Day 38 – February 17 – Winslow, AZ to Gallup, NM (Petrified Forest National Park)
If you look on the map, Petrified Forest is a small park with one road running through it. Not too big; shouldn’t take too long. Wrong again!
A coal power plant at Joseph. Winslow is not too far away from the south entrance to Petrified Forest so we were at the Visitor’s Center about 10 am. We looked around the exhibits and walked the Giant Logs Trail (less than half a mile) that starts at the back of the building.We left the Visitor’s Center an hour and a quarter later! And this is how our day continued to go. For a small park it is jammed full of nice trails, beautiful viewpoints, petrified logs here, there and everywhere, and a multitude of gorgeously coloured, striped Badlands.
There must be quite a bit of illegal petrifed wood picking because when we went through the park entrance along with our brochure there was a bright green piece of paper for you to use to write down information for the park rangers if you see someone picking anything up. A very detailed report too: When did it happen? What happened? Who did it (describe them and their vehicle)? Where did it happen?
I asked a ranger about it because we had seen a huge sales lot for petrified wood on our way to the park. He said that 80% of all the petrified wood in the area is OUTSIDE the park boundaries. Of course the stuff is so dense it is very heavy so you certainly couldn’t collect big pieces without equipment. But I was surprised it is obviously enough of an issue they give everyone a ‘spy sheet.’ These panorama shots show the 360 degree view. Our next stop was a 3/4 mile loop trail through the Crystal Forest where many of the petrified logs glint with the quartz in them. This part of Arizona is obviously a major flight path. There were upwards of 15 jetsteams in the sky on several occasions. Many years ago people would walk out and stand on Agate Bridge. Even though the underside has been re-enforced with concrete you are not allowed to walk on it today. I don’t think I would want to anyway. It is a round log over quite a deep gulch full of bushes. Not pleasant if you fall off. Even driving from one designated place to another requires numerous photo stops.You can see the trail as it winds along the bottom of the bluffs.Loved, loved, loved all the colourful stripes.These are called the Teepees.
The ancient Pueblo people lived in this area and a place they call Newspaper Rock has many, many petroglyphs. Archaeologists do not know why they are so many in this one place, nor what meanings they may have.
The Solstice mark is the thin line on this rock. It is on the inner side with other rocks in front of it. The other side of the rock is the open- to-the-air side. How on earth would they figure that out?
And it isn’t very big either.
The famous Route 66 – first national highway that was decommissioned when the freeways became faster and more direct – also used to pass through Petrified Forest. There is a marker in the shape of a 1932 Studebaker sitting in front of a line of power poles where the road used to go.
The park is situated on both sides of the major East-West Freeway, Highway 40 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway line. We passed over the railway and the freeway on overpasses before we stopped at the Route 66 maker.
At this point we had driven about 24 -25 of the 28 mile route through the park and it was almost 4 pm. All that was left to do were a series of viewpoints along a long sweeping curve up a hillside, followed by a corner that took you to the opposite side for some more viewpoints, the former Painted Desert Inn (and now a National Historic Landmark) that contains exhibits about the building’s history and the northern entrance to the park. We stopped at all the viewpoints but skipped the Desert Inn exhibits and the Visitor’s Center at this end of the park.
It was after 4:30 when we drove out of the Petrified Forest National Park. Note to self: Never judge the points of interest in a park by the size of it on a map! What fabulous scenery and interesting things! I had a great day. Sorry to flood the blog with so many photos but I took almost 600 pictures today so this is a small sample really.
We had about 70 miles to drive to get to Gallup, NM for the night. We have now driven through Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and into New Mexico. More states to come.
We were zipping along the freeway between the park boundary and the New Mexico border and I noticed this sign. “Holy cow,” I said to John. “Is that the speed limit? 75 miles an hour? That’s nuts. You better not be doing that.” Silence from the driver’s side of the car.