Sunday, October 20, 2019
We were staying at Holbrook / Petrified Forest KOA Journey. There were two obvious routes to take from the KOA to the park.
Interstate 40 passes through the National Park. Since the park’s main road is a north-south road, we had to enter either from the north or south. We chose the closer south entrance.
Two businesses flanked both sides of the highway south of the park’s south entrance. One was a gift shop.
The second business billed itself as a museum, gift shop and RV park.
We pulled up to the south Petrified Forest National Park entrance before 8:00, the time the park gates open.
Promptly at 8:00, the gates opened.
Once inside the gate, our first stop was to get our National Park sign picture. In the picture’s foreground are two petrified wood logs. One log was on its end and the other was laying down.
We were expecting to show up at the Ranger’s window, show our National Parks Pass and just get a visitor guide and map. Then, as a bonus, we received a lecture on leaving the artifacts in the park unmolested.
It might not have helped to have looked at the map before arriving in the park. The park is much more than just a petrified forest. The petrified logs are just the main attraction, that weird unique thing that makes the park special.
The next thing down the road was what initially looked like a Ranger Station and Visitor Center.
We had arrived at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center. On the inside, it looked like the usual National Park Service Ranger Station. Museum with displays and artifacts. Gift shop. Ranger behind a desk to answer questions.
Much of the display space was devoted to fossils, some of which included dinosaur bones. Relatively little space was provided to petrified wood.
In the museum’s theater, a video running every ½ hour describes the park’s many wonders.
The ranger’s desk is on the left of the gift shop and the gift shop cash register is on the right. A petrified forest, the Giant Logs Trail, is outside the museum’s back door.
Petrified logs, whole and in sections, are scattered along the Giant Logs Trail behind the museum.
In the pictures, the petrified logs look like some sort of exotic tree trunks. The grain says wood. But the color and texture says stone. All of these stone tree trunks scattered over a desert hillside seems like an environmental catastrophe envisioned in the darkest Science Fiction writing. Knowing that an environmental catastrophe is not the cause doesn’t change that “end-of-the-world” feeling.
Located on the same parking lot as the Ranger Station, Rainbow Forest Lodge Gift Shop carries souvenirs including petrified wood legally obtained outside the park.
The petrified wood items were particularly nice. I was considering buying a beautiful shiny smooth petrified wood souvenir until I saw the prices. The small pieces I liked were in the $30 to $100 range.
The pottery was especially beautiful. I spent some time looking at the pieces. I believe it was all locally made by Native American craftsmen.
The gift shop also had typical gift shop items like mugs, t-shirts and baseball caps. All items seemed of good quality.
Crystal Forest is a petrified forest area where the logs are loaded with quartz. The quartz is supposed to glimmer in the sun. We did not see glimmering quartz. However, the petrified logs were pretty cool anyways.
Just off the Jasper Forest parking lot was an overlook. There, a view of the river valley stretched out before us.
It wasn’t until I looked at the base of the hill directly below the overlook that we saw petrified wood. Lots and lots of petrified wood. In the above picture, the petrified wood is in the shadows between the hill we were on and the jumble of boulders.
Agate Bridge is a 110 foot petrified log spanning a gully. The gully is at most 40 feet across. Concern that the log might break in half and fall into the gully led a group to reinforce the log by placing a concrete beam directly under it. The concrete is visible in the above picture.
Blue Mesa has a 3½ mile loop with panoramic views.
Looking down from the top along the edges of the mesa, petrified logs are scattered everywhere.
The Tepees help visitors visualize layering. Layers are clearly visible.
Humans have lived in the park for at least 13,000 years. There are signs of ancient human habitation at newspaper rock.
Newspaper Rock is covered by petroglyphs created before Europeans came to the Americas.
Puerco Pueblo is the sight of an ancestral Puebloan village.
The village was big. The outer wall’s foundation, even though the camera makes it look curved, is really a big square.
The Puerco Pueblo people had a summer solstice marker. On the longest day of the year, sun would shine through the notch on the top of the big left rock and (see picture below) illuminate a squiggly line on the right hand rock.
Inside the green circle, there is a spiral line. On the summer solstice, the center of the spiral is lit.
Route 66 passed through Petrified Forest National Park. Now, I-40 passes through the park in nearly the same spot.
The memorial has the remains of a Ford Model T and a bumper and grill from what looks like a a fifties or sixties era Cadillac bumper and grill.
We did a couple of pullouts (Lacey Point, Whipple Point or Nizhoni Point) along the road. The desert scenery was really good.
Pintado Point also had pretty good views.
From the parking lot, visitors can take the sidewalk to higher ground providing a panoramic view of the desert.
Painted Desert Inn, now a National Historic Landmark, was completed in 1920. It was built using wood and native stone in the Pueblo Revival style. The National Park Service bought the hotel in 1935. In 1939, the Fred Harvey Company took over management of the property. In 1947, the Fred Harvey Company hired the famous architect Mary Colter to finish renovations started by the National Park Service several years before. The latest round of renovations completed in 2006.
The inn’s interior is stunning. It looks organic – grown out of the desert ground and decorated with southwestern Native American themes.
The above picture shows southwestern Native American themed artwork above the restaurant booth.
We had to pass by the north Entrance Station before getting to the Painted Desert Visitor Center. Approaching the Entrance Station we saw signs instructing us to stop on the way out. Apparently, having visitors stop on the way out helps keep the petrified wood and other artifacts in the park. The ranger took one look at us and waved us through.
Painted Desert Visitor Center is the northern visitor center. It is a short distance from an exit on I-40.
The Painted Desert Visitor Center has a modest gift shop area inside the Ranger Station.
A few polished petrified wood logs were on display in the visitor center. Polishing stones like this really brings out the colors.
The door into the Painted Desert Oasis is to the left of the visitor center. We went inside for lunch and to look around in the gift shop.
Lunch portions were small for the price but the food was really good. I would eat here again.
The petrified wood souvenirs in the Desert Oasis Gift Shop were just as expensive as the ones at the Rainbow Forest Lodge Gift Shop. Polished stone prices are expensive.
Before leaving the park, we stopped at the gas station to fill up. Gas prices were $2.899 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. This seems like a high price compared to San Antonio or St. Louis. However, it is cheap compared to Death Valley at $4.60 per gallon or Grand Canyon at $4.199 per gallon.
We drove back to the KOA along I-40.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!