Petrified & Painted

I think I might have said this before…

So at this point my original itinerary has long been since discarded. I more or less figure out my next destination a day or two in advance. After those cold and windy nights at the early part of my journey, I seem to let the forecast (and advice from fellow nomads) decide my next stop.

… but not this

Next stop was the Petrified Forest National Park. I would spend most of the day there before checking into a hotel for a much needed shower and to do some laundry.

A side note on NoMad hygiene:

Good hygiene out in the wild, yup you need to keep clean out here. For the most part, keeping clean consists of (for me and a lot of other nomads) a “sponge bath,” and washing my hair with Dr. Bonner’s in one spray bottle, and another spray bottle holds water. Aside from that, a good hand sanitizer.

… And Let Us Continue

Traveling the southwest is a journey through geological and Native American history that has unfortunately escaped this New Englander’s personal data base (my brain). Fortunately for me, I love every bit of the history lesson.

That being said, the Triassic Period was 250 million years ago. At that point, Arizona was a tropical jungle, and as with most of your tropical jungles of that era, there are rivers thick with vegetation, and 150 foot tall trees, aaannnddd…. it was also a time of early dinosaurs!

So over millions of years, the continents collided, plateaus shifted, volcanos erupted, and climates changed. With that, millions of years of sediment (containing volcanic ash) would be deposited onto the “Arizona” jungle creating a time capsule.

The silica found in that ash would mix with groundwater which was then absorbed by the fallen trees of the Triassic. Eventually the silica would mix with other matter, forming into quartz crystals of various colors.

The next millions of years, erosion from the wind, and the water, would sculpt and chisel the landscape to what is now the Petrified Forest National Park.


In the late 1800’s the Petrified Forest was threatened due to public interest in collecting the petrified wood. So in 1906, president Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation that made the petrified forest a national monument. By 1962, the monument became a national park.

Etched In Time

I started my day by entering the forest at the south entrance to the “forest” and making my way north to the Painted Desert which would put me back out on Route 66 (interstate 40) and a short drive back to the hotel.

The park is split in half by Interstate 40 kinda creating a north side and a south side. So I think it is fare to say that the south side is more petrified forest, and the north side is more painted desert.

Newspaper Rock is one of several areas to pull over for viewing the scenery. Located on the “south side,” this is a great opportunity to view thousand year old petroglyphs, whose meanings are still unknown.

Newspaper Rock

… Except this one: Bird Stabbing Man with Beak

Bird Stabbing Man with Beak

Not to far from Newspaper Rock are the ruins Puebloan homes that were occupied from 1250 to 1380 CE, at Puerco Pueblo.

Puerco Pueblo

And On The Other Side of The Interstate

Crossing over the interstate brings you to the Painted Desert portion of the national park, and a rusty old jalopy, a monument to Route 66.

Rusty Car En Route

There are several overlooks where one can pull over to view the landscape of stratified layers of the Chinle Formation, which were geological formations formed in the late Triassic period (or something like that). Mudstone, siltstone, and shale make up the many layers of the Painted Desert.

Towards the end of the visit you arrive at the Painted Desert Inn. Originally built in the early 1920’s of petrified wood, the inn is now a museum/ historical landmark. However if you look carefully, you can find remnants of the old petrified framing.

Remind You of Any Famous Painting?

… & So

After the painted Desert Inn, a gift shop, cafe and another museum await. Then it was back to Holbrook, Arizona.

If you are headed to the Southwest, put the Petrified National Forest on your list. With all the trails, and rest areas I easily spent six to eight hours here. It was a mesmerizing landscape.

Next Stop; real estate at Mesa Verde?

Mesa Verde

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