Northeastern AZ: Petrified Forest National Park and The Painted Desert

Petrified Forest National Park is one of three national parks in Arizona … bonus points if you can name the other two!  It’s known for its large deposits of petrified wood, i.e. trees that turned to stone since about a bazillion years have passed. Also in PFNP, the “Painted Desert” and its extraordinary colorful beauty!

It’s a quirky little park, with very distinct areas for sightseeing and hiking dotted along a 26 mile road, so lots of driving in between, which suits us just fine!  It’s also one of the very very very few national parks where dogs are allowed on the trails.  Score!

PFNP is also kinda mind-blowing because you’re driving along through the park seeing lots and lots of THIS …..

… thinking to yourself, there can’t possibly be anything beautiful out here and yelling at your partner that they must have made a wrong turn (sorry, honey, for what I said when I was hungry).  Then you turn a corner and WHAM!  Where in the world did THAT come from!?

It happened time and again, alternating between ho-hum-yawn stretches of flat, barren, well what can I say but “butt-ugly” nothingness, and then suddenly converting to great (and greatly varying!) desert beauty.  

At the top of the bluff in the north end of the park (can you spot it?), the Painted Desert Inn was an actual hotel until 1963, but is now a museum and no lodging is actually available anymore.

One of the most beautiful PFNP hiking trails is through Blue Mesa, with its otherworldly colors and formations.

The Agate House is a partially reconstructed pueblo built completely from petrified wood, thereby allowing the inhabitants to decline fire and flood insurance on their homeowners policy.

You gotta hike out to see it, but totally worth the trek!  

The folks who built this place in the year 900 A.D. eschewed traditional sandstone and laid the agatized wood in a clay mortar instead.  In time-honored tradition, the Indian mom and Indian dad undoubtedly had a real doozy of an argument over which rocks to use, with so many to pick from.

Along the way throughout the park, you can see scattered bits of petrified rock …

… but they save the really good stuff for the Giant Logs Trail, not really a trail per se since it’s only 0.3 mile long, but with easy access to the big daddies.  This one is more than ten feet in diameter!

You can google the science-y things that formed the area if you’re interested, but everything is plus-or-minus 225 million years old.  The visitor center tells us it looked like this.  Hard to believe in today’s world of global warming!

There are more than 600 archaeologic sites and petroglyphs through the area.  

This ancient symbol indicates “migration.”

This ancient symbol indicates parents have been lying to children about “babies being brought by storks” since the beginning of time.

POP QUIZ!  Were you paying attention in the last blog post about El Morro NM and the guy who brought 20 camels through there?  Well guess what!  That guy really got around!  Because he brought them here too!

While certainly not our FAVORITE National Park ever, it was an interesting and fun full-day’s-worth of exploration in our very own home state!

Our last stop was at Fools Hollow State Park in Show Low, AZ.  It’s a popular, beautiful getaway in Eastern Arizona, but semi-deserted at this time of year.  We slid Lucky Charm into her forest hideaway …

… and awoke the next morning to a winter wonderland!  

Because we usually travel in summer, this is the first time that snow has fallen on the Lucky Charm.  Yay!

It’s pretty crazy that we traveled for all these weeks through all these states, and the most dramatic weather we encountered ended up being on the last day of the trip, a mere 167 miles from home!

Even more crazy, it’s 29 degrees here, but will be 91 degrees in Phoenix four days from now.  Talk about shock!

We covered 3,639 miles over 7 delightful weeks, including three more National Parks to add to our memory gallery.

We had a few big speed bumps during the trip, including the death of Philip’s sweet momma Georgia, as well as our beloved 12-year-old dog Bella, but in RV’ing, as in life, ya just gotta keep rolling.

Of course, we don’t blog about the ordinary or unpleasant stuff in-between all the great stuff … who would? 

When the dog gets into the beef jerky and has constant room-clearing farts for three days — and there is nowhere to go to get away, in your 200 sq. ft. home.  

It wasn’t me! I swear!

When your husband is still working full-time and has to take conference calls during excursions and be glued to the computer all other times in between.

One of our many “satellite offices”: Standing in line for Austin’s world famous Franklin BBQ.

And when there are endless miles and miles of nothing to see and nothing to do (we’re talking to YOU, west Texas).

Along the way, we stayed to the speed limit …

…Ignored personal questions from strangers…(whatttt? whyyyy?)

…and indulged in lots and lots of the “good stuff”!

Through it all, I remain ever in awe of my amazing husband Philip. Since we met 13 years ago, he has had one knee replacement surgery, two hip replacement surgeries, three major back surgeries, one hand surgery, and one eye surgery. Yet he just keeps on working himself back again each time, not letting his 64 years of youth nor his health challenges keep him from enjoying this crazy outdoor lifestyle we both adore.

We added a few more states to our road map this trip, but more importantly we added about a billion more memories! In June, we’ll be heading back to two of our favorite places, Idaho and Wyoming, for six weeks. And, we’re already scheming on a plan to go to the upper Northeast coast for FOUR MONTHS in 2019! Wahooooo! Until next time, thanks for following along!

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