2015: Central AZ

Petrified Forest National Park

May 15


One of the places we missed on our way east was Petrified Forest National Park, including the so-called painted desert. Since we'd decided to turn around in Carlsbad and head home, Mike suggested we return on I-40 and we could hit Petrified on the way back home. From Carlsbad, we headed back to Albuquerque where we were going to spend two nights just resting up, shopping, whatever we needed. We chose the American RV Park, which had good reviews on the web.

Pavement for a change. ...close quarters. Max doesn't mind...

We were all parked in a nice paved spot and Mike was setting up the cat cage, when a park employee came up in a golf cart and said the cage wouldn't be allowed. Sure enough, in their park rules, they don't allow any kind of outdoor pet cage or kennel. WTF?!? So we spent two cramped nights and days inside the coach with extra litter boxes and restless cats.

Penny snoozes near the litterboxes.

As it turned out, it didn't matter so much the first night; it rained so hard it woke us up, so the catbox would have been a swamp. I kept hearing random drips that seemed to be right in my bedroom. I even got up once to check for water on the carpet. In the morning, Mike explained it was water dripping off the power lines that were running directly over our coach! Yet ANOTHER thing to look out for in the future.

At least we accomplished one good thing. On the second day, there was a commercial washer cleaning the rig across from ours. Once Mike heard a reasonable price, he decided to hire him to give our chariot a scrub. In the trip from Carlsbad we had picked up some sticky gunk on the bottom sides and even the hard rain hadn't done it any good, so Mike wanted to get it off before moving on. Oil and gas residue, perhaps? Anyway, I guess the bath would have been hard to administer with the cat cage attached, so there ya go. Stuff happens for a reason. Keep telling yourself that.

Empty KOA.

Next stop: another KOA in Holbrook, AZ, the closest town to Petrified Forest. We were a little nervous about it since our overall experiences with KOAs have not been great; but this one turned out to be pretty good, mostly because it was almost empty. So empty, in fact, that the owner told us we could park our car in the spot next to the coach, as he wouldn't be needing it.

The weather was getting a little iffy. Even though the next day was going to be pretty windy and overcast, we decided it might be our only chance to visit Petrified Forest.

You really don't expect a "petrified forest" to be so full of vibrant color. Not only are there many-hued strata in the hills and soil, but the petrified logs themselves are like crystallized rainbows. Add the in the green and yellow of springtime plants and wildflowers, and the end result is truly an amazing canvas of nature.

Even Mikey gets cold!

Most of the sights in PFNP are just off the road or on short, easy hikes. We went for one slightly longer hike in an area called Blue Mesa, named for the blue and purple hues in the sedimentary layers. It was partly overcast, making it difficult to get good photos, and the wind was constantly getting stronger. I would find myself caught between wanting to wait a few minutes for a sunnier landscape, and needing to find shelter from the biting wind. When even Mike has his hoodie on his head, you KNOW it's bad!

After Blue Mesa, we stopped at Jasper Forest and Crystal Forest, two areas with great concentrations of petrified logs. I was puzzled at how most of the pieces looked so perfectly cut in sections, as if Paul Bunyan passed through and left them behind.

We reached the end of the park road where there was a small museum devoted to the geology of the park. They had some small specimens of dinosaur skeletons; I don't know if they were completely real, but they added to the atmosphere.

At the museum, I asked a ranger about the symmetrically "cut" pieces of petrified wood, and she explained that after the wood petrified underneath the sediment millions of years ago, when the Colorado Plateau uplift occurred the pressures caused the logs to split perfectly along planes in the crystals, as if they had been cut by a diamond saw. Fascinating!

That night, two cats chose 4 a.m. to have a yowling wrestling match beside my bed. I sat up suddenly to break them up, and whacked into the bedside shelf with my cheek. Mike wrangled the cats while I applied an ice pack to avoid developing a major shiner. The war wounds are stacking up.

Also that evening, I heard pouring rain for a while, and the next morning we woke up to -- well, see for yourself!

I had hoped to get back to PFNP in the sunshine to improve on my photos, but the weather stayed rainy and gray for the next two days; so we just settled down and caught up on TV and reading. We were too ready to go home to extend our stay just for a few MORE photographs.