Welcome to Monument Valley.

I drove down here on Friday morning, and man, it was awesome! Unlike the other attractions, Monument Valley isn’t run by the Bureau of Land Management nor the National Park Service. The Navajo Nation owns it. So yeah, I had to pay a fee. No big deal, it was totally worth it.

I drove along that dirt road and stopped to take photos several times. I highly recommend paying this place a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

Between Lake Powell and Zion National Park lies the Vermilion Cliffs plateau. This unique landform features many trails, but I only had time to visit one of them. 

The Buckskin Gulch trail featured these “narrows.” Carved out of the rock by centuries of water flow, this tight path (barely wide enough to fit a person in some parts) made for a fascinating trek. 

The trail continued, but the water got too deep and I didn’t bring waders.

…next time!

On Sunday, I visited Cedar Breaks National Monument.

This highly underrated destination lies just outside the town of Cedar City! At over 10,000 feet, hiking around this cold, windy canyon rim definitely left me winded. I’m glad I took a moment to check this place out!

Heck, I think I could LIVE in Southern Utah. It’s so neat!

On my way home to New Mexico, I stopped by a small, picturesque town with an interesting history. Mormon pioneers William J. Flake and Erastus F. Snow founded this town in 1878. Using a clever play on words, the town bears the name of both men. As of today, many of their descendants still live there (Arizona’s junior senator and Snowflake native Jeff Flake is a great-great-grandson of William Flake!)

It remains a predominately LDS community, and in 2002 they got their own temple! It stands on a hill on the east side of town, offering a great view of the Snowflake skyline. I swung by and spent a good twenty minutes walking around and snapping photos.

It makes for a great addition to an already beautiful community.

Right after I checked out of my motel on Monday, I drove to the St. George LDS temple to do an early-morning session. Their temple is so beautiful! Afterwards, I dashed back to my car, grabbed my camera, and walked the temple grounds to get some photos. I saw a visitors center on the street corner and decided to take a peak inside.

"Good morning! Welcome to the visitors center!" I was immediately greeted by the center’s director, an older white fellow with thinning gray hair. He wore in a dark suit with a prominent service missionary name tag. 

I smiled. “I just paid a visit to the temple here and I thought I’d look at the visitors center too.”

"That’s great!" he said. "You look like you’re preparing to serve a mission."

I paused, slightly grimacing but still smiling.

"…or did you just come back from serving one?"

"I’ve actually been home for seven and a half years." I said, rendering an upbeat thumbs up.

"Oh…really?" The director was noticeably surprised. "Well congratulations on aging slowly!" I guess I should feel flattered by his assumption that I’m 18-21 years old. I’ve finally reached the age at which such comments can be considered compliments.

We went on to discuss my mission in Uruguay, and my 4-day visit in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.

While the director and I chatted, an older tourist couple entered the visitors center. We turned and offered a regular salutation, but they didn’t respond. In broken English, the Husband explained they were from Madrid and touring the American Southwest. He barely spoke any English, and his wife didn’t speak a word. 

I got excited. “¿Ustedes hablan español?”

"Sí." They nodded.

"Pues yo también." I went on to explain that I was a missionary in Uruguay, and that I too was in St. George on vacation. I explained to them a little about our church and its beliefs. He asked me about polygamy, temples, and Mitt Romney. He was surprised when I told him we had abandoned that practice of plural marriage over a century ago. Some misconceptions die hard. Anyways, it was fun explaining the Gospel in Spanish, as it reminded me of my old mission days.

Straddling the Utah/Arizona border at the foot of the Vermilion Cliffs plateau lies the Short Creek community. This town has gained national attention as home of America’s largest and most notorious polygamist group: The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “FLDS” for short.

The people who inhabit this town are all descendants of Mormon dissidents who faced excommunication for refusing to renounce polygamy (the mainstream LDS Church, which I’m a member of, abandoned the practice in 1890.) Over the past century, the Short Creek has grown to about 8,000 people…and only about dozen different last names!

On my way home from my mini-vacation in Utah, I decided to swing by and pay the “creekers” a visit. I did catch sight of a few women walking around in head-to-toe prairie dresses with hair in that…um…distinctive hairstyle. But for the most part, not too many people were outside. They don’t take kindly to outsiders, and I did get some suspicious looks from men driving in trucks.

I managed to drive around the town for a bit and furtively snap a few photos. Most of the houses have unfinished exteriors (they do that to avoid paying property taxes) and most of the roads are unpaved. Other than that, I will say that the community itself was aesthetically-pleasing in a rustic, natural sort of way.

We didn’t have sufficient satellite assets, so we had to borrow a squad of specially-trained soldiers from Fort Huachuca to help us set up this sweet satellite dish.
After they set up their fancy, sophisticated system…they spent the rest of the training exercise watching videos on YouTube and Facebooking. 
Man, why didn’t I branch Signal Corps?

We didn’t have sufficient satellite assets, so we had to borrow a squad of specially-trained soldiers from Fort Huachuca to help us set up this sweet satellite dish.

After they set up their fancy, sophisticated system…they spent the rest of the training exercise watching videos on YouTube and Facebooking. 

Man, why didn’t I branch Signal Corps?