Our second tourist stop at Thanksgiving was the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. It was about a 1.5 hour drive from Flagstaff, AZ. The weather decided to cooperate with us and was warmer than our trip to the Grand Canyon with no snow.
On our way we were looking for a place to stop and buy rocks. Our boys all like to collect rocks, but in particular our second oldest loves rocks. We wanted to make sure we got some sort of petrified wood for them to bring home with them. A few miles away from the Petrified Forest, we found Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Company. The store was amazing; I think we spent over an hour there and could have easily been there much longer. There is a large amount of petrified wood and rocks of every kind. The prices range from a few cents to ten of thousands of dollars, so everybody can find something they can get. We were even able to find some Navajo-made pottery to bring back as gifts.
We entered the Petrified Forest National Park from the south and drove on a 27-mile road north through the park. There are not many large plants growing in the area now. There are large hills and cliffs that are laid down in beautifully- colored layers. Of course there are also the petrified trees. They are laying all over the grounds like fallen logs. There are places with hills that have petrified trees sticking out of them and hills that are receding that have the petrified wood left on top. The petrified trees break into chunks that look like lumberjacks have been through sawing all the logs into pieces. Those pieces have so many colors. They are hard to describe so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
There are many other things to see in the national park. There is Newspaper Rock with some petroglyphs on it. They are hard to see so there are binoculars provided; however, we were there at a bad time of day and the shadows prevented us from seeing much. There is also Puerco Pueblo, a collection of Indian ruins that are about 700-1000 years old. There are Petroglyphs there that are much easier to see. For me the feet were the most interesting, I could imagine somebody sitting on a rock with his feet against the big rock as his friend turned his feet into art that would be enjoyed for hundreds of years.
Near the north end of the park is a tiny segment of Route 66. Route 66 was one of the original major roads going across the country. There used to be many towns and attractions along the road hoping to tempt travelers into spending their money. Each attraction tried to be wackier than the others. All that is left of this part of Route 66 is a rusted out 1932 Studebaker and part of a line of telephone poles.
Just before exiting the park is the Painted Desert Inn. It hearkens back to the old days of Route 66 also. It was built long before people started to drive through here, but was in use for quite some time. Many famous people, like Bing Crosby, stayed at the Inn in the heyday of Route 66. The views of the Painted Desert are beautiful, and really something you have to see in person. The size and color of the area are very hard to capture with a camera.
There are probably more impressive National Parks, but the Petrified Forest is a good one to see if you are in the area. The colors in the rocks and the stark empty beauty will appeal to many people. This is a place I wouldn’t mind coming back to with more time so I could hike some of the back trails.