I am not sure how I first got into my head but early this year, I was determined to visit Havasu falls in Arizona. If you have heard of or even better visited this picturesque turquoise blue falls (part of Grand Canyon National Park), lucky you! If not, click on this link to instantly feel happy and amazed at how lucky we are to have such natural beauty accessible to us.
I say lucky you, instead of lucky us because eventually I didn’t get to go to the falls this year. But instead for spring break I was able to visit another very unique place known as Petrified Forest National Park. This is one our nationally recognized National Parks although a lesser known ones (as compared to Yellow Stone, Yosemite etc.). One of the reasons might be it’s very flat in nature. Thus, in terms of hiking, there are not that many immediately accessible terrains. We were able to cover the whole park in one day and for once I didn’t feel let down thinking, ‘there’s so much more I didn’t get to see or learn’. Even though it was not over crowded with tourists, I would still consider this one of the most unusual places I have visited so far.
The origins of how the park came to being are very unique and interesting. I will try to explain without making you yawn!
The petrified wood found in the park began its existence as large trees from an ancient forest some 225 years ago. After falling, the trees were washed downstream from as far as 50 miles away onto a flood plain which lay on the current area of the park. The logs were covered by volcanic sand and silt sometimes to a depth of 1100 feet.Over time, as water seeped toward the buried logs waterborne silica slowly replaced the wood, creating the petrified logs. The petrified wood is composed primarily of the mineral quartz. Usually the mineral quartz along with some impurity (usually small quantities of other elements) gives the wood the beautiful and rich colors. I saw pink, red, orange, yellow, purple and many others.
Besides the petrified wood, the other uniqueness of this park is what’s known as the Painted Desert. Found in the northern section of the park, the sands lands are brilliantly colored. We saw both purple and deep reds. The colors in the desert result from the minerals in the soil; the characteristic red color is due to iron oxides. Blue Mesa was my favorite. At Blue Mesa, an expanse of eroding badlands reveal fossils hidden within layers of sand.
Rt 66 and Petrified Forest NP:
We were also lucky to travel for a portion of our trip on the iconic and erstwhile Route 66, often called America’s Mainstreet. Route 66 started in Chicago and wound its way across the country ending in Los Angeles. Petrified Forest National Park is the only National Park that Route 66 ran through. The Painted Desert Inn, Visitor Center presentations, the gift shops in that area – they all reminisce about this famous cultural road so much so that at times I caught myself being transported into that era and feeling like a part of the action. Now the route has been replaced and bypassed by Interstate 40.
The 93,533 acres Petrified Forest contains America’s largest deposits of petrified wood, a rich and colorful desert, many fossils of dinosaurs, and more than 500 archaeological sites including amazing petroglyphs left by ancient cultures.
In conclusion, I feel very privileged to have visited this wonderful Park which is an Ode to Nature and a place to visit for reflection, rejuvenation and plain relaxation.