During an unexpected stop in Arizona last year at an obscure campground where we accidentally ran into fellow blogger The Wandering RVer, we found the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest National Park were just a hop, skip, and a jump away.
It was very windy (up to 35 MPH winds) and somewhat hazy the day I visited, but the sand particles in the air didn’t dim the beautiful colors of the Painted Desert. As soon as I drove in the park, the deep burgundy, tans, and reds came to life.
I’ve seen many different terrains in the places we have visited, and the Painted Desert didn’t disappoint. The different layers of vibrant colors were a marvel. The plants and trees dotting the hillsides added interesting texture to the experience.
The first few miles of the drive were a kaleidoscope of colors and a few pieces of petrified wood started to make their appearance. On the middle hilltop in the photo below, there is a fallen petrified log balanced precariously on the top.
There were areas on the drive which felt post apocalyptic, both from the landscape as well as the windy haze. I was alone for miles and miles (thanks to the wind, I’m suspecting). It wasn’t hard to imagine the rest of the world had disappeared, and there times I got goosebumps from feeling a bit spooked.
The colors changed gradually throughout the park, starting with the deep reds, changing to pinks and purples, and on to varying shades of blue. I’ve never seen anything like it, seriously. It was a beautiful location to take photos and feel complete awe at the changes in landscape thousands of years in the making.
The petrified logs start to be seen more frequently in the landscape as the drive nears the Petrified Forest.
The colors also start to have more blue hues.
Petrified wood is wood that has been morphed into stone over thousands and thousands of years and changes in nature. The “logs” seen in the following photos were once trees. They are now fossilized and have turned to stone. Many are prismatic and quite beautiful. What I found amazing was the way they still look like fallen logs at first glance. The ground is littered with them–both big and small. However, it is ILLEGAL to take any pieces out of the National Park, and all cars are subject to random search upon exit.
Another aspect of the Petrified Forest I dearly loved was the wild life. These pronghorn antelope were grazing on the side of the road. They looked over at me with only mild curiosity and then went about their business.
One section of the park had an overlook of fallen rock that contained petroglyphs from those many, many generations who’ve gone before us. I’m curious to know what many of the drawings and symbols mean.
Since it was so windy the day I toured the park alone, Mike and I took a Sunday drive together a few days later. We had to get the obligatory “We Were There” selfie.
Have you visited the Petrified Forest? Was it what you expected?
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