Around 11 we took the exit to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Park – this was the only thing located at this exit
. Right off the exit was a big visitor’s center that had a really nice film and some cool shirts – of which Pooh and I each had to get one. This place also had a huge selection of Native American folk art and a gas station – it is easy to run out of gas out here.
The entire road of the park is about 30 miles so I thought it would take us 2 hours to do it. Our first stop was the Painted Desert Inn. This was built during the Route 66 years when that road passed through here. It is just a historic building now with a gift shop but they have refurbished some of the areas like the dining room and the bar area. Being the southwest there are Native American paintings on the wall. Outside was a one mile round trip hike from Katchina Point to Tawa Point. Here you are walking on a cliff that overlooks the Painted Desert. It is called the Painted Desert because when you lookout for the miles and miles of endless vistas, the color scheme looks fake – like someone or Disney just painted it. But it is in fact a real place with so many different red and orange hues blending into each other. We took Quique on this hike but it was very hot so she checked out every bush for some shade for a few min.
From the Painted Desert Inn, the road looped from north to south across the I-40 and the old route 66, and across the railroad (which was the busiest I have ever seen, carrying so much freight to and from the east coast)
. Just past the RR bridge was Puerco Pueblo ruins. Just a small one foot wall and the floor plan was left here. However, on an overlook down to the plane was some petroglyphs which are rock carvings from over 1,000 years ago. Much of these carvings had been taken by early settlers and visitors to the park. But there are still a few left. Another good spot to see petroglyphs was the next stop at the appropriately named Newspaper Rock. Here you are standing on a high bluff overlooking what looks like a rock fall. The sun was hitting us pretty hard here so you could not see them. But there were some telescopes there to check them out. Pooh was getting a little bored since she had seen hardly any petrified wood yet. I told her that would come on the last part of the road. Now we passed through some geologic eye candy called the "teepees." These were cone shaped hills with several layers of different color rocks. From here we drove to a place called Blue Mesa which had a one mile hiking trail around the area – however all the good parking places (I have a big truck so I just can’t park anywhere) were taken, so I drove on. There was an overlook just a few hundred feet down the road which gave a good view of what the trail looked like. The road was on top of these mesas and the minerals actually did make them have a bluish tent.
Now for the petrified wood. We drove for 10 miles after the Blue Mesa to a place called Agate bridge
. At first, I thought it was just another cool overlook. But it did turn out to be a bridge – one of those tree trunk bridges across a ravine. However, this tree trunk was petrified. I had seen some old photos of tourists walking over this bridge. However, since it was so delicate, it was now roped off and supported from underneath. Next was the Jasper Forest which was an overlook into a ravine that was filled with petrified wood logs thrown all over the place. Finally, we reached the premiere trail of the park – the Crystal Forest. This is a one mile up and down trail through most of the petrified logs. It was so windy on this trail that I though Pooh would be blown away. There were a few petrifieds where the entire trunk was intact. Most of the wood was broken into logs. You could see all the different colors of the rock inside the broken pieces. If you only have time for one trail, this is it. Our last stop was the south entrance center which had a small museum and the Giant Logs trail. It really only had one log that was bigger than anything on the Crystal Forest trail. It was named Old Faithful. It really just looked like a giant tree that had fallen over in a storm. Only when you touched it did it feel like a rock.
From here we exited the Petrified Forest National Park and drove northwest for 19 miles to Holbrook. It is one of those towns that have a little bit of everything as far as stores and restaurants go
. They did have several petrified wood stores. You can buy petrified wood as long as it did not come from the park. It was now around 3 and Pooh was getting hungry, so we dropped off at our restaurant of the trip – McDonalds.
After McDonalds we drove west on the I-40 for an hour to this place called the Meteor Crater. It is the best preserved meteor crater in the world. If you have ever seen a picture of a meteor crater, this was probably the one. The interesting thing about this park is it is privately owned and not part of the park service – national or state. The guy who bought this land did so as a mining claim – he thought there might be some cool minerals from the meteorite left over. The cost to get in was $15 each which I thought was a little high. But it is a sight to see. It is 550 feet deep, 4,000 feet across, and 2.4 miles in circumference. I just wish they had a trail around the rim – I just love trails to anywhere. But we could only see it from a few places. The museum on meteorites in the building was top notch and up to date. Before we went out we did see a video on the meteor in a regular sized theater which gave a pretty good representation on the crash. After that, someone gave a 20 min. lecture on the place and that too was very informative. The place even had a Subway and a campground.
From here it was 35 miles back to Flagstaff. Since we had a late lunch we did not go out anywhere for dinner or cook in the RV. I did go to McDonalds for a small snack and a few hours of uploading pics and videos. If you have good Wi-Fi, you’re going to get my business. After this it was back to the RV where Pooh was already snoozing away.
Today was going to be the longest drive on the trip without the RV. We are going to head just over 100 miles to the east on the I-40 to a place called Petrified Forest National Park. The drive out there on the I-40 was just miles and miles of flat scrub land and ranch land with very few signs of habitation. There were a few towns of significance on the road there like Winslow and Holbrook which each had their share of businesses that could be found in any suburban area of the US – McDonalds, Wal-Mart, hotels, etc. There were some exits off the highway that seemed to go on to nowhere. Other exits only whet to these old time trading posts that saw their heyday 50 years ago. These are the places that sell all kinds of Indian curios and has the world's biggest this and the world’s biggest that.