Monday, March 21, 2016

Nature's Artistry Not to Be MIssed

Get to Gallup and continue west. Fighting a head wind with some side gusts, and the windshield very loud, but another 70 miles sounds like the best plan.

We have reservations beginning Wednesday just east of Holbrook, AZ, and figure they'll have space for us a few days early. Don't have to worry about that - Root 66 RV Park is empty. And it is still empty as we just keep on driving. The park is on the off-ramp. Seriously, the back of the "sites" is the freeway fence. 

We figure we could do better. And we do.

OK RV Park in Holbrook is much quieter, cleaner, and feels a lot safer. It's also at the edge of town with access to eateries and stores. Not a lot of them, it's a small, somewhat quirky place.

The popular 1960's wigwam motels of Route 66
Lots of dinosaurs in Holbrook
The spaces are 100 foot long pull-throughs with every-other-one facing the opposite direction. When everyone pulls all the way forward, there's more room for everybody. It's still pretty much a big gravel lot with some small to big trees throughout. FHUs w/50 amp for a small fee, helpful and friendly staff, small store, clean laundry and restrooms. No dog area, but there's plenty of places for Tessa to get out and do her business. They also give the Good Sam discount on top of the reduced weekly rate - so yay!

The pick ups are at the back of us, so more room than it looks
We try to avoid seeing places on Saturdays, so we lay low, clean house, take naps, grocery shop. 

We are excited to see the Petrified National Forest and Painted Desert. It's why we're here. 

With high winds in the forecast for early in the week, Sunday is our day to see them.

Coming from the west side, our first stop is the Rainbow Forest. Small visitors center and a 1/4 mile loop trail with lots of petrified conifers to see and touch. I've seen petrified wood, have owned some nice small pieces. But I've not seen whole trees, and they are incredible.

Large trees-now-rocks
"Old Faithful", millions of years old, and 35 feet tall, was protected from further splitting with a concrete base. It is noted in the guide that the national parks policy has changed, and that now it would be allowed to respond to nature without interference
Buried for centuries, whole trees lie completely exposed today
Some have little wood grain remaining
Not enough, but there are pull-offs along this section to view the deep canyons and wide plains. The park is surprisingly crowded for a Sunday afternoon, then I remember spring break. 

Information plaques note the logs that are still partially buried, and ones that have recently (since becoming a national park) come loose.

Colorful deep canyons cut through miles of grass plains
Many petrified logs are still being "found" as erosion continues

This log fell over 100 feet when its tomb of rock and sand was washed away
While nature still alters the landscape, human impact has been limited through the protection of the national parks system. We are fortunate to see this area much the same as it was nearly a century and a half earlier.

Blue Mesa is an area of badland hills with striking bands of bluish bentonite clay. This layer is over 225 million years old. It literally looks "painted".

The nice trail at Blue Mesa, begins and ends with a very steep trailhead.
Several miles of lavender-blue 
The Teepees area adds more layers of color. Here there are nice pull-outs with information plaques. One of only a couple places without other people so far.

Layers of historical information
No words necessary
Newspaper Rock is an archeological site with numerous petroglyphs dating back 650-2000 years ago. There are several children here, looking through the large view finder, following their parent's finger to see the rock art at the bottom of the cliff. It's fun to hear their excitement as they describe what they're seeing.

There is no access to the canyon below the trail. The petroglyphs are well protected here

I'm happy with how well the zoom picked these up in the shadows
Feet and hands help tell this story
At the bottom of the cliff are these stones that look like they are cut and stacked - amazing 
When I see bundt cake in the rocks I know it's time to find some lunch......
Puerco Pueblo (sadly, Pig House), is a well preserved ruin of crumbling walls and foundations, with a nice trail just off the park road. Clean restrooms and drinking water, with large parking for RVs here as well. 

The original structure had up to 100 rooms with hunting, fishing and small crops believed to have sustained a community of over 200 people. Building materials are a combination of stacked stone and adobe bricks.

Adobe walls
Rock and mortar foundations
Stacked stone with mud
I enjoy this more recent study of old places, giving us insight into the culture of belonging.
In addition to the ruins, petroglyphs hug the nearby wall of a small canyon. These are also well protected from human access.

Large water fowl and frog

I thought maybe birds on top. Bill says hammocks :-)
We haven't looked at the time once and when we get to the main visitors center cafe I'm shocked they have just closed - at 3 PM (no wonder I'm hungry). They graciously fix us a couple quick burgers which we enjoy in the shaded patio.

The north end of Petrified National Forest includes Painted Desert National Monument. With all the colors we've already seen, I suspect it will be more of the same. And I am so wrong.

Completely speechless. Nearly cried.
Places like this have us saying "I can't believe this is our life" several times in one day. While other people here are rushing through in RVs, or SUVs packed with suitcases, before returning to jobs and stationary homes at the end of a long drive, we are blessed that this is where we live - that we can stay and enjoy an area as long as we want, or as long as the weather chooses to accommodate us. 

There are more pull-outs in this section, so fewer cars at each one. At a few we have the place to ourselves and it is completely silent. With the warm sun and slight breeze, just standing there and taking in the expanse of incredible beauty is very humbling. 

The sun is fading as we head toward home on I-40. From the freeway there is no indication of all there is to see on either side. One could pass by all of this at 75 mph and never know what they've missed.

Don't. You'll miss so much.


  1. Great pictures of the magnificent colors here. We stopped and stayed here on our first trip west with Winnona. What a beautiful place. The colors of the petrified wood and the painted desert are just hard to believe even when you see them right there. And Newspaper rock - how thankful am I that it is so well protected. We say the same thing all the time - "Wow this is our life".

    1. Glad you've seen this amazing place. You're right, it's hard to believe it's real.

  2. We're in a pull thru site also with each rig facing in opposite directions. I think it works great if the sites are wide. However, if we put out our awning it encroaches on our neighbor's drive space ... or, so we were told. :(

    1. Bummer :-( We left our Jeep at the back end of our site so we weren't parked in front of the neighbor's entry door (middle of their 5er). With periodic winds we haven't had our awning out in quite a while anyway :-))))

  3. Such marvelous memories this invokes. I too remember being in awe of the landscape and colors. Surprised I still remember from almost 40 years ago. I'm glad the petroglyphs are so naturally protected.

    1. Glad to have you along. It helps that they've made it easy to see them without touching.

  4. Such an amazing, colorful landscape -- subtle and powerful at the same time. Nature's artistry, indeed! You captured it so well in your photos. Like you, I often find myself awestruck by the beauty of nature -- and so very grateful that we're living this life that allows us to experience so much.

    1. Subtle and powerful describes it perfectly :-)

  5. Oh, darn!! When we were trying to decide where to go between Tucson and Maob, we looked at heading to these parks. I've always wanted see them. We were also going to visit Canyon de Chelly. But when I realized you couldn't get anywhere near the ruins at Canyon De Chelly, we changed our minds. Now I could kick myself!! Next spring we will get to this area and just skip Canyon de Chelly. Your post on one of the best I've read. Seeing the whole petrified tree would be awesome. I love seeing them slowly coming out of their cover. That description of the teepee layers formation was good for us since we just saw a canyon full the other day. The Painted Desert is spectacular! Jodee, you did a wonderful job with the photos and description. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Pam! Even with several people, it is such a big place that we didn't feel like they were on top of us. Even the kids were mostly quiet. I was looking at your pics on FB and thinking we needed to change our route north too :-))))

  6. Absolutely amazing and I so agree with Pam...might just have to add this to next years route.
    All your pictures are stunning along with all the information you provided...I am amazed at the petrified wood and the blue Mesa.

  7. Lol I'm with Bill, I say hammock. What amazing pieces of history you have found. Petroglyphs Are so well preserved. Gorgeous coloring on the Blue Mesa!

    1. Yeah, they do look more like hammocks :-)))) That lavender blue is unreal in person!

  8. WOW! Gorgeous shots of a stunning landscape!

  9. Love the colors, Jodee! What you are saying about getting off the interstate and exploring is so true!

    1. Our Jeep has definitely been our greatest entertainment!