and a little bit of the Painted Desert, too.
I started with an early morning departure from Phoenix where I got to watch the sun rise over the desert. It was about 40 degrees when I left Phoenix and as I headed north, the temperature dropped and kept dropping. I wasn't excepting this. I finally made it to the entrance somewhere around 10:00am after a reluctant stop for breakfast.
Apparently, it snows in this part of Arizona and the park had gotten some snowfall. When I made it to the gate after waiting about 10 minutes, the ranger explained that they had had a delayed opening and that I'd pay my park fee at the north end of the park.
When it all comes down to it, Petrified Forest is a bunch of really old trees that have fossilized into rock. But there's more to it than that. Route 66 used to run through here. There are tribes that used to live here and the nature of the area is just beautiful on its own.
Add to that a dusting of snow, and winter magic occurs in this oft forgotten national park.
Because I traveled alone, and some paths were a bit snowy/icy/muddy and I wasn't properly unpacked, I decided not to do too many of the hikes. In fact, I only did the Crystal Forest hike in its entirety. I started Blue Mesa partially but decided to go back and see what I could see from the drive.
Some stops were cooler than others, and sometimes I wanted to stop where there were not vista pullouts. The sky was a beautiful clear bright blue and the weather was fine until the wind blew - the windchill was absolutely chilling.
Blue Mesa demonstrated beautiful blue, purple and gray badlands.
Crystal Forest allowed an up close colorful view of the trees turned rocks. Some areas reminded me of theoretical alien planets.
I wasn't prepared for the snow nor was I prepared for the startlingly brilliant colors of the petrified wood. And the fact that the wood is from trees that were alive over 200 million years ago. That blows my mind. Petrified Forest was first a national monument in 1906. In 1932, Painted Desert was included and in 1970, Petrified Forest was made into a National Park. And as recently as 2004, the park more than doubled its size.
Either way - it may not be the most spectacular national park, but I am glad that it has been preserved for my generations and the generations to come.