"" Writer's Wanderings: The National Park Road Trip - Petrified Forest

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The National Park Road Trip - Petrified Forest

While I'm not sure we got a great night's sleep worrying about bed bugs, we were up and thankful in the morning to not have any evidence of them. The Travelodge had breakfast included and a new item for us, a pancake machine. While we weren't ready for pancakes again, we were fascinated as we watched others make them. You push a button and inside the machine some batter is pressed between two griddles (I'm guessing) and when it's done, it slides out a small conveyor belt at the other end. Cool!

We packed up our freshly laundered clothes and headed off int he direction of the Petrified Forest National Park about a half hour drive from Holbrook. 

We reached the South Entrance and stopped by the visitor's center for a little orientation on the park. This area, although hard to believe now, was one a wetland inhabited by large reptilian dinosaurs. The conifer trees fell into the streams and they were washed to adjacent floodplains. A mix of silt, mud, and volcanic ash buried them and with the oxygen supply cut off, it delayed the decay of the logs. Silica-laden water seeped into the wood and replaced the original tissues causing the logs to be petrified. After that, continents moved, land rose, climates changed and over time wind and water wore away the layers that covered the petrified logs exposing them.

There is a whole history of human inhabitants as well. Remains of a Pueblo Village were on the list to see along the way. Sadly precious stone was also embedded in the petrified wood and when discovered, miners came and dynamited many logs to obtain the gems. Eventually, the park was established to protect what remains.
Puerco Pueblo

The road between the north and south entrances to the park is about 28 miles long with lots of interesting stops along the way and trails to explore. We passed on the trails mostly simply because of time and, let's face it, we were getting a little tired and sore from hiking so much. We did take the short trail behind the South Visitor's Center and get a close up look at the petrified wood there.

Up the road from the Center, we stopped at the Crystal Forest which apparently was quite something a while back but has been pillaged so much by visitors (even though it is illegal to take anything out of the park) that what made it look like a forest of crystal isn't there any longer.

The Agate Bridge still stands however and is supported not with a piece of concrete below it. It was once a large tree that fell across a small stream. In the really old days, you were allowed to walk across it.

Just before the Pueblo Village, we stopped to take a picture of the area called Teepees. Lots of beautiful colored layers of earth.

Old Route 66
The Puerco Pueblo is a partially stabilized 100-room village built between 1250 and 1380 and may have housed nearly 200 people. There was a short trail around the ruins and views of the petroglyphs. One of them resembled a stork carrying a baby. I smiled. That legend must really be old.

As we crossed over Route 40, we stopped to check out the old car that marked the place where the infamous Route 66 used to be. We didn't realize we were actually traveling part of it as we made our way to Albuquerque. 

Painted Desert
We stopped at a few more view points to view the Painted Desert before we got to the Painted Desert Inn. Originally the Inn was built of petrified wood but the owner, Herbert David Lore, had built it on a seam of clay and over the years as the ground swelled and moved from moisture, the foundation began to crack. Enter the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. After the purchase of the property by the National Parks, the CCC came in and reconstructed it with an adobe style. In the 40s it was a stop along Route 66. Some of the original mural paintings by Hopi painter, Fred Kabotie, can still be seen and the dining area is still done in a 40-50s style.
Painted Desert Inn

While at the Inn, we asked about the old Route 66 and if more of it existed at the park. One of the ladies there told us to look for a dirt road marked Authorized Personnel Only before we got to the Northern Visitor Center. We couldn't drive down it but it was a part of the old 66. We found it and Bob turned into it just long enough to take a picture. As we did, our GPS registered the Route 66. It's the little things sometimes that add flavor to a trip.

We didn't linger too long in the Northern Visitor Center. We had miles to go yet before we would reach Albuquerque, NM and our final destination, The Balloon Fiesta.

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