Most tourists see the sights at the Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona in only one day. It is often a quick stop on the way to or from other attractions. There is one well-paved road that runs north and south through the park. There are no campgrounds within the park, and camping is limited to backpacking into the wilderness area. Although there are some short (2 miles or less) hiking opportunities, most of the park is seen from roadside pullouts or short paved walks. Being full timers allowed us the luxury of spending two days there.
On our first day we started at the
south entrance on Hwy 180. When visiting a National Park, we always go to the visitors center first and watch the video.
It usually gives very good information.
In this case there was a self guided walk through an area with quite a few large hunks of petrified wood lying about.
In the morning the temperatures were in the mid 70's with a pretty stiff breeze. This part of Arizona is quite high so it doesn't have the blazing hot weather like the more southern parts of the state.
O.K. The picture above was taken off a sign. This is the picture I took. He was the first Collared Lizard I have ever seen, and I wish the picture had been a better one.
Our next stop was at the Crystal Forest, an area that was ravaged by collectors. The logs in this area had a lot of crystals within the logs. In the past collectors shattered the logs with dynamite in order to remove the crystals.
These are some of the pieces in this area:
This log was down a slope and has separated as it was revealed by erosion. The separation into segments is natural. But I had fun imagining some long-ago woodsman cutting them up with his chain saw for firewood.
As the day progressed, the wind picked up, and by mid afternoon it was blowing so hard it became uncomfortable to stand to near any cliffs or drop offs. The clouds became thick and darker on the horizon, and I saw a few flickers of lightening in the distance. But it never did rain, and we continued our drive through the park.
The Petrified Forest National Park is not just about petrified wood. There are also fantastic land formations all around. The same minerals that permeated the wood are in the soils and have colored the residual soil.
After stopping at the Jasper Forest and Agate Bridge we drove around the Blue Mesa Loop.
One would never know these formations exist when driving along the flat desert lands just a half mile or so away.
We could have walked down to the bottom of this canyon, but were tired from our earlier walk and leery of the weather outlook.
We returned to the main road and not far to the north we came upon these formations which were called the Teepees.
Our last stop for the day was at the site of a pueblo ruin. In this area there were many petroglyphs visible on the rocks.
Messages? Magic? Or ancient graffiti?
This post is getting way too long! I will write about our second day in the Painted Desert area soon.