The Petrified Forest

Our campsite for two nights
Our campsite for two nights

Our next stop after Elephant Butte Lake State Park in New Mexico was Petrified Forest National Park. There isn’t much in nearby camping facilities, and no camping in the park, but there are two gift shops at the southern entrance that allow you to dry camp next to the store for free. We opted for that choice. And a good choice it was. We were able to make frequent trips in and out of the park. Location is everything! Some people experience the park by driving through in two hours. We spent a day and a half and I wish we could have stayed longer.

Opa and Coda on the Crystal Forest trail
Opa and Coda on the Crystal Forest trail

Petrified Forest National Park is also very pet friendly. Dogs were allowed on all of the trails. So our dog had a great time walking with us. Usually we started our trails early in the day, which rewarded us with few to no other people and dogs. Less distractions and more frolicking! It also meant we had great lighting for photography. I took way too many photos! Thank goodness for digital photography!

P5180315It was amazing to see so many petrified logs in such a concentrated area. Swept away by waterways and covered with volcanic ash and sediment, these trees became entombed and over millions of years became petrified. Yet, the park only has about 20% of Arizona’s total of petrified wood.

P5180300Some of them truly took on the attributes of jewels. The mineral silica, from volcanic ash, in various stages of crystallization replaced most of the organic wood. Minor minerals, such as iron, manganese, and carbon add the rainbow of colors. I was in heaven looking at these gigantic jewels! One after the other, unique and beautiful!

 

The Blue Mesas. The color looked much more intense in the cloudy afternoon shade than the sunny late-morning light.
The Blue Mesas. The color looked much more intense in the cloudy afternoon shade than the sunny late-morning light.

The Chinle Formations represent bands and layers of rock, minerals and soil from many millions of years ago. The Blue Mesas captivated me with their subtle color bands of purples, blues, mauves, greys and whites. The Painted Desert highlighted bands of deep red hues, beige and browns lined with greens. Beautiful landscape as far as the eye can see.

The Painted Desert
The Painted Desert

The park also features fossils and ancient petroglyphs. Erosion has also played a large part in carving all of these beautiful landscapes. You can take a hike and go back in time millions of years and only imagine what earth looked like then with dinosaurs roaming this majestic landscape. Hiking through these amazing formations is truly an awesome and mind boggling experience!

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