A Walk Into The (Petrified) Forest... What Forest?
The world-famous Petrified Forest National Park lies in western Arizona, an area of desert and badlands, quite the opposite of what the name may suggest. Well, the area was a nice tropical forest some 225 million years ago, but nothing is set in stone forever... except maybe some petrified trees.
However inhospitable it may be, the park hosts numerous fossilized tree trunks from the Triassic era. The red and orange hues of the million year old trees dot the area in various stages of decay.
Most of the fossil trees are scattered over the area, in smaller or larger pieces, creating eerie landscapes.
A detailed view of a tree bark, now set it stone
The so-called "Onyx Bridge" is one of the best preserved trunks in the park, but it requires a hike across badlands and dry river beds. The reward, however, is the view of almost intact tree hidden among the hills.
Blue Mesa is one of the most colorful badlands areas in the park, with hues of red and blue blending across the grey hills.
The fossil trees here lie on fragile soil, where erosion happens very quickly, geologically speaking. Each rain converts the soil into mud, then carries down and rearranges the hills bit by bit, along with whatever happens to be there -- our beloved tree trunks...
Another point of interest in the park is an archaeological site known as the "Newspaper Rock", a large boulder hosting some 600 "writings", scribbled sometime between 650 and 2000 years ago.
Not far from the National Park, the town of Holbrook is a tourist trap, with a few decent hotels and some rock shops selling petrified wood. Holbrook is also a stop along the famous Route 66 and has no shortage of cheesy and bizarre sights.
Those looking for a nostalgic touch of the Route 66 days should overnight at the Wigwam Motel where guests sleep in the wooden tepees, while 50's era automobiles are parked in front of each tepee.