ROCK HARD WOOD
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ February 2017
We were on our way to The Petrified Forest, a bunch of “scared” wood. My sister made that joke and I couldn’t help but use it. On our way, we had plans to stop at The Meteor Crater. What a joke! We haven’t seen that big of a tourist trap in a long time. $18 each to view a hole in the ground from behind glass inside a building. Well, we turned right around and left, no thanks! We also passed thru Winslow, AZ. This town made me feel sad inside. Very run down and depressing. We zoomed through there and continued on to the Petrified Forest.
We arrived at the visitor center on the north end a little late in the day. After getting advice on where we could park overnight for free the ranger gave us some info on the annual pass that was good for all National Parks and Monuments. We have always been reluctant to buy this because most National Parks are not dog friendly. She informed us that the on fee will cover both us in any of the parks or monuments. We always assumed we would have to buy two. So, after a little more debating we decided it would be worth it for us to purchase the pass. The park closes at 5:00 so we bought the pass and did a quick drive thru the park (45 minutes from one end to the other) and decided to sleep at the truck stop not too far from the park.
To our surprise this park allows dogs AND has multiple off trail areas that you can explore. We both much rather take the path less traveled, so of course we decided to start the day with one of these areas. The name “The Onyx Bridge” caught my eye. With no more information than the name, I decided we would go here first. What an amazing experience. We almost wished we did it last because after having the freedom to make our own trail and explore wherever we want, it almost numbed us to the rest of the park. Of course, it is all amazing to see but this topped it all. We went straight for the grand finale.
If you want to do these undeveloped trails you are supposed to get a map and info at the visitor center, oops, we failed to do so. We did stop at the Inn where it appeared the hike started. The ranger inside was full of great information and didn’t miss the opportunity to give us grief for not preparing ourselves at the visitor center. Its ok, because I liked him better. He reminded me of my Uncle Wayne. After getting a general map and a little visual through the window of the Inn, we loaded up with water, snacks, and Xander and headed out.
This hike is 4 miles round trip. It starts with a fast decent down into the canyon, which means a difficult ending at the end of the day. Our instructions were something like; when you hit, the wash follow that until you see the tree then head left and scramble up the fallen rocks to the bridge! Um, yeah, ok. Once we hit the valley floor you started seeing these amazing pieces of petrified wood. Some of it in big logs still and some of it in tiny pieces that you would easily mistake for pebble if you didn’t know better.
While there wasn’t, any water running in the wash it was still plenty wet. Our shoes felt 10lbs heavier after walking across the wash, once we finally reached it. We decided to cut straight across instead of following the wash. Xander was in his element, being able to run free and explore. As we were walking we noticed a whole tree up near the top of one of the cliffs. James looked at the map and determined that we could hike up the cliff then north to the Onyx Bridge. I am not good at navigating like that. I’m grateful he is, because it was amazing up there. It was tree after tree. Some of them were so huge. It is hard to imagine that these trees are hundreds of millions of years old. When you look at them you see a tree but you touch it and it is hard as a rock, actually it is rock now. Some of the wood has formed crystals inside of them. You can see the crystal sparkling at you in the sun.
The area beyond the Onyx Bridge was called the Black Forest. It is named the black forest because it is the only area in the park with all black petrified wood. Most of the petrified wood has a lot of red color with varying other colors. We spent a lot of time exploring here. You really could lose track of time here. You spy a really great tree to go look at and when you get there you see ten more.
As we make our way back I see a large area that looks shiny in the dirt. My first thought is that it is trash, glass ect. We walk over to inspect and find that it is a bunch of crystals. Large sheets of it. Just a side note, we didn’t see any trash at all anywhere on our hike. It was refreshing to see that people respected the area and didn’t trash it.
On the second day we walked a couple of the developed trails that had signs posted all over to “stay on trail”. We walked out to Agate House which was beautiful. It was a reconstructed building that was built out of petrified wood. We both had, sadly, lost our enthusiasm after yesterday. We spent a few minutes at the south visitor center watching a movie learning the process of how petrified wood is formed. After that we decided to move on to our next adventure. Antelope Canyon, here we come!