I Was Petrified!

Last we met, Carolyn and I spent a restfull night in Silver City, New Mexico, and now, at the start of our third day of our Western Trek, we head north following the Arizona-New Mexico border before turning westward to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park.

Our more liesurely drive crosses the continental divide just outside of Silver City and we scale and dip among the high hills and low mountains of Gila National Forest and later the Apache National Forest.

At the continental divide, the region is still very dry.

Cacti were in bloom!

As we head north, the trees become more common and instead of scraggly Desert Pines we experience more stately Ponderosa Pine and remind ourselves that this is the country of Geronimo and the proud Apache nation.

This was the home of the Apache!

Surely we will glimpse a band of Apache horsemen watching us intently as we traverse the next hill!

I have no idea what this beautiful little plant may be.

The heat is gradually increasing and by 9 in the morning, the temp guage is already in the mid 90’s. Last night I did add a quart of water to the stagecoach radiator and there is no indication of any further overheating. The scenery is outstanding but as we turn westward and leave the mountainous area, the desert again encroaches and within an hour we are back in cactus and sagebrush and the outside temperature slips past 100 degrees.

I have been to Petrified Forest before but it was so long ago, I have little memory. I must have stopped at the north entrance on my way to Flagstaff but this time, Carolyn and I are entering the south entrance and driving northward for about 30 miles through the national park. We read in several travel books and brochures, that off-park gift shops sell samples of petrified wood, as warnings clearly indicate that no removal of rocks of any kind is permitted in the national park. As we approach the southern park entrance, there are the touristy gift shops – one on each side so we have to stop.

We made it!

The variety and expanse of sample petrified wood is amazing! Every color of the rainbow is in each rock and prices range from 50 cents for a colorful pebble to thousands of dollars for unliftable tree sections. We settle for a nice six-pounder at $2 a pound. It will look good in our rocky hillside back home.

Petrified wood is basically red with many smaller areas of colors intertwined

The park is not crowded and perhaps the 107 degree temperature is holding crowds at bay but all along the park drive there are pullouts to vistas and enticing trails but no trails will we hike in this heat!

Despite the heat, I couldn’t resist a short hike on a long log.

One of the most intriguing stops is at Newspaper Rock. Here would be authors from ages past inscribed several huge rocks with news of the day – all in petroglyphic symbols totlally undeciphorable. There are thousands of inscriptions and I wonder if several are critical of the incessant heat. I am sure they adapted better than we have.

Our Raven was a constant guide and companion.

As we move northward, more and more of the purple and gray horizontally banded pyramidal hills

Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock — hard to see the thousands of symbols in the shady areas.

predominate. This is the Painted Desert and is Carolyn’s favorite for the day.

It is difficult to capture the colored formations of the Painted Desert in this bright sun!
The Painted Desert as dusk approaches.

They stretch to the horizon and I would love to walk among the banded hills but on a cooler day. With binoculars, I see the fallen forest of now petrified wood and wonder how the natives who once lived here interpreted these rocks from wood. We do walk up to and over a fallen, now petrified, giant of a tree over 60 feet long and five feet across, It;s amazing!

Just to imagine what a forest of trees was once here!
Here a log petrified over a dry creek bed. The National Park did a great job of explaining the complicated petrification process,

As we near the northern terminus of the park, we cross over Interstate 40 and see the hordes of travelors bypassing a very unique national park. They have no idea of what they missed as the banded vistas give no clue of the hidden forests of long ago. If you find yourself near, stop and marvel. You won’t regret it.

At the north entrance, one could see forever!

Tonight we rest in Holbrook, Arizona, – an oasis in the vast desert and tomorrow we head toward the Grand Canyon with a few very interesting volcano stops beforehand. Please join us!

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