Sunday, February 16, 2014

Petrified Forest, AZ

We leave Lake Havasu at about 80 degrees F and 500 feet elevation and climb up to 7,300 feet in the Coconino National Forest (down to 62F and breathtaking with its gorgeoous tall Ponderosa Pine trees), through Flagstaff and Winslow (Eagles' song "Take It Easy" - "Well I was standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona; such a fine sight to see...") and to the Petrified Forest National Park outside of Holbrook.  We take Interstate 40 which mostly follows Historic Route 66 which was the only road from Chicago to Los Angeles for many years.  They call it the "Mother Road" or "Main Street of America", and you can purchase much memorabilia imprinted with these messages.  Sadly, the building of the interstate caused many businesses to close along the old highway, but some history is now preserved as people are returning to the slower route for nostalgia.  We will follow I-40 much of the way home.

Unfortunately, the day we spend at the Petrified Forest is windy and totally overcast (hence not great photos), but we are reminded how beautiful these ancient trees are.  We are also reminded that we have been here before.  I originally thought we hadn't been to the south part of the park, but alas, we have - five years ago!  Sigh.  And I don't even drink!  At least we find a hike we haven't done before and spend a couple of hours roaming among these fallen, mineralized beauties.

A reconstruction of a native dwelling from a millennium ago. The walls are made from petrified logs held together with clay mud.
A couple of petrified logs laying along the trail. Petrified wood is created when dead trees fall into a river and quickly become encased in sediments. Minerals from the water seep into the wood and fill the gaps, then over millions of years the organic tree materials decay leaving the solidified minerals. Different minerals create different colours - hematite (a type of iron) creates red or pink; goethite (another iron) produces yellow, brown or orange; green is produced by copper; manganese gives a purple or blue colour; carbon and pyrite produce black; and silica (quartz) gives a white colour.
This specimen is VERY long - I'm at the far end of it. Most trees erode in sections which split as cleanly as if sawed into pieces, but a few are intact. The longest in this area of the park is 120 feet.
I'm a real tree hugger.
Another beautiful sample of "rainbow logs". These photos are taken within the national park where collecting is prohibited, although staff claim they lose 2 tons each year due to illegal collecting. However, stores in the area sell pieces that have been collected from nearby private land. Many are polished on one surface; many are made into furniture like table tops and they are stunning - and expensive. We purchase a small piece to bring home and display.

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