Painted and Petrified

June 19, 2016 – on way to the Painted Desert & Petrified Forest, we had no idea what we would find, and this Indian Center advertising “sparkling restrooms” didn’t help much.


Me in front of the sign.  It took us a while to figure out that the two areas are not really separate – as you will see below, they overlap, so that it is appropriate they share a Visitor Center.

Painted20160619_121408This old 1932 Studebaker stands on a bit of what was Route 66 (also called the Mother Road)  from 1926 until 1958.  The Petrified Forest is the only national park in the US that includes part of this historic road.

The adobe Painted Desert Inn (below) was used by people traveling Route 66 in the 1920s.  In 1953, it caught fire.  The story is that a park ranger broke into the building and pulled the manager out, after which he put out the fire.  Unfortunately, the manager died anyway, and she appears to be haunting the site.  Employees claim there are whispered conversations heard in empty rooms, and someone is sometimes seen or sensed walking through the building accompanied by an aroma of cigarettes (she was a constant smoker, and it is believed her cigarette started the fire).   During our visit, we were very pleased with the bathrooms, and didn’t see/hear any ghosts.

There were a variety of plants I had never seen before, including these spiky cactus (?) up against part of the adobe wall and a lovely bush with multicolored flowers in front of the buildilng:
PaintedDSC_6015   PwreidiwsDSC_6092

A view from the front of the Painted Desert Inn.  Although the land is beautiful, it seems inhospitable, and it is hard to believe that people  have lived here continuously for at least 13,000 years.

Below are other photos taken in various places in the Painted Desert — not only are there many colors, but they frequently appear as lines … as though Someone took a paintbrush and painted sweeping strokes across the land.  Geologically, the colored stripes are formed by stratified layers containing a lot of iron and manganese in siltstone, mudstone, limestone, and shale.

In 1540, when Francisco Vázquez de Coronado was looking for cities of gold, he sent a team out to find the Colorado River for supplies.   Passing through this area, they named it “El Desierto Pintado” – The Painted Desert.










There were also many remarkable stone formations.



These almost appear to be a congregation of Easter Island statues.

Might these “faces” have given someone the idea of putting the Presidents’ faces up at Rushmore?



Is it just me?

In this picture (click on it to see larger) I see a lizard,  a lion,  and a smiling crocodile.

Anybody else see them?


Scattered throughout the Painted Desert but even more plentiful in the Petrified Forest area are what look to be logs but are actually rocks …. fossils of what once were great trees. Eons ago, when the trees first died and fell, they were swept into bogs or swamps where they eventually sank under all the muck and were protected from normal decay by sediment above and lack of oxygen.  As the ages passed, groundwater rich in silica, pyrite or other minerals seeped through the sediment, replacing the original plant material cell by cell, turning it to rock while preserving the details of bark, wood, etc.  When these fossils were brought to the surface by the upheavals of later ages, they were again found (and sometimes used as raw materials) by men.

As you can see, they often appear to have been chopped or sawed into chunks.  I asked about it and was told that this is the way they break by themselves — the same way a candy cane might break if dropped.

PetrifiedDSC_6050Tom taking a break on a convenient  piece of Petrified log.  More chunks in the pictures below.


Petrified20160619_133300     Petrified20160619_133256

A collection of petrified wood is dwarfed by gigantic rocks appearing about to fall.

I’m have no idea what this  building is, but I really liked how the picture came out, so I’m including it.Petrified20160619_135220

Although it is forbidden to pick up any petrified wood or rocks from the National Park, there are plenty of both for sale at gift shops outside the park.  We asked how they procure these items, and they assured us that they are legally dug up on acreage owned by the store outside the official park.  When I think of it, there is nothing IN the park small enough for anybody to pick up – probably because all the portable pieces were already taken as souvenirs by early visitors.




This entry was posted in Arizona, Petrified Forest. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Painted and Petrified

  1. Susan Adams says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your pix. Pings that little wanderlust string in all of us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *