I recently completed a Pilgrimage to Monument Valley in Southern Utah. This region of the Colorado Plateau, characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, is between 5,000 & 6,000 feet above sea level. The desertine valley shares the boundary between Arizona and Utah on the northern edge of the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Continuing my interest in the lives of Women Adventurers, I recently read the story of Louisa and John Wetherill of Kayenta, the first white traders to settle the area and I wanted to visit their original trading post at Oljato, if it could be found. After a few initial
You will have to leave,” the Navajo leader, Hoskininni Begay (Hashké Neiniihí Biye’: Son of Giving Out Anger), ordered John Wetherill on March 17, 1906 when he rode up to the water hole known to the local people as Oljato (Ooljéé’tó: Moonlight Water).
wrong turns, we eventually found the right road. Drove ten miles west of the Golding Lodge only to have the pavement end. From there a gravel wash board beckoned us. We continued but when the gravel turned to red powder and our wheels began sinking, we concluded the location of the post would forever remain a mystery.We turned around to start home unfulfilled and yet trying to convince ourselves all had not been in vane when, gleeming before us, on a distant hillside announced white letters spelling Oljato. Just to the left of the sign, actually naming a small service community for park workers, stood quietly in Cottonwoods, the remains of the Wetherill Trading Post covered by red clay silt from a small cross roads. This was the ancient Spring of Moonlight Water. No signs or depictions that this was the fruition of John Wetherill’s pilgrimage seeking the mythic location, or simply the first site established by a white trader to the area. It was a quiet intimate moment. Pilgrimage complete.