Petrified Forest

October 10 – 23, 2018

After Balloon Fiesta our plans were really loose. We thought we’d end up in Texas at Padre Island again for Thanksgiving so we decided to make a detour to Kansas to visit family first.


Then we woke up to this. Followed by lots of rain. We made the best of it by visiting Central Standard Brewing. The brewery bar had a cool industrial vibe with Halloween decorations for their upcoming celebration.


We went because Chuck’s brother said he had to try the coconut porter. It sounded strange, but tasted like a Mounds bar. I think it’s now Chuck’s new all-time favorite and we may have to make a return trip just so he can get more. 🙂


Well after all the rain I decided to check out the long range forecast for Texas and it looked like they were in store for a wet November. Since we experienced a lifetime’s worth of rain living in Seattle we try to avoid soggy weather. So we changed our plan and headed back toward Arizona. It looked like we had a window of opportunity to check off one more national park, since Petrified Forest was on the way and the weather looked decent.


There aren’t any campgrounds at Petrified Forest so we tried to pick the best option in nearby Holbrook, but it was little more than a gravel parking lot with views of the freeway. With most of our days full of rain and not much in the town it wasn’t too exciting. Thankfully we got one good day to visit the park.

Petrified Forest National Park

I didn’t have high expectations for this park. Since it sits just off I-40 many folks make a quick stop at the northern entrance on their way through Arizona but that’s a shame because they miss out on the best parts of the park.

The park road travels 17 miles between I-40 and US-180. We decided to enter on the south end because this is where the petrified wood is concentrated. We started at the Visitor’s Center.


The visitor’s center talked about the fossils of ancient plants and reptiles that have been found here.

Behind the visitor’s center is a short trail through lots of petrified wood. Often the long logs look like they were sawn into chunks. The logs break this way, kinda like when you drop a piece of chalk, from the enormous pressure when they are underground.

It looks like this tree could have fallen recently, but it’s all solid rock.
There are pieces of all sizes.
The colors are from the different oxides present.
Every way you turn there is more petrified wood.
Here we are standing in the same spot Albert Einstein stood on his visit here in 1931.

Petrified wood takes millions of years to form. First a tree is buried beneath layers of silt. Over time the silica in groundwater replaces the organic molecules as it percolates through the wood creating a replica in quartz.


We saw just how exact these replicas are while walking the short Crystal Forest loop. The texture of the bark was so realistic and even the growth rings were often visible.

Looks like someone just dumped these logs in the middle of the badlands.
The white is pure quartz, while grey and black are from magnesium oxides.
The outside of this log looked like it would still feel like bark, but it was solid rock.

As we drove up the road we stopped at Newspaper Rock and Puerto Pueblo to view the petroglyphs. While not as impressive as others we’ve seen and a bit far away, I always find the symbols interesting.


Can you find the Ibis impaling a frog with its beak?


I hadn’t seen this image before. Does it represent stairs into a cliff dwelling?


This display had some interesting artwork and a poem by Becky Heimann. Chuck found her website and sent an email saying we saw her work at Petrified Forest. She didn’t even know it was on the display. Apparently she was an Artist-in-Residence here a long time ago.


Petrified Forest has interesting architecture. This beautiful structure, near the Puerco Pueblo ruins, was the north entrance in the 1930s. It was restored in 2014 and now houses displays.


And this building in the north end was once the Painted Desert Inn.


It originally looked like a rectangular stone building, made of petrified wood of course, and was called the Stone Tree House. In 1936 the National Park purchased the building and remodeled it to look like it does today.


This was the first place we learned of the “Harvey Girls” story. Fred Harvey built a series of Harvey Houses to provide meals and accommodations along the Santa Fe Railroad Line. He took over operation of Painted Desert Inn in 1947 making modifications to the interior design and adding new windows to take in the views.

Harvey hired Hopi artist Fred Kabotie to painted the murals and added a bright color scheme.

Harvey had noticed that his male workers’ “accountability” was a problem and decided to solve it by recruiting women servers and hostesses. He had strict standards. The women had to be neat, articulate, well-mannered, educated through 8th grade and have good moral character. He provided a train ticket to get them to their new place of employment, a “smart” uniform, room, board and fair wages. He is considered to have “civilized” the west with his string of Harvey Houses staffed by these Harvey girls.


This lunch counter was staffed by Harvey Girls.

Petrified Forest also encompasses a section of Route 66. We’ve seen several sections on our travels, but someday I’d like to drive the entire route.


The north end of the park provided lots of badlands views which I wasn’t expecting at all. You can’t see any of this from the freeway.


Between the badlands views, the colorful petrified wood, the architecture and the history we enjoyed this park.


Thanks Petrified Forest. You surprised us!

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