Ahh the Petrified Forest, who hasn’t heard of the place where trees have turned to stone? It was quite a ride from the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook. We headed north to RT 40 and east toward Winslow. Along the way we passed Meteor Crater. I’ve been there but to my surprise Sandy said skip it. She said if we had time after the went to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert we could stop on our way back.
I was surprised how much longer it was after passing Meteor Crater. It was past lunch time so we stopped at a Denny’s for a quick lunch. We had fish! In the middle of a desert we ordered fish! It was really good. Ironic isn’t it?
Back on the road we finally began to see signs for the Petrified Forest. There were lots of places willing to sell us a bit of the petrified wood too. It’s illegal to take any of the petrified trees or bits of wood from the National Park but not all of the Petrified Forest is in the confines of the park so there’s ample opportunity to get a sample. We finally spotted the Visitor Center where I wanted to stop anyway to collect my National Parks Stamp.
We got some good rangers and volunteers again. We explored the exhibit of dino remains that were on exhibit and heard stories about the petrified wood and how it’s so hard that only diamonds are used to cut and polish the “gems”.
We bought a CD that is a ” Driving CD” audio tour. It included a rough map to help us see where we were in relation to what we were seeing.
The whole tour is about an hour a and a half if you drive straight through. We didn’t plan to linger too much but we weren’t going to rush through either. We were playing cat and mouse with the weather again.
Little rain storms kept cropping up all over. It would rain, kind of hard at times but then it was over and the sun was back out just as fast. We could look out over the landscape and see these little pockets of rain.
The tour started right at the Visitor Center called Rainbow Forest Museum. In addition to the fossils on display here there is a short trail that winds through a section of the Petrified Forest. It contains some of the most massive logs in the forest including the big one named “Old Faithful”.
The road led us into a series of mesas called Flattops.
It is in this area that archeologists have found evidence of the Paleo Peoples who lived in the area.
They were hunters and gatherers so most of the remains are artifacts such as tools and weapons. They can track the development of trade through the years as their artifacts changed over time.
Jasper Forest has a large deposit of red hued petrified forest. The logs here were buried in mud so the minerals from that mud settled in the wood and created the red color. Now the bluff is eroding and the logs are being revealed.
One of my favorite stops was Agate Bridge, a natural bridge of a petrified log. The railroads shored it up with concrete so it stands today. I am going to share a story but if you go I am sure a guide will tell it better than I can. The story is that 2 cowboys were playing poker and one bet the other that he and his horse couldn’t ride across the Agate Bridge. If the Cowboy made it he would win a $20.00 gold piece and bragging rights. If he lost, the challenging cowboy would get the dead man’s saddle and boots. Well the horse was surefooted and the cowboy was a good rider and they made it across safely. Anyway, you won’t catch me on that bridge.
The Blue Mesa was a great spot! The views here were of a striated multicolored landscape. Blue Mesa has also been called the Purple Forest because of the purple or lavender color of the crystals in the petrified wood here. There’s a 1 mile round trip hike that I would love to take if we had more time. The area we are in is also referred to as the badlands, just like the Badlands we visited in South Dakota.
The teepees came up quickly and there was no mistaking them! They are really memorable. They look just like the teepee of the plains indians. There is little plant life or vegetation here . The landscape is so surreal it’s almost like stepping onto another planet.
Our tour led us to Newspaper Rock. It took some looking but I finally spotted at least some of the Petroglyphs this stop is named for. The Petroglyphs are scratched into the surface of the rock. It removed the dark stains on the rocks known as Desert Varnish. Joe (From Native American Journey’s) had mentioned it to us on that tour. Apparently scientists still aren’t in agreement on exactly what the Desert Varnish is but it didn’t stop the ancient people from using it as a black board for their art.
We saw the railroad tracks and the river lined with Cottonwood Trees. Our next stop was at Puerco Pueblo. As we listened to the tour we pulled into the parking area. It sounded like an abandoned pueblo similar to what we saw a Tusigoot. In the interest of time we chose to move on. We wanted to be sure we had time to see the Painted Desert.