When I was young, my Aunt Freda who lived in Washington sent me a book about America and one of the pictures in it was of the Petrified Forest in Arizona. There was another picture of significance but we will come to that one later.
And before we get to the real Petrified Forest -
A train line runs through the park and freight trains regularly run along the line. American freight trains are long - this one is pulled by four locos and pushed by one at the end and in between there are 125 freight cars. If you think the above photograph is not very good, the typical length of a freight train will be about 1.25 miles and you try getting that into one photograph!
The park also has where a section of Route 66 ran in it. The road was dug up some while ago but you can see the line of the road partly by the shape of the land and partly by following the line of old short telegraph poles.
The Parks Service have marked the point where 66 crossed the park with the body of an old car and a bench made from car bumpers (fenders for our American readers).
Just up the road from this point is a “Fred Harvey Inn”. He was a hotelier / restaurateur who developed a chain of places throughout the USA for travellers to stay at. Although he was not alive when 66 was created, it went close to his hotel in the Park and a spur road was built to enable travellers to come to it to stay.
The hotel was constructed out of petrified wood because that was easier to obtain locally than any other material. Later the building was rendered to make it look like an adobe covered building but the parks service have cut away part of the render so you can see the wood. In the early days, travellers who visited the hotel were invited to take a bit of wood away with them – these days it is a criminal offence to do this and there are signs warning about the consequences of being caught all over the park and theoretically you can be searched when you leave the park to see if you have picked up any wood.
The Petrified Forest National Park
We began our journey through the park at the Northern end which starts with the Painted Desert before it gets to the Petrified Forest.
The Painted Desert is beautiful, there is no other way to describe it. Its colour comes in the main, from the rusting iron oxide in the sand
and its shape comes from weathering over millions of years from the Little Colorado River, wind, rain and numerous other forces.
Having read the Park’s Service explanation at each view point, we would find ourselves just sitting there in silence looking at the
changing colours of the desert in front of us. As the sun moves or as clouds go over, it changes colour and sometimes it is nearly silent (there is always some slight background noise from the nearby I40). It is a magic place.
In the park is Puerco Pueblo –this is a fairly standard Pueblo which certainly was lived in during the 1200s
It was rectangular in shape and it is thought about 200 people lived in its 100 rooms. Its structure is defensive in that the outside walls were thought to be shear and windowless with only one entrance.
The remains of rooms and the general structure are easily identifiable.
Where is becomes something special is that there is a “sun dial” which shows the time at around the Summer Solstice.
A long slit has been cut through a rock and at dates around the Summer Solstice and at around 9 am, a beam of sunlight shines through the slit and onto a marker petroglyph on a nearby rock.
In the above picture, the mark is at the bottom right of the picture. A better example can be seen here including sunlight on the marker image.
There are also a number of Petroglyphs on various rocks around and about.
The Petrified Forest is mainly to the southern side of the park and consists of a number of areas where Petrified Wood has been exposed on the surface.
There is “wood” of all shapes and sizes scattered about
The petrified nature of the wood is easily identifiable
and in some cases, you can see rings (or what appears to be rings)
This trunk was a about 5 metres around
and the petrified section of this tree was at least 35 metres long. It would be very easy to pick up a bit of petrified wood, apart from the large sections which are very heavy, there are millions of fragments everywhere. But of course, if very visitor took just one small bit, quite soon there would be no small bits left for travellers to enjoy seeing.
And as we drove away from the Forest, the Arizona Monsoon rains were making themselves evident ahead of us – and they did when we got to the rain storm ahead.
Route 66 never really disappears
Although in this state, Route 66 is not as well preserved as in others, there are numerous sections where it or relics of it can be found
such as the Wigwam Motel
Further down the road (but not far) is Winslow Arizona which
was mentioned in a song by The Eagles – you too can stand on the corner and so we did
When you get to the corner, there is a queue of people waiting to
have their picture taken. The wall is in fact a trompe d'oeil wall and behind it is an empty lot as this picture shows.
Making the most of its position on the old 66 is a shop selling lots of 66 items you never knew you needed plus a few you wish you could afford. It also plays music from the period as you shop.
Much of this section of Route 66 has been left as it originally was back in the early days – it is one of a few one way sections of the Route (this runs west-east, the east-west section is one block north).
We then had lunch at La Posada (another Fred Harvey place) just down the road on Route 66 with a friend we met last year on the Hurtigruten who lives nearby.
And now to the dots in the heading
Winslow Meteor Crater
The other picture (and article) I remember in the book which Aunt Freda sent me was about the Meteor Crater a few miles away from Winslow.
This Crater is one of the largest in the world which you can easily visit and so of course we had to visit it to see if it was just like my book told me it was.
The first view of the crater is that of the debris thrown up around it and you can see this from some miles away. The Crater is now a commercially run tourist attraction and to my surprise, it was actually quite good.
As you go in to the main building at the site, the largest recovered chunk of the meteorite is on display for you to touch.
Then there are a couple of films to watch, an exhibition to walk around and as you do this, you walk past a window through which you can see most of the crater.
For me, this was one of those moments which I shall always remember, simply because I waited nearly 60 years to do it.
The crater is too large to get into one photograph so when we get back to the UK, I shall stitch the three pictures above into one.
I enjoyed seeing the crater – thank-you Aunt Freda for my book.