Off the Beaten Path #10: Go West

Note: The newer version of my Off the Beaten Path series highlights places that I want to visit. With these stops, I either traveled to them as a young child (and don’t remember well enough to recommend to others) or I have never visited yet heard good things about.

Today’s travel destination features a place that I have not seen since I was maybe eight years old. But, it is on top of my places to visit--if not just to view the grand scenery.

Along I-40 in Northern Arizona, lies a unique place for visitors with or without a geological interest. The Petrified Forest National Park offers one of the world’s largest concentrations of, yes you guessed it, petrified wood. Not only do you get geological treasures with a visit to this site, but from about three miles into the park on Pintado Point, at an elevation of 6,000 feet, a visitor is said to be breathing some of the cleanest air in the United States.*

Being a family of amateur fossil geeks, we are very interested in viewing the park’s many gems. The Petrified Forest has a history of producing some of the earliest dinosaur fossils in North America. Numerous fossils including those of giant crocodiles, metoposaurs (giant creatures resembling salamanders), and small ocean creatures have been found at the park.

For a neat look at the geological science related to the area, the US Geological Survey created a 3-D tour of the Petrified Forest.

Unfortunately, visitors are not permitted to take any of the wood from the site, but I am sure authorities will sell you some in the gift shop. I was surprised to learn that despite the hefty fine of $325 and park rangers doing their best to enforce the restrictions, it is estimated that over 12 tons of fossilized wood is stolen from the park annually.

Part of the Forest also includes some of an area known as the Painted Desert--named after the colorful decayed matter that covers the landscape. In conjunction with the rock formations, this area is supposed to commonly produce fantastic sunrise and sunset scenes.

Ancient Pueblo villages, scenic views, geological history, ancient footprints, petroglyphs, and other appealing discoveries await visitors to the park.

The Lone Star Travelers over at WordPress have a wonderful series of short posts on sites to see in and around the park including the Forest’s link to American transportation history (If you go here, you can see the photo they refer to in the following text):

Petrified Forest National Park is the only National Park that Route 66, the first interstate highway system in the United States, offering 2,200 miles of open road from Chicago to Los Angeles ending at the beach in Santa Monica California crossed through. 6 miles into the park the line of the roadbed and the telephone poles in front of you mark the path of the famous “Main Street of America.” Of those days gone by, a 1932 Studebaker commemorates this landmark.
In sum, I am eager to see the beauty of the American West again with its newer mountains and unique landscape. The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are not only accessible along I-40, but certainly will be worth a stop in the future for our young crew of wanna-be explorers.

*Note: I just realized how ironic it is for me to promote clean air in this post yet advocate for manure tourism in my previous travel entry.

All pictures were used from this site.


J. J. in Phila said...

I can remember seeing it driving a cross the county as a young child. Quite striking.

I did want to add that, since he is too modest to, Slamdunk wrote an outstanding guest blog on the Sporadic Comments page on the "Centre Daily Times" site.

It is both excellent and well received. Thank you Slamdunk.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks JJ--I should have posted something on the article sooner, but will have info available on it tomorrow.

Oz Girl said...

Sounds like a really cool place to visit. Since my mom has a winter place in Cottonwood, AZ, I should put this on my list of places to visit. :)

As for the cow poo throwing contest in WI, I doubt I'm going to make it to that one anytime soon... LOL.

Raindog said...

My Dad and Mom just spent the spring working at the Petrified National Forest.

Here's his blog of some of the things they did:

Cindy Beck said...

Sounds like a really cool place to visit ... but what a shame that people walk off with unlawful souvenirs.

Thanks for the info. If I ever get to AZ, I'd like to visit the place.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the link RD. Their experiences in that part of AZ and NM are of especially interesting to me.

I have read many of the Tony Hillerman mystery novels that are set in the Four Corners area. Your dad's posts on Canyon de Chelly, Gallup, Crownpoint, and Mesa Verde make me want to go to the library and checkout one of Hillerman's good crime stories and follow the exploits of Officer Jim Chee and Lt. Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police--so when I do visit there the imagery will be fresh in my mind.

Raindog said...

They asked what they could pick up for me on their trip. I asked for the AAA map of Indian Country that Tony Hillerman/ Joe Leaphorn is fond of. It is an amazing map. I spent hours looking at it.

Slamdunk said...

Now that is a fantastic gift RD.

mappchik said...

How cool! Those are places on our list of places we want to visit, too.

We took a detour from our planned route on the way home from Colorado last week, and headed down for some volcano and desert hiking and a trip into Carlsbad Caverns. Now, if I can figure out why the flickr uploader hates my photos, I'll get them online... hopefully.