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A Little More Desert and Wood!

Some have wondered how we can remember so much of the detail of our trip from 25 years ago.  Truth be told, we don’t always remember *everything* until we read our journal.  We kept a journal throughout our trip across the country, and we wrote in it every night.  We took turns doing this, and on July 21st, Bill made the following journal entry:

Got up at 6:00 a.m.  I got up before Laurie did, had 2 cups of coffee before she opened her eyes.

We didn’t use an alarm clock except for those days when we were driving to the next destination and wanted to arrive by a certain time.  On this particular day, Bill’s internal clock went off early!

We went back out to the National Park to start sightseeing at the exact point that we left off the day before when Laurie’s contacts had started to bother her.  The first stop was to take the walking trail out to the Crystal Forest.

Crystal Forest

The Crystal Forest is a place where a lot of the petrified wood has been vandalized.  Many throughout the years had carted off a lot of this precious rock.  In fact there were loads of logs within this area that the mark of having been chiseled and broken up for the vandals to cart off the quartz crystals was evident.

Broken Pieces of Petrified Wood

Here lies an area that has the beginning effects of the badlands of the painted desert.  The logs lie out in the vast expanse among the silt-like formations.  The logs are those little dots you see in the background.

Badlands with Petrified Wood Logs

The next location that we rode the motorcycle to was the Jasper Forest.   Jasper Forest has a wonderful overlook that lets the visitor view the vast land of the badlands within the painted desert as a complete overview.

Jasper Forest Overlook

While we were in the area of Jasper Forest, Bill spied a few of the park’s herd of pronghorn antelope lying in a wash bed.  He crept up very quietly to capture it on film.

Pronghorn Antelope

There is a bounty of mammals that live within the boundaries of the national park, such as porcupine, coyote, fox, badger, bobcat, mule deer and a varied assortment of squirrels and chipmunks.  Alas, we only spied the pronghorns and a few squirrels on our trip through the park.

Photo of the Agate Bridge in Petrified Forest ...

Image via Wikipedia

Along in this area we got to see the Agate Bridge.  We didn’t take a picture of the Agate Bridge for a couple of reasons.  First, we were expecting to see a petrified log that fell across the expanse of an existing wash.  As you can see from the picture that we found with our helpful friend, Zementa (a software that lets you utilize their pre-approved permission of usage by downloading the software) the log has been supported by human intervention, namely a concrete support.  Apparently in 1911 some conscientious conservationists decided that Agate Bridge needed a bit of structural support, hence they created some masonry pillars to support the old log.  But in 1917 those supports were replaced with the current concrete support that you see in the picture.  (Also we believe that we may have an actual picture of Agate Bridge somewhere in our piles and piles of pictures, but to be honest – we just couldn’t find it).

After viewing the pronghorns, we moved onto the Blue Mesa.  Unfortunately, when we were there the Tepees Area and the Newspaper Rock (with petroglyphs) were closed.  But we did get some pictures that were on the outskirts of the Blue Mesa Area.

Blue Mesa

Next our adventures took us to the Puerco Indian Ruins. Here there is strong evidence that the area sustained human habitation in the past.  This section is plentiful with the writings of the ancient man who resided in the area.  Here is a rock (not Newspaper Rock – remember that was closed) displaying the artwork/writings of the Indians that lived in the area long ago.

Petroglyphs

The Puerco Indian Ruins is one of over 300 Indian ruins within the park.  The Puerco ruins is the location where approximately 60 – 75 inhabitants lived as farmers.  The picture below is the remains of the stone houses that the people of that time built in the area.  This ruin is what is left today (or more accurately – 25 years ago) of the 76-room, two-story housing that the people resided in – quiet a nice little community!

Puerco Indian Ruins

During our time of exploring the ruins, we happened upon this fellow atop an outcropping of rock.  We thought he was an interesting character amongst the ruins.

Raven atop Rock

From this point we crossed the SanteFe Railroad and Route 40 to the most beautiful part of the painted desert.  Here is where we ate lunch – nice peaceful place to nibble at our leisure

Painted Desert

Our journal tells us that upon arriving at our campsite that Bill changed the oil in our home on wheels as our travels had taken us a total of 3849.3 miles thus far.  But some of the most beautiful attractions are yet to be seen, as we traveled on to the Grand Canyon from here.

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Painted Desert and Petrified Forest

Petrified wood at the base of a hill in the Pa...
Image via Wikipedia

Bill and Laurie left Apache Junction on July 19, 1985 to travel 238 miles to Holbrook, Arizona.  What’s near Holbrook, Arizona?  The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park.

It rained when we arrived at Holbrook for several hours, so we got our RV settled, had dinner, then went to the campsite’s recreation hall for the evening.  In the rec hall there was a television set tuned to the “Dukes of Hazzard” show.  This wasn’t re-runs folks!  This was the actual date and time that their original shows aired.  This was about the end of their run on television, so we weren’t thrilled with the Dukes antics, but there wasn’t much else to do – so we watched the episode.  Then we walked back to the motor home to sleep for the night.

We got an early start on Saturday, July 20th to ride the 20 miles on our motorcycle to the entrance of the park.  Interestingly, the park only cost $1.00 to enter per vehicle and the ticket was honored for entrance into the park for up to 2 weeks.  Out of curiosity, we checked what the current prices are to enter the park.  Private vehicles can enter the park for up to 7 days by paying $10.  Single bicyclists, motorcyclists, and walk-ins can obtain the same privileges for $5.  If riding in tandem, both riders pay $5 each!  What a difference 25 years can make in the fees!

In the mid-1800’s U.S. Army mappers and surveyors came into this area and carried back East stories of the remarkable trees that had turned to stone.  After a period of using the wood for souvenirs and numerous commercial ventures, territorial residents recognized that the supply of petrified wood was not endless; therefore, in 1906 the area was set aside as the Petrified Forest National Monument.  It became a national park in 1962.

You may be wondering what is the “petrified forest”?  Back in the Triassic period, the area around Holbrook held a tall (approximately 100 feet in height), stately pine-like forest that grew along the headwaters.  The tall trees fell and were washed by swollen streams into the floodplain that sits upon this high, dry tableland.  The trees were covered by silt, mud, and volcanic ash; and this blanket of deposits cut off oxygen – which slowed the logs’ decay.  Gradually, silica-bearing ground waters seeped through the logs and replaced the original wood tissues with silica deposits.  Slowly the process hardened the silica substances; and the logs were preserved as petrified wood – which is actually rock.

Rocks (petrified wood) display the different colors of the minerals that were instrumental in progressing the process of fossilization.  This closeup of the petrified wood shows the varied coloration, yet one can decipher the grains of the wood texture.

Closeup of Petrified Wood

Behind the museum, they had a water display with petrified wood sitting in tanks of water.  The water made the colors more brilliant and discernible to the eye.

Behind the Museum

There’s a beautifully laid out walking path behind the visitor’s center to view the Giant Logs area.  This walkway is to prevent people from getting off the beaten path to explore or maybe even steal some of the precious petrified wood.

Laurie Next to Giant Log

You can truly get an idea how royal these tall pine-like trees were when you see someone standing among the present-day ruins.

Bill Standing with a Giant Log

Next we traveled on to the Agate House.  The Agate House was originally built by the Anasazi people over 700 years ago.  Just who were these ancient people called the Anasazi?  They were a culture that resided within the “four corners” of our country.  The four corners encompass New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.  They were very inept at creating their living quarters from the environment that surrounded them.  Remember the cliff dwellings from a few posts ago?  The Anasazi people lived within cliff dwellings throughout the four-corner region.   Apparently, they also could build petrified wood houses.

The Agate House was constructed solely with the utilization of petrified wood.   The pueblo originally had 7 rooms within its structure, but when the park service reconstructed it in 1934, they only reconstructed two rooms of the rock house.

Agate House

After viewing the Agate House, we ventured along the trail to the Flattops.  The Flattops are one example of the beautiful sandstone formations that have developed throughout the park.  The “painted desert” portion of the park is very hard to photograph as the position of the sun, the cloud cover, and the dryness of the mounds affect the brilliancy of the colors that are displayed.

Flattops of the Painted Desert

After viewing the Flattops………well………

Sorry folks!  At this point (which was approximately 3:00 p.m.) Laurie’s contacts started to bother her.  Must have been from all the flying sand as it was very dry at the park when we visited.

So we hopped back on the motorcycle to return to our motor home for the evening.  But join us next time as we continue to tell you of our fabulous adventures at the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park.

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Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

We left Silver City, New Mexico and all its wonders on July 16, 1985.  We were sad to leave the area as there were many things that we would have liked to stay and see, but we did have an agenda (not a really rigid one), but enough to move on to Arizona and the Superstition Mountains.

Superstition Mountains

The Superstition Mountains are east of the Phoenix area.  The recreational features in this area are endless.  The mountains are within the Superstition Wilderness Area where trails, lakes, mountain terrain, and desert prevail.   There’s rock climbing at Weaver’s Needle.  One can find the high desert a bit toasty in the summer months, but the dry climate does help with the heat index.

View of suburban development in Phoenix metrop...
Image via Wikipedia

We usually avoided metropolitan areas on our trip, because we always felt the best scenery, and the best options for us to really “see’ the country lie in keeping far from city life.  But since the Superstition Mountains were close to Phoenix, we bent our rules just a tiny bit.

We camped outside of Phoenix in a campground that was mostly deserted.  We were told by the campground attendant that the park was known for its “snowbird” population during the winter.  Sites were crammed in very close to each other on the sandy, desert floor.  Thankfully, there were only about 2 other campers in the whole park, so we didn’t mind too much.  It’s not that we didn’t like to see and talk to people while traveling.  It was more about the privacy issues of being in such close proximity to the next site.  When it’s a 110 degrees inside your motor home without the luxury of air conditioning, you didn’t want people peeking in first thing in the morning when you weren’t really donning many clothes.  We also liked to be able to have a conversation without feeling that our neighbor could hear us unless we whispered to each other.

Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time, so in the middle of the summer one can expect to see the sun make its fast decline below the horizon around 8:00 p.m.  Our days felt shorter due to this, but it didn’t stop us from checking out the surrounding area.

You may be wondering what the attraction to Superstition Mountains was that encouraged us to bend our rule of staying far from big cities.  Bill has always loved the idea of gold prospecting.  In fact, while living in California for almost 10 years, Bill, Laurie and their young son (at that time he was just a toddler) did a lot of weekend prospecting.

Legend holds that the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine lies within the Superstition Mountains.  Mining has since been restricted within the Superstition Mountains due to the fact that it lies within the wilderness area, but Bill still had the yearning to poke around a bit.

Superstition Wilderness Area

The Lost Dutchman’s Gold mine is a legendary story of a man named Jacob Waltz who on his deathbed confessed that he had discovered a rich gold vein near Apache Junction.  There are many mines that were developed after his death, but no verified reports that they were Waltz’s vein.  The legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold mine is one of the most famous “lost mine” legends in America today.  Although Bill had a great mind to explore the area for the lost mine, we also did a lot of touring of the area.  In fact, the motorcycle tours we took were so beautiful that Bill pretty much forgot about poking around for those old gold mines.

We woke the next day to a very young couple (just like us) arriving at the campground with a large U-Haul truck.  They were from Pennsylvania – not a great distance from us when we lived in central New York when you consider how far we were from home.

Naturally we stuck up a conversation with the two travelers.  They were looking to settle the wife (Theresa) in Apache Junction, while Mike (the husband) was going to be traveling onto San Diego, California.  He was in the U.S. Navy.  He was expecting to go out on a big ship for a very long time, so he was settling Theresa in with her parents in Apache Junction.  She was 5 months pregnant at the time, and honestly, we don’t know how she handled the heat so well being that pregnant.

Mike opened the back of his U-Haul truck to reveal his fairly new 700 cc Honda motorcycle.  Bill started grinning from ear to ear.  After a brief discussion among the men, we all decided to take our motorcycles for a tour on the Apache Trail.

Apache Trail

The Apache Trail is a 180 mile loop which consists of some gravel/dirt roads that give a rustic charm to the drive.  We traveled through the tiny town of Tortilla Flat.  If you blinked you would miss it.

Another Picture of the Apache Trail

We saw hordes of tarantulas crawling along the roadway.  On a motorcycle it can be hazardous to come along a tarantula making its way across the road.  We tried to avoid them at all costs, because they can be flung up by the tires of a motorcycle onto the people riding.  Nope, not for us!  We saw dead rattlesnakes (only dead ones, thankfully) lying in the road.  One we saw was over a yard in length.

We traveled approximately 28 miles on a gravely, then sandy road.  The sandy road was tough going as there were hairpin turns and we could only travel at 10 15 miles per hour which is tough on a motorcycle as it grinds its way through the sandy sludge of the so called road.  We never seemed to get enough traction to get going very fast, and those hairpin turns were looking treacherous at times.

Bill on the Apache Trail

We stopped at Apache Lake for a nice swim.

Apache Lake

We stopped at Canyon Lake for a swim.

Canyon Lake

We stopped at Roosevelt Lake for yet another dip.

Swimming In Roosevelt Lake

It was extremely hot and humid, so all the swimming holes along the way made for a nice way to cool off.

We drove through Tonto National State Park.  At the state park, we met a traveler who was riding a bicycle along the Apache Trail.  He was a young man from Germany.  He had started his travels in Georgia by riding his bicycle all the way to Arizona.  His destination was California, where he planned on catching a flight back to his home in Germany.  He had told us that he had only spent $15.00 so far for overnight accommodations.  He mostly slept along the road in his sleeping bag.  We discussed with Mike and Theresa how we thought this young German man was so brave as he was out there sleeping amongst the Gila Monsters (deadly), black widows (deadly), scorpions (also deadly, tarantulas, coral snakes (you guessed correctly – deadly), and rattlesnakes (guess we don’t have to tell you all that they are DEADLY!)

The desert scenery was one that we never tired of.  The Saguaro cacti were plentiful.  They can grow up to 50 feet tall and weigh 12 tons.

Saguaro Cactus

The Saguaro can live up to 200 years. The first arms of the saguaro develop at age 75. It can have as many as 50 arms. The Sonoran Desert is the only place in the world where it grows.

Another Saguaro Cactus

The view within the mountains brought a serene atmosphere to our long drive.

It was a long day, but an enjoyable one.  We were a bit sorry to say goodbye to Mike and Theresa, but it was probably just as well.  Mike and Bill together were a bit mischievous during the day.  They had found a large open field with rocks lying on the desert terrain, and much to Laurie and Theresa’s horror they decided to start turning over the rock.  What were these two dare devils up to?  They were looking for scorpions.  They also had a run in with some fireworks, but we won’t bore you all with that silliness.

Join us next time as we travel on to Holbrook, Arizona.  Does anyone know what wonderful attraction is near Holbrook Arizona?  If you don’t know, come join us next time as we move our old motor home down the road.

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