Spend Some Time at Petrified Forest National Park
by Susan Woodward
Many people stop at Petrified Forest National Park
on their way to or from the Grand Canyon and ask, “We have two hours, what do you recommend we see? “ It takes 45 minutes to drive from one end of the park to the other; you’re able to view several beautiful sights without getting out of your car, you’ll have time to take a hike or two, and you may end up thinking it is a pretty barren and desolate land. However, if you’ll look more carefully, spend a little time and ask questions, you’ll discover that it is actually rich with life.
has a story that starts 225 million years ago in the late Triassic era, the time of the earliest dinosaurs, when what there was of North American was part of the supercontinent, Pangea, and this part of AZ was a hot and humid climate near the equator. The story continues today with every gust of wind and drop of rain. It’s a story of constant change. If you take some time to immerse yourself in that story, you’ll be in for an unexpected treat. You may get glimmerings of understanding as to how our world came to be and where we came from.
Although petrified wood can be found in every state and many countries, probably the world’s largest concentration of beautifully colored petrified wood is here in this park. More than the petrified wood, though, Petrified Forest is a treasure trove of both plant and animal fossils. How did so much petrified wood end up here? What kind of plants and animals lived here all those millions of years ago? You’ll be able to start answering those questions after viewing the 20-minute video that gives an overview of the entire park. But for more in depth understanding, spend time with the exhibits at the Rainbow Forest Museum
and listen to the ranger talks.
Hike the Blue Mesa Trail
, a one mile paved walk through a strange landscape of white, blue, lavender and gray sedimentary rocks in the Triassic Chinle Formation. These soft colors, as well as the reds, oranges and purples seen in the badlands at the north end of the park, are caused by small amounts of iron, manganese and organic material trapped in the mud that settled out of the floodplains next to the Chinle streams. Petrified wood is scattered everywhere along the trail.
Stop at Newspaper Rock
to view the petroglyphs, rock drawings made by pecking through the dark brown patina, called desert varnish, which occurs on the surfaces of sandstone. There are thousands of these petroglyphs throughout the park, but this spot is where they are most easily viewed. The drawings depict human and animal figures, geometric designs, and several symbols which seem to be solar calendars.
is a partially excavated archaeological ruin that was occupied about a thousand years ago by what we now call Ancestral Puebloan people. (Archaeologists named them “Anasazi” but that term, a Navajo word meaning “ancient enemies” is no longer considered politically correct.) How did anyone manage to survive in this harsh environment? What did they eat? Where did they get water? Why did they leave and where did they go? Once again, if you can join up with a ranger-guided walk around the ruins, you’ll gain understanding and admiration for the resourcefulness of these ancient people.
The story of the Painted Desert Inn
traces its history from its beginning as a tourist trap built of petrified wood on the edge of the beautiful Painted Desert, through many interesting and inspiring transformations and renovations to its present-day status as a National Historic Landmark. Join the ranger-led tour of the Inn to learn about the wonderful work done by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the design influence of Mary Colter, and the period when the Harvey Girls ran the dining room.
Ranger programs at all three locations are held every day, and there are special hikes from time to time to places visitors don’t usually get to see. You can find out times by checking the Petrified Forest website
, or calling the visitor center at 928-524-6228.
Petrified ForestNational Park
is on the “Grand Circle” of parks and monuments in Arizona, Southern Utah, Southwest Colorado and Northwest New Mexico. The Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hovenweep, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Mesa Verde – all these and more are a day’s drive or less.
Article submitted Sunday, July 31, 2011 & read 1079 times.
Susan Woodward has lived in many parts of the U.S. and has always delighted in watching the birds in her various backyards, watching their fledglings grow and take wing each year, listening to their songs.
For years Susan had a dream of retiring and traveling the country in an RV, and in 2007 she took steps to start making that dream come true. She bought a Winnebago Sightseer and traveled to New Mexico and Arizona on a three month shakedown cruise. She was hooked!
In 2008, she sold her home in North Carolina and, with her cat, Bijou, took to the road again as a full time RVer. Her backyard has gotten a lot bigger and wherever she goes, there are birds.
She is the creator of a website dedicated to the various aspects of RVing. You can read about her adventures and misadventures at http://www.rv-adventuring.com.
Please log in to leave your comments.
No comments yet.
Copyright © 2012 IcoLogic, Inc.