March 16 – 17
We got to the southern entrance of the Petrified Forest National Park and pulled into the Crystal Gift Shop to ask about camping.
There is no camping at all in the Petrified Forest National Park. Our camping apps that we use indicated that there was free camping as well as electric sites for $10 at this gift shop. We went inside to inquire about getting an electric site. The owner told us the electric broke two years ago and was never fixed. We were welcome to camp free for up to 4 days at any of the sites.
Some of the sites had nice shade verandas with picnic tables. We had lunch at a site and then continued into the park.
Exploring Petrified Forest National Park
Our first stop was the Rainbow Forest Museum Visitor Center. We picked up some information on hikes and watched the movie about how petrified wood is formed. Then we walked on the Giant Logs Trail behind the visitor center which had a large collection of petrified logs.
The logs had brilliant colors due to the different minerals that had soaked into the wood along with silica. The colors from iron are mustard, orange, reds and blacks.
The colors from manganese are blue, purple, brown and black.
We drove the Blue Mesa loop drive and stopped at the overlooks. This area has vibrant badlands that have blue, purple and gray walls and the ground has lots of petrified wood on it.
It almost looks like an alien planet or the moonscape.
Notice how the landscape varies in shades of red, gray, green with the deep blue sky as a back drop. The red terrain in the distance is the Painted Desert.
Returning to camp
We returned back to the Crystal Gift Shop campground and arrived early enough so we could barbecue. Next door we overheard the neighbor asking another camper about the cost to stay at this campground. We told them what we had learned from the owner that morning and they were very appreciative. We talked for a bit and before we knew it they asked us over to sit a while.
They told us they were headed to the Grand Canyon. Since we had just come from there, we talked and traded travel stories. When we asked if they had reservations, they said no, they were hoping to get in. We told them about the Kaibab National Forest and pulled out our map that we had picked up at the ranger station. We went over the locations we had camped at and ended up giving them our map. They were very appreciative. We told them that they could shower and dump at the Grand Canyon and gave them the costs for the showers. They told us a couple of places to check out in Oklahoma on our way home.
We’re getting hungry!
We thought we would be there for about 15 minutes but we soon discovered that they had the ability to go from one subject to the other! We waited graciously for a lull in the conversation but finally said we need to go cook dinner! It was nearly dark when we finished dinner.
We did see several unique RVs on the trip and this is one of them. We saw two of these types of units – the other was in Organ Pipe National Monument. This was a younger couple from Denmark. They spoke Dutch or German – so we could not communicate. The unit was extremely tall and the tires were like tractor tires. We ran into this couple a lot the next day as they were hiking the same trails and seeing the same sights as us.
Another beautiful day for a hike
The next morning, we got an early start to hike the 2.6 mile long Agate House Trail/Long Log Trail. This is a seven room reconstructed Pueblo house made from petrified logs. The size of the house compared to today’s homes is incredibly small.
There was an area of long logs of petrified tree trunks.
Our next stop was the Crystal Forest which is a 0.75 mile paved loop trail. We took Heidi with us on this trail and enjoyed seeing several beautiful petrified logs scattered along the trail.
We decided not to hike any of the “Off the Beaten Path” hikes at the Petrified Forest National Park. There are no cairns on the trails to mark the hikes. Some of the hikes sounded interesting but required “route finding skills.” Since there was an active search going on for a missing backpacker, we decided we would just stick to the well-marked trails!
Our next was the Agate Bridge. This is a 110’ petrified log spanning a gully.
We stopped at Newspaper Rock and observed the petroglyphs on the rocks. There were over 650 petroglyphs on the rocks, some as old as 2000 years.
A Childhood Memory Recalled
One memory Linda has from her childhood of the Petrified Forest is when her family visited on a cross country move from Virginia to California in the family truck camper. The side bins of the camper were filled with the family rock collection including lots of petrified rocks. Her mom suddenly realized they had all those rocks on board when they were in the Petrified Forest National Park. At that time there were numerous signs to warn against stealing and the Park was very zealous about the problem of the petrified logs being stolen. Everyone was very worried about exiting the park with our rock collection in hiding! They got out ok though! Linda and her brothers rode in the back of the camper back then, so that was probably the only reason they got through the gate!
On our current trip, we had to stop on our exit, but the ranger waved us right through the gate.
We stopped at some of the Painted Desert overlooks but decided not to go into the visitor center.
It is Friday and we want to make it to our next destination. The campsite there is on a first-come, first serve basis and we want to beat the weekend crowds!