Saturday, October 16, 2010

a horse with no name

The way Deb and figured it, we'd saved a bit of money by sleeping in our rental car the night before, so why not spend it on something unforgettable: a horseback ride through Monument Valley. Trouble was we only had $66 cash and it was $40 each for a half hour. We talked to a couple Navajo guides who gave tours and rather than drive all the way out and back on an ATM run, we gave them every dollar we had for a quick 20 minute ride.

We saddled up and headed toward Camel Butte, our guide leading the way, followed closely by Deb, and bringing up the rear: me on my very slow and deliberate horse. I didn't really mind the leisurely pace as I was trying to take in the scope and grandeur of our surroundings. And every time I gave the horse a little smack with the whip I found out why cowboys didn't wear Adidas warm-up pants. So slow and steady was fine with me.

As we neared the massive butte, the terrain went from gradual slope to steep incline quickly and I suddenly became very aware that I wasn't wearing a helmet. I'd taken Deb horseback riding a few years ago in Prospect Park and we'd worn helmets. But there was no time for reminiscing now as the horse made his way up the hill toward the base of the butte and I leaned forward and held on. As the horses made their way along the base of Camel Butte—a wall of rock on the right and the cliff edge on the left—Deb and I each had to do some fancy manuevering as not to get crunched by a narrow passage between two boulders. We got to the lookout at the base of the Camel and looked out.

The site of the Valley from such as unique vantage point combined with the adrenaline now coursing through my veins, combined with the lack of sleep or food, made for an almost overwhelming experience. I had one priority now: don't fall off the horse.

When I saw the cliff's edge I was certain that we'd be following it along the ridge until we found a more gradual way down. Instead we were going straight over it. The horse had done this a hundred times before. He knew the way down. I knew that. So I leaned back in the saddle, held on to the horn and talked soothingly to this slow, cautious horse that I sincerely hoped would not fall over and crush me against a rock. "You're my favorite horse," I told him, meaning every word.

When we got back I realized that I didn't have any money left to tip our guide. So I gave him my lucky $2 bill hidden within my wallet. We walked shakily away and slowly made our way out of Monument Valley. Having filled our souls with nature's majesty, we headed across the highway to fill our bellies with spicy southwestern cuisine.

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