By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 1/20/2020
Occurred: 9/8/2004
Topics/Keywords: #Travel #USA #Arizona #PetrifiedForestNationalPark #PaintedDesert Page Views: 1133
Photos of Surya and Zach's first visits to Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.

One visits the Petrified Forest once for the novelty of seeing trees turned to stone. Subsequent visits are for the purpose of enjoying the soft, ancient energy of this place. This time, the trip include Michael and me, Zachary, and Michael's sister, Surya.

After an "emergency" Dairy Queen stop in Holbrook, we arrived at the south entrance. Don't stop at the "Museum" before the entrance unless you want to stop at a gift shop. (Many people are fooled by the word "Museum" in large letters.) The real museum is inside the Park, quite close to the south gate, in fact.

The Rainbow Forest Museum is located just in front of a paved trail perfect for a five-year-old. While Surya spent time in the museum, Michael and I took Zachary on a discovery walk.

As we progressed, the skies became more and more dramatic as the storm pattern from a Pacific hurricane moved inland.

Here's our very own, junior Kokopelli.

Petrified wood is not, in fact, a rare mineral. It is found in every state. What's special about the Petrified Forest National Park, is partly that so much of the wood is in one place, and even, in many cases, still in the form of logs.

Across from the museum is the Fred Harvey Curio Shop, where one can buy legal pieces of petrified wood, snacks, and souvenirs. Surya and Zachary each purchased small pieces of the mineral to bring home.

Zachary also received a small map to help figure out what he was looking at.

Surya was given a questionnaire and entry to a contest they were having. To answer the questions, we would have to stop at each of the points of interest on the road to the north gate—and we would have to do it quickly enough to get to the gate by closing time…while never exceeding the speed limit, which in most of the park is 45 mph.

Nevertheless, I couldn't resist catching a few pictures, especially at vistas like the one above at Blue Mesa.

The sky continued to become more and more dramatic as we proceeded.

Eventually, as the park road crosses I-40 and continues northward, we reached the Painted Desert.

Some people visit the painted desert and wonder what the fuss is about. Others are blown away by its beauty. I think the difference is the lighting when one arrives. At noon, when the light is coming from overhead, the colors in the sand are hard to distinguish. In late afternoon, they are spectacular. And, in an overcast evening as this was, they are subtle and breathtaking.

The Petrified Forest National Park is conveniently located just off of I-40, so there's no reason to miss it. And if you've already made one visit, plan on visiting again. Leave the petrified wood alone, and simply appreciate the beauty of the place.