Petrified and Painted

We continue our tour of the nation’s parks, something we hadn’t planned on but after Mount Rushmore have made it our mission to visit as many as possible along the way. We’re loading our sashes with badges and patches galore!

Monday, September 22 Day 42

We woke up surprised at the base of a mountain and continued East on I-40. Something made me get off the interstate in Winslow. It might have been a crying hungry baby or ants-in-the-pants of my two-year-old but Darryl had an epiphany in the Winslow Visitor’s Center.

He was standing on a corner in Winslow, AZ. Just like the Eagles song Take it Easy.

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We learned after the popular song topped the charts, an artist commissioned a statue that now stands at a historic landmark corner. In fact the corner is classified as a park complete with a mural and permanently parked flatbed Ford!

Among the shops and tourists, we took our turn taking pictures and standing by the “man.”

As we were leaving Darryl said he never knew that just down the street from his regular truck stop he frequented was a very cool thing.

It’s a great day. We blessed a hungry man in need with food and water and went on our way.

Expecting an actual forest, Darryl was disappointed in the park. We entered and made our way to the museum. He asks, “this is it? where are the trees?”

Petrified trees are not trees at all. Not anymore. They also can be found anywhere in the world.

This place, The Petrified Forest National Park, though holds the world’s largest natural collection in one location.

These are ancient trees that grew some 200 ft. tall thousands of years ago in a rainforest that used to be Arizona. Dinasaur-like creatures climbed on their limbs and over time, eras passed. There was a great flood. The trees were ripped from the earth and carried away. They were water-logged with clay, sand, silt and sediment. All the while the earth’s plates shifting as crystal formed and inhabited the wood.

Darryl laughs at my analogy but it reminds me of zombies. The rock comes up to the tree and says, “now you will become like me, I’ll take you over.”

The transformation takes decades but eventually this masterpiece is formed and it is beautiful.

Unfortunately, preservationists weren’t the first to discover this treasure chest of history. No. It was explorers, settlers and entrepreneurs looking for riches and fortune out west.

They stumbled upon the wood and saw quartz. Saw $$$.

They used dynamite to split the rocks and extract anything that could fetch a price so we are now left with small chunks of trees with holes in them.

Sad, but true and fascinating to learn about their awesome journey and this place. I’m proud to say it’s protected by our National Park Service, for now. Every U.S. Citizen needs to do their part.

By visiting the parks, purchasing or just donating we can ensure they will continue to provide our children’s children with the awe-inspiring beauty we’ve witnessed here today.

After the Petrified Forest the drive back to the interstate is gorgeous as it is littered with more geologic history in the Painted Desert. Wood, rocks, hills and valleys. the view from the road is one the best throughout our trip. It really looks like someone took a paint brush and chose all these earthy tones to paint this place.

Back on I-40 East and out of Arizona, we tried to find indian reservations without straying from our path and it proved difficult so we settled for trading posts and gift shops to learn about the local tribes. In Gallup, our final stop for the night was a trading post that had closed for the day so we camped in their lot.

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