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