Sunday, March 27, 2011

Petrified Forest National Park

Our route took us through Flagstaff, where the temperature dropped 20 degrees and there were still patches of snow on the ground, and then back down onto the Colorado Plateau where we leveled off and drove through a monotony of endless plains. Our destination was the Petrified Forest National Park. A gift shop just south of the entrance offered free dry camping, or $10 for electric hookup. With high winds and a night-time low around freezing, we opted for electricity, and settled in for the night.

We spent most of the next day in the park, marvelling at the amazing assortment of petrifed logs that have emerged from the eroding soil here.

This patch of ground was once near Earth's equator, and under water. 225 million years ago a stand of trees toppled into the fresh water, and in time they became waterlogged and sank to the bottom. Over the next couple of million years minerals displaced the cellulose of the wood and they became stone. Eventually, as the continents drifted apart and the plateau was pushed up, subsequent erosion brought these ancient trees to the surface once more.

Although the dogs were not impressed, we found the colors beautiful and intriquing.

Surrounding these countless broken logs is the painted desert, an equally impressive series of low hills striped with various layers of tinted rock and sediment.

A hard, dry, beautiful environment.

Back at camp, while sorting out the evening meal, we noticed a man setting up camp, travelling alone on a Kawasaki motorcylcle. Finding no available water, he wandered over and I filled up his bottle from our copious supply. We got to chatting, and I invited him to dinner, as I had, unusually and fortuitously, prepared more that the two of us could eat. So, over curried chicken, gin & tonics and beer, we traded stories. Tom, from Vancouver, rode down into Mexico and, joined by his wife who has one of those,, they continued down to Guatemala. Sounds like a great travel adventure, and helped alleviate for us some of the media-inspired concerns about travelling south o' the border. He's on his way back north now, and we're glad that our paths crossed.

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