The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park lies about a 3 hour drive away from our Cottonwood area RV park. The drive itself is beautiful and varied as it takes you up and around the heights of Flagstaff and back down into the high desert terrain.
I’ve seen the occasional isolated petrified log, but I’ve never seen anything like the scale of lumber-rock that exists in this park. It fools the eye. From a distance, it looks just like someone has mowed down a bunch of trees. Because of the way the long, heavy logs fracture, it even looks like the lumberjacks chain sawed the logs into neat chunks, awaiting some purpose. But when you get close …. it’s all rock!
Petrified wood is, in essence, a fossil. 225 million years ago, the land that makes up the Park was located about where Costa Rica is now, part of the massive Pangea continent. The area was in a tropical climate and covered in dense forest. Giant trees lived, died and were buried in river sediment and volcanic ash, which prevented their normal decay. Over the millennia, those buried logs were saturated with minerals which replaced the organic material, creating the petrified wood. Eventually uplift and erosion caused the logs to re-emerge from the sediment they were buried in.
Petrified Forest National Park is essentially a “drive through” park with stops and short trails at several highlight features. It is located within the Painted Desert, with its hills, mesas and valleys of brightly colored horizontal sandstone layers. Along with the scenery, the Park includes Puebloan ruins and areas with petroglyphs. But for us, the highlight was the amazing, ancient petrified wood.
I really wanted a chunk of that stuff to keep, but of course, collecting anything within a National Park is a great big no-no. However, just outside the park in the nearby town of Holbrook, you can find gift shops that are simply loaded with the rock. Tons and tons of it! So, if you want to collect a piece, there are ample legal alternatives! I was able to obtain my multi-colored specimen.
On the way back, we stopped in Winslow, immortalized in the Eagles song, “Take It Easy”. We took the obligatory photo at the “Standin’ on the Corner” statue and grabbed a late lunch. It’s nice to know that a little piece of old Route 66 still survives.
You know the song is stuck in your head now! You’re welcome.
“Standin’ on the corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me ….”