Petrified Forest national park is chock-full of fossilized wood. Based on the pictures I’d seen, I figured that there may be a couple of key places where one might be able to see this mineral-permeated organic matter. After all, how much “rock-wood” can actually be found in an arid desert-like environment?
Apparently a lot.
Thanks to plate tectonics, this area of Arizona used to be near the equator, resulting in a lush, rain forest environment. These trees got buried under layers of sediment, became saturated with minerals, and turned to stone. (This all took many, many years, of course). There are big chunks that can be found at the Long Log section, and smaller multi-colored pieces that are strewn all about the Crystal Forest.
It’s pretty. It’s unique. It’s science!
I also had a chance to tour the Painted Desert Inn, an old traveler’s rest stop that now serves as a museum. In the spirit of Halloween, we took the entire tour in the dark. Using only glow sticks to light our way, the ranger told stories and tall tales about a myriad of suspicious and creepy behavior that happened in the old inn. Spoiler alert: someone actually did die there. We entered the basement through a locked door – a place where park visitor’s are only allowed to go once a year. The floor creaked and the dumbwaiter was super eerie.
Was it truly haunted? The park rangers and volunteers seem to think so.
“I hope you’re not scared of heights, cuz I’m going to assign you one of our tallest mules.”
“That’s fine. Will I be riding that one over there?”
“No, yours is in a separate corral. She needs to be isolated from the other mules.”
And that’s how my mule riding adventure at the Grand Canyon began (not the most comforting thought to be told you’ll be placing your life in the hands of an ornery animal who has social issues). Yet mule riding and the Grand Canyon go together like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, and other food-related famous duos. How could I not ride on the back of one of these stubborn, sure-footed creatures overlooking one of the most famous canyons in the world?
My ride was fabulous. Cher ended up being a little bit of a handful, but didn’t launch me off the edge, so I was happy. Each turn along the trail brought another view of the canyon’s sheer expansiveness.
Litter! (Tossing sunflower seeds, nut shells, and food scraps on the ground is rude and unacceptable. Yes, it may be biodegradable, but it’s not native to the desert environment, it’s an eyesore to your fellow hikers, and it will take a long time to decompose) #leavenotrace
Okay, so I know that it’s called Bryce Canyon, but technically it’s the top portion of a long eroded staircase that gradually descends all the way down into the state of Arizona. Natural amphitheaters – large circular hollows in the rock – are filled with strange and fascinating shapes called Hoodoos. The Native Americans tell stories of how these tall skinny spires of rock were once people, transformed by the trickster god due to disobedience. One cannot help but notice the strange, mysterious-like quality of this area. Hiking down into the amphitheater was striking; I felt dwarfed by the mammoth rock pinnacles that cast ominous shadows about me.
From the top, I could only stare. Although it’s rather a small park, Bryce Canyon definitely has a uniqueness to in that draw tourists from all over the world.