past few weeks. So that's what we did. We enjoyed looking at the small view from camp, and enjoyed the views from the car the rest of the time.
I did get sucked into famous photo replication mode through. Long ago I had seen a photo of someone skateboarding at the Forest Gump point, and I thought, “how cool! I am going to do that when I am there.” So, driving along the only highway out, we came upon Forest Gump point, and realized this was a much more difficult task than just grabbing the board and camera.
After many stressful attempts at taking the famed shot of the valley from the middle of the road, and trying to ride in between cars and other groups of tourists doing the exact same thing, I realized this was stupid. This was the first time I was actually trying to create a photo to show an experience that I wasn't actually having. This is a good portion of what social media portrays in photos of travel, and I struggled with this idea of photography. Eric was also having a terrible time.
Everyone else was doing it too. Waiting their turn to run out in the middle of the road to sit, or stand, or do a yoga pose, to seem #mindful or #adventurous or full of # wanderlust. We were all just full of #bullshit. I had never tried to manufacture this in a photo until now, and I didn't like it. The rest of the day I thought about what the point of our photos were from this trip, why we take them, what makes it fun, and what the different motivations for photographs were. I also struggled with the possibility I wouldn't be back to Monument Valley for a long time, if ever, and if I was disappointed in not getting this stupid shot. Eric and I discussed this all the way to Moab.
The conclusion I came to is that it isn't wrong to attempt these social media driven photos, but it is not for me. Nor is it for Eric. We don't travel for photography, but we sometime take our time with photographs to capture where we are traveling. Basically, I take photos for me. When I look at my pictures, I either want to be brought back to an experience I had, or be brought back to a place I saw. This is why we take candid shots of what we are doing along the way OR we set up for a nice landscape to capture a place we love. If you ever see a shot of us looking 'amazed by nature, alone in the woods' it's because we were actually alone and amazed by nature. We don't pose to make it look like we are hardcore adventurers, though sometimes we take a posed photo of us smiling at the camera.
Again, to try to get these social media shots is not wrong, it is just trying to create an experience, rather than just capture one, and it is not what I personally like. Also I feel like it perpetuates an illusion about travel and outdoor exploration, but I get the point. People want to place themselves in those photos, feel a since of escape. As we travel around, we see a million people getting the same stupid pose among a sea of tourists, though each photo will look as if they hiked a bunch of miles in untouched wilderness to experience that place all to themselves. 99% of the time that is a lie. Or is it just a story? Nothing wrong with a story? Obviously, I still struggle with how I feel about the social media photography style.
However, there was a highlight in all that tourist craze, and it was when a giant Japanese tour bus pulled over at the point. About 50 Japanese tourists poured out into the middle of the road, and one by one the tour leader hurriedly guided them to get their own Forest Gump point photo. Dodging cars, looking frantic, throwing up a million peace signs, and wearing awesome American tourist shirts (back to the future, wolf and moon, Grand Canyon, etc.) this was a perfect image to sum up my feelings on this whole area. Both Eric and I stood back and laughed at the commotion, happy that they all got their own iconic photo, and realized we were done trying to get ours.
8/10 would not try to be a social media influencer again.