Monday, February 15, 2016

P is for Petrified Forest National Park

Several months ago my family seized a target of opportunity to see Petrified Forest National Park (also home to the Painted Desert) while traveling through the area.  This is a great little park and one that you can spend a couple of hours or a couple of days.  Imagine large concentrations of petrified tree trunks, badlands painted with every color of the rainbow as far as the eye can see, and a historic Route 66 road bed that still has "historic litter" like '60s-vintage soda cans.  We sampled each of those diverse areas while we were there.

We started at the Painted Desert Visitor Center right off I-40 and began our trip down the 28-mile park road, stopping at several of the overlooks.  The mixture of colors truly brings to mind a blending of impressionism on canvas!  It's no wonder they call it the Painted Desert!  This is a solid example of why I believe every area of the world has its own unique beauty to it (although Kansas may be the exception!)!

Next, just before crossing under I-40, we stopped at the historic Route 66 roadbed.  The pavement has long since been ripped out, but the short telephone poles alongside it remain.  I will say that it's not immediately obvious where the roadbed is until you realize it's the depression in the landscape.  We walked the area in both directions for a little ways looking for retro trash, which the Park Service purposefully left in place as another indicator of life on the open road 50 years ago.  While we did find a couple of pieces of rusted metal, we never found that quintessential Mello Yellow bottle.  Sadly, I think many of the neat pieces you might have once found have been claimed as souvenirs -- at least within the short distance around the parking area.

Our last stop in the Painted Desert area was Blue Mesa.  We took the hiking trail down into the valley and were amazed as the scenery just kept getting better!  A sign directed us to stay on the path, and I marveled at how fragile the landscape was in these badlands.  Even if you wanted to climb on these formations, besides damaging them, it would be very difficult as the dirt is very loose.  It was also here that we saw several petrified logs deposited during runoff from a (or the) flood.

Our last stop, near the end of the park road, was the Giant Logs trail -- a short loop trail with several large and colorful petrified logs and tree trunks on display, including a full-size petrified tree trunk that is over 10 feet tall at its base!

Petrified Forest National Park is a beautiful park with much to see on the park road or just a short walk off of it.  For those that want to get off the beaten path, there are also several hikes into the more remote areas of the park ranging from 2 - 8.5 miles, where you can get a more solitary appreciation for this desert artistry.  If you're headed through eastern Arizona, to or from Flagstaff, plan to make at least a short stop.

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  1. Wow. We've never been out west like that. It looks amazing.

  2. How amazing.. We're actually thinking about going here next month, so I will have to show this to my husband :) Looks like yall had a great time :)