So on Day 2, Jacob woke up early in Pueblo Campground and immediately hopped out of the tent and went exploring. I stayed in my sleeping bag because it was really cool outside the tent and had no intention of freezing my butt off at 6:00 a.m. I kept sleeping, and Jacob found this extremely cool trail. So he eventually got tired of waiting for me to wake up and dragged me out to the trail.
It ended up being a really cool washed-out riverbed on an “interpretive trail,” and it looked to have been eroded away for a long time. There are neat striations in the rock and deep creases from water over the years. It was really beautiful and so serene.
About 2.5 hours later, we arrive at the Petrified Forest National Park. Honestly, initially, we were both really underwhelmed. Neither of us had ever seen actual petrified wood, so we didn’t really know what to expect. Plus, when you drive in from the south entrance, there are these really kitschy museum and rock stores full of tourist crap. Also, their bathrooms were kinda gross. I mean, the toilets had yellow water in them. Sick. I mean, it’s from the limestone in the water, which makes the desert really pretty, but it makes the water nonpotable and leads me to believe the employees operate on an “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule.
After looking at some brochures, we discovered the actual forest is a 27-mile drive through this crazy desert of scrub, weird lumps of rock, and petrified wood, and at the end, it turns into the Painted Desert. That part looks like Mars. According to the brochure, we learned that “this high, dry grassland was once a vast floodplain crossed by many streams. Crocodile-like reptiles, giant amphibians, and small dinosaurs once lived in this area but are now known only as fossils today.” The petrified wood area is okay, but we liked the Painted Desert better.
We drove through the park taking pictures but not stopping. There are tourist stops and rest areas every 5 miles or so, but if you get out of your car and handle any of the petrified wood, the park rangers think you’re “collecting.” Collecting is a big no-no in PFNP. In fact, the park rangers give you what I called “the tattle form” upon entrance to the park. If you see anyone collecting petrified wood, you are to write down their descriptions, make note of their license plate, and document the time and place that you witnessed the collection and turn this form into the ranger. RIDICULOUS.
For those of you who don’t know, petrified wood is created from volcanic activity. From the brochure: “A mix of silt, mud, and volcanic ash buried fallen logs in this area of Arizona, and this sediment cut off oxygen and slowed the logs’ decay. Silica-laden groundwater seeped through the logs and replaced the original wood tissues with silica deposits. Eventually the silica crystallized into quartz, and the logs were preserved as petrified wood.”
Finally, after 20 or so miles, we got to the north end of the park called the Painted Desert. This part is a lot cooler. This is where the dinosaurs used to be millions of years ago, and this area is full of tall mounds of silt that are dark red and striped. We park the car at Chinde Rest Point Overlook for lunch, and we snack on PBJ sandwiches, potato chips, pickles, apples, and dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s (these PB cups later meet an ill fate in a hot car).
On the way out, we stopped by a kitschy store for a chip of free petrified wood (I carry this around with me, so if you see me, you can check it out for yourself!). Here are some views from the park:
After PFNP, we hopped on I-40 and not long after saw a billboard for Meteor Crater! This exciting destination is a 1-mile across crater left by a meteorite crashing to earth 55 million years ago. It’s truly amazing. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and it’s this huge hole in the ground from SPACE JUNK! I mean, what’s more awesome than stuff from space, right? We paid $32 to get in (keep in mind that this is a privately owned park; it’s not owned by the state, so they can charge whatever they want), and we walked up a million stairs to the observatory. Inside was a giant hunk of the actual meteor, and people can touch it. Here’s a piece of the actual meteorite that they managed to find. The rest of it exploded in the erth’s atmosphere and rained down into the ground and melded with the sand.
After we satisfied our meteorite lust, we walked out onto the observatory decks and looked through telescopes to see the bottom of the crater. It’s 550 feet deep. I was thoroughly amazed.
After we’ve had our fill of the crater, we head for Winslow, Arizona–you know, as in the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy”? In Winslow they have a statue of a 1970s man with a guitar in the “Standin’ on the Corner Park” with whom you can stand to get a picture.
After Winslow, we hit the road toFlagstaff and stop at a CVS to buy tweezers to get 5 splinters out of Jacob’s hands. He somehow managed to get them in his hands when trying to chop up wood for our fire the night before. The surgery was bloody but successful. For dinner, we stopped at Beaver’s St. Brewery, where we have delicious pizza, salad, and dessert of chocolate bread pudding, oatmeal stout cake, and cobbler. I have a hefeweizen, and Jacob has a Lumberyard Red Ale. So delicious!
Once we eat dinner, we decide to head for our campsite for the night. On this entire trip, we only reserved one campsite in Yellowstone National Park. We figured we’d just wing it everywhere else. This ended up not being the best idea. Our destination the next day was the Grand Canyon, so we wanted to stop at the Ten-X campground, which Jacob found online before the trip, because of its close proximity to the canyon. We manage to find Ten-X (it’s only a small turnoff from the main highway to the canyon and is very easy to miss), only we discover it’s completely full. So we decide to drive to the Tusayan Ranger’s Station nearby to find a new place to camp. By then it’s 7 p.m., and they’re closed, and we’re running out of daylight. But there’s always time for a photo op!
After saying “so long” to Smokey, we discovered some dispersed camping on Forest Road 302, which is 2 miles away from the Grand Canyon, which was even closer than Ten-X. However, as you know, there are a few crappy things about dispersed camping: 1) We couldn’t have a fire because of burn bans. 2) There’s no water. 3) There’s no potty. But this was not my (or his) first rodeo. I have lain my bare butt to the ground before, and I did it again. We set up camp to the tune of NO nasty bugs flapping their wings, and we called it a night, to rise early in the morning and spend all day in the Grand Canyon!