Tag Archives: petrified forest

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.


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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