Painted Desert

The transition from Petrified Forest to Painted Desert was almost seamless. One minute the tour CD was talking about Petrified Logs and fossils and the next the Painted Desert. There was a brief transitional tract when we crossed the railroads tracks that was all about Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls. I have never seen so many railroads before either. I think it was Joe (Native American Journey’s again) who told us the trains run at 15 minute intervals. The trains are very long, most with flat cars loaded with containers either bound for port on the west coast or coming in to the area with goods. The tracks we passed on the border of the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are the tracks of the Burlington, Northern and Santa Fe.

Near the railroad tracks we crossed an old Highway. Maybe you’ve heard of it, RT 66. The same RT 66 where we stopped for Ice Cream with Joe the Guide from Native American Journey’s. Wow, that tour and guide seems to have influenced our whole trip! Anyway, Rt 66 is 2200 miles long but Petrified Forest National Park is the only park in the National Park System that contains a segment of this iconic road. A road trip exploring the remnants of this famous highway might be an interesting vacation trip.

By now we were in the Painted Desert. This is the northern end of the Petrified Forest National Park. You can see the massive erosion that has sculpted and created amazing formations of buttes, mesa, hoodoos, and bluffs all in lovely pastels of red, green, purple, blue and other combinations. This type of erosion creates landscapes that are collectively called “Badlands”.

There are a series of well maintained pull offs where you can explore and take pictures. The colors are most intense in the early morning or late afternoon as the mid-day sun tends to make them look washed out. We had the opposite problem since shifting cloud cover was casting dark shadows over much of the landscape.

The pull off points have names like Lacy Point, Whipple Point, Nizhoni Point, Pintado Point, Chinde Point and Kachina Point.

Lacy and Whipple Points are named for individuals that influenced the park. Nizhoni Point is the Apache word for beautiful. Certainly fitting as the park is very beautiful.

Pintadao Point is one of the most famous views in the park. Pintado is Spanish for painted. You can see the highest point in the park , Pilot Rock from this location.

Chinde Point is a Navaho term. It means evil spirit or ghost. It is also famous for a nearly complete fossil found in 1985. “Gerty” was a small meat-eating dino that roamed the area about 200 million years ago.

Kachina Point is the location for the Painted Desert Inn. As it was starting to get late, we simply drove past the Inn but we did stop at the Visitor Center at the Northern End of the park. The rain caught us again so we headed back to RT 40 for the long drive back to Sedona. We arrived in Winslow too late to visit Meteor Crater this trip but if we were able to do everything in one trip we’d have no reason to come back.

We crossed in and out of rain showers and some pretty heavy downpours followed by patches of sun as we headed west toward Sedona.

I don’t think I’ve visited anyplace where I can say that I’ve seen everything I wanted to see.  I have a bucket list for a return trip everywhere I’ve been. Look at the Sedona Area/ Northern Arizona. It’s only the upper part of the state and I’ve made 2 visits but I still have a long list of places to see, things to do and of photographs I want to take and that’s not even taking into consideration everything there is to do south of Phoenix!

I’m pretty sure I’ll be back again, probably not for a couple of years. Other locations and trips are calling me but sooner or later I will return.

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