Monday, 14 April 2014

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

The Petrified Forest is in Arizona just off the i40 on a side road leading off from Holbrook. The first fossil/petrified rock shop/gallery is huge and has some amazing fossils on show as well as lots of polished petrified wood made into whatever their imagination could come up with. The wind from the previous day had reduced a lot and if you found a protected spot in the sun, it was quite warm. My Allstays app showed that the campground was in the southern section of the park. Just before the entrance there are two shops selling polished petrified rocks and other nick knacks. One of them told us that camping was $10.75 a night on both sides of the road, while the other one said it was free but there were no facilities. The actual sites were on the “free” side and it was probably once a thriving business with shelters and tables on concrete pads. The electrical outlets were now non functional but we don’t need power all the time.

Unfortunately, the park is only open from 7am to 7pm, outside the hours of sunrise and sunset, and the rangers enforce it. Once in the park, the Giant Logs surround the visitor centre where you can also see a documentary on the park. The area dates back to before the dinosaurs and the area has many fossils. The water is undrinkable because it contains sodium and iron, just some of the right ingredients to preserve fossils and petrify the wood. Before the area became a national park people took thousands of the petrified trees by the wagon load. 

The first afternoon we explored the area around the visitor centre, the Crystal Forest where we saw a green lizard sunning itself on a piece of petrified wood. There is a good walking trail that takes you around many examples of the petrified trees which are all laying on the ground and look like someone has come in with a chainsaw and cut them all up. 

Incidentally, I’m yet to see a real tree in the park. Next stop is the Jasper Forest which apparently had a huge collection of the petrified wood but it has been mostly removed. The Agate Bridge is a petrified log with the soil underneath having been washing away. They reinforced it in the 1920’s with concrete underneath to stop it from breaking; these days they would just let it fall. Our last stop was the Blue Mesa, and area of badlands which is silted soil that they likened to an elephants skin. We had been warned that the walk into this area had a steep entrance and he wasn’t kidding, a few people didn’t even try walking down but I’m glad we did.

Close up of the petrified tree
green lizard on a petrified tree
The woman at the shop had reminded us that there was a moon eclipse, the blood moon that night at 10:30pm. After checking the time on Google, Lindsay set the alarm for 12:30am as it was due at 12:45am, she was only a few hours out. I had no intention of getting up as I knew it would be freezing! He got some good shots, they aren’t sharp, but you get the idea of what it looks like.
The Blood moon (moon eclipse)
Pueblo village
On our second day, we ventured further into the park, visiting The Tepes (cone shaped formations with layers of iron, carbon and manganese), Newspaper Rock (petroglyphs) and an ancient village of the Pueblo at Puerco Pueblo, then up to the Painted Desert section of the park and the Painted Desert Inn. Well worth coming to.
Newspaper Rock
Painted Desert

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