Winslow & Petrified Forest
Trip Start May 19, 2009
11Trip End Jun 06, 2009
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"Standin on the corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, come down to take a look at me"
The locals have capitalized on this reference shamelessly - two of the four courners at this intersection have 'Standin on the Corner' memorabilia stores, and the third has a statue of a man loafing on the corner, looking towards a red flad bed Ford parked at the side of the street. So now we've been there, done that got the obligatory photo - as well as assorted key chains, hats, etc. On our way out of town we played the Eagles greatest hits CD that Louise picked up in Flagstaff yesterday on our way back from the Grand Canyon
Next on the agenda, a self guided tour of the Petrified Forest National Park just east of Holbrook. We started at the north end at the Painted Desert Visitor Centre with a video on how the petrified forest came about - the area was once a tropical swamp, and the trees were part of a logjam that got submerged, covered with volcano ash, and the silica from the ash percolated inside the trees and replaced the carbon, cell by cell, creating stone replicas of the logs. It also gave a history of the park, and admonitions not to remove any fossils. In the past the petrified forest was exploited for the crystals, jasper and agate, to the point where dynamite was even used to blow open the logs. Apparently, an estimated tonne of petrified wood still leaves the park every month. Just to drive the point home, they showed a fellow getting handcuffed after being caught trying to leave the park with a chunk of petrified wood in his pocket.
We started at the north end of the park, in the Painted Desert Wilderness Area. No petrified wood here, just known for it's multicolored badlands. We had a few quick stops to take pictures of the badlands, but for the most part we practiced 'drive by tourism' - slow down the Sequoia, roll down the electric windows, take a few quick pictures, and drive on..
We then drove down to the southern part of the park, the Petrified Forest Wilderness Area, where most of the concentrations of petrified wood are found. We stopped at Crystal Forest, and followed a short 'hike' through a barren and eroded wash scattered with petrified logs. Many of them were in short sections, but we concluded that these had mostly broken naturally, as they were lain out in long articulating sections, some of which were partially buried. Some of the logs were a dull khaki color, but most of them were a darker mahogany or reddish black on the outside, with concentric rings of red and yellow jasper and clear or purple chalcedony towards the centre. Very beautiful. Some of them had the central bits pried out, and there were also some worked chunks of chalcedony on the ground. We were speculating about whether this area would have been mined for lithic material by ancestral Puebloan peoples - David did spot a few chalcedony cores and flakes - whether or not they were pre-contact detritus is anyone's guess.
We stopped at a couple of archaeological sites on our way out. There was another Newspaper Rock site - not nearly as good as the one we saw in Utah. There may have been almost as many densely packed glyphs, but access was restricted to a lookout well above the two boulders which contained the petroglyphs and both boulders were positioned at an angle to the lookout. You couldn't get a really good look at them, even through the constricted view of three telescopes mounted on the lookout.
The final stop was Puerco Pueblo - the partially excavated remains of a fairly large Ancestral Puebloan (Anastasi) village that was abandoned about 1380. Just beyond the ruins, on the edge of the valley leading to the Puerco River, were some scattered petroglyphs. These were more easily visible, and included some interesting pieces - a glyph that looked like a stork which appeared to be eating a baby and an unusual abstract design that resembled pottery decoration.