The sun woke me before 6, which I didn’t appreciate. I did want to spend time in the petrified forest, and I guess it would be good long term.
I packed and started back east, riding into the sun. I felt a little shakey, and decided to get something non camp food to eat. There was a Denny’s next to the fast station, so I called it a winner and got a grand slam with huge pancakes. It was more food than I’d had since the BBQ in Texas, and was worth the $10.
But I wasn’t there to eat, and I reached the Petrified Forest National Park around 9. There weren’t many people around.
The Petrified Forest National Park is actually two parks, with the petrified wood in the southern part, and the Painted Desert in the north (where I had entered).
I hadn’t even known the Painted Desert (Coronado gave it the name – yeah that Coronado) was even there. It was impressively beautiful, red stone in the north and trending blue as we went south.
As cool as the desert was, I was there for the trees. Now, I think everyone has a mental image when they hear the word “forest,” I know I did, and the petrified forest isn’t it.
There are three collections of petrified trees in the park – Jasper, crystal, and rainbow. Jasper has an overlook and the others hiking paths. The trees were petrified after falling down and being swept into a lake bed, where they were covered with silt. The silt contained enough silica to replace the organic components of the cells.
There isn’t much left anymore.
Crystal and Rainbow forests were also picked over, but you are allowed to get a little closer.
It really does look like wood, though even small bits are very heavy (since they’re stone and everything). Bits of quartz, colored with other minerals, had formed inside the logs –
These crystals account for the names, and they were also heavily pillaged until the park had enough patrols to prevent people from taking them. It was actually illegal in 1906, when Theodore Roosevelt declared the area a national monument, but that didn’t stop people. Even the presence of park rangers didn’t do much until there were enough of them.
It was late afternoon when we rolled out of the south end of the park, heading west again. I had one more planned stop before Flagstaff (where I had hotel reservation and plans for a much needed shower and laundry).
Meteor Crater (properly Barringer’s crater) is just off I40. A paid attraction rather than a national park, the crater claims to be the best preserved impact crater on the planet.
To give the picture some scale, 20 football games could be played simultaneously on the crater floor while two million people watched.
There are three viewing platforms, though the highest one was so windy as to be unvisitable. The others, still windy, were better and had hard mounted points to view specific areas of the crater and rim.
The attraction closed at 5, and a little after that I left, talking with a man in his 60s, traveling with his wife. He’d traveled on a motorcycle in North America with his father, both on Honda 350s, when he’d been much younger. He had seen Curiosity in the parking lot and had been looking for someone who looked like the rider. We talked about Alaska, now much different than when he’d been, and travel in general. Eventually, I had to get moving. The winds were still powerful and I had to ride into them.
I did reach the hotel, do laundry, shower (3 times), before heading to the expo.