This is actually a two for one since the petrified wood is scattered all over the Painted Desert. The area is a vast and diverse geological pocket located in dinosaur territory – hence the large scale models of dino’s at the tourist stops along Route 66.
It’s mind boggling to think this forest dates back 217 million years; dinosaurs roamed these woods and became part of the archeological landscape in the same manner as the trees. Now desert, you see broken and shattered fragments all over the park in what was once a dense forest teaming with gargantuan wildlife.
Even more intriguing is the beauty of the buttes and hills where the tree fragments are now on display. Mother Nature, I guess, decided that she needed a more dramatic backdrop as part of her “preservation diorama.”
We parked up by the TeePee mountains and discovered a trail that wasn’t marked on the map – and what a lucky find that was! It was unspoiled with only a few other adventurous souls on their way back to the parking lot.
The sun was at our back while the storm boiled in front of us with the wind kicking up – all of this making the hike more intense. As we walked along the top of these hills, varying landscapes revealed themselves at every turn.
We meandered through layers of oranges and blues that looked like they had been deposited by machines in some quarry, with eruptions of occasional hoodoos balanced by smooth clamshell-like formations.
The storms looming on the horizon added to the drama; we were really hoping we wouldn’t get drenched on our hike since hail had been part of the earlier downpours.
We left unscathed by the weather and stopped by the ancient ruins of long-abandoned villages and explored the many petroglyphs dotted throughout the park.
When we reached Blue Mesa the wind kicked up and we started getting pelted by hail. It was so intense I had real difficulty getting the passenger door to close and the inside of BigB was getting drenched. Though we didn’t really get to hike the Blue Mesa, which is lovingly paved by the National Park Service, we certainly got a dose of it on our earlier hike. I felt bad for the people that were on the trail getting blasted with high winds and hail – it stung the bare skin.
The squall eventually dissipated as we left to explore the rest of the park and BigB got a good wash and dry in the process! Days of bug scum melted off the windshield.
We ended the day picking up a piece of polished petrified wood to use as a bookend. This is a reminder of where we fit in the grand scheme of things; touching the smooth surface of an artifact that is over two hundred million years old. It’s hard to wrap your mind around it as we go through our daily lives.