We were all ready to leave by 8am and after a few tears and lots of hugs, we drove out of the campground, Ben and Liz peeled off to the right, heading westwards, back to Vegas, while we peeled off to the left, heading eastwards towards Holbrook: the last three days went by way too quickly.
We had a lot planned for today so I’m glad we got a good early start. Our first stop was Meteor Crater, one of the best preserved meteorite craters. We arrived in perfect time to watch the movie, giving an overview of where meteors come from, which was very educational. After a look around the interactive museum, we were in perfect time for the rim hike. Our hope was to arrive in time for the first one of the day , which ended up not running due to inclement weather (it was very windy), so everything actually ended up working out perfectly (given that we would've missed it anyway!).
From the brochure: Today, the best-preserved and first-proven meteorite impact site is nearly a mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference, and over 550 feet deep, as tall as a 60-story building! The vast floor of the Crater is large enough to accommodate 20 football games being played simultaneously as over two million fans watch from the sloping walls of the impact site! The topographical terrain of Meteor Crater so closely resembles that of the Earth's Moon and other Planets, NASA designated it as an official training site for the Apollo Astronauts, and it has been the setting for the movie "Star Man" and numerous documentaries.
We enjoyed the rim hike, despite the wind. We walked about a mile around the rim, stopping at various points to listen to descriptions about what we were seeing and what had happened at the site over the years. We were all hooked! The man whose family still owns the crater, believed that the meteorite was still somewhere buried at the crash site and spent all of his money searching for it to no avail. It likely broke up and scattered on impact.
At picture rock, we sat waiting for our turn on petrified mud (science everywhere we go!). It was an incredible place, a bit pricey but worth it.
Just over an hour further along the road, we reached the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA, our home for just one night. On arrival, the kids spotted the awesome playground and practically jumped out of the car. They gave us a great campsite, just across from the playground in a very quiet area. The kids were rather unimpressed when we let them know we’d completed a quick set up and were ready to visit the Petrified Forest National Park.
I’d had the foresight to print off the Junior Ranger books online the day before so they had completed quite a bit of their books in the car before we even arrived – these are the greatest programs! We learn a lot from reading in advance about how the Parks are formed, who lived there etc. It was a definite advantage that we’d worked a lot during the morning as they were beginning to wilt a little by the afternoon.
We stopped in at the Rainbow Forest Museum, at the South Entrance, for a short movie about the wood in the Petrified Forest, the formation of the Painted Desert and the Pueblo people who lived here in the 1200’s. We went outside to complete the short loop walk around the Giant Logs trail. There was a huge amount of logs in this one area, including the the park’s largest log, known as “Old Faithful”. Unfortunately all of the logs have been cut through thanks to gem hunters in the early 1900’s blasting through the logs with dynamite – so sad. Regardless, the beauty of these incredible ‘trees’ is still very much in tact. They are amazing.
From the brochure: This high, dry grassland was once a vast floodplain crossed by many streams. Tall, stately conifer trees grew along the banks. Crocodile-like reptiles, giant amphibians, and small dinosaurs lived among a variety of ferns and other plants and animals known only as fossils today. The trees fell, and swollen streams washed them into adjacent floodplains. A mix of silt, mud and volcanic ash buried the logs. This sediment cut off oxygen and slowed the logs’ decay. Silica-laden groundwater seeped through the logs and replaced the original wood tissues with silica deposits. Eventually the silica crystallized into quartz, and the logs were preserved as petrified wood. Over the 225 million years since the trees lived, the continents moved to their present positions, and this region was uplifted. As a result the climate changed and the tropical environment became today’s grassland. Over time, wind and water wore away the rock layers and exposed fossilized ancient plants and animals. The hills will yield more fossils as weathering sculpts the Painted Desert’s soft sedimentary rock.
All the kids were able to complete their Junior Ranger programs after learning some more and spending time outside examining the rocks; we were loving all the colors, it’s impossible to portray how incredible these were.
There is a 28 mile road through the Park, stopping at various points and taking you from South to North (or vice versa obviously!). We completed the Blue Mesa loop (views of Badlands, log falls and pedestal logs) and of course stopped to take photos at The Tepees with their distinct white layers of sandstone. Layered blues, purples and grays are created by iron, carbon, manganese, and other minerals and stand in cone-shaped formations. The cap of the Tepees is clay; dark layers caused by high carbon content; darker reds are iron-stained siltstone. Reddish bases are stained by iron oxide, which is also called hematite.
We enjoyed the Puerco Pueblo which is a partially stabilized 100-room pueblo built about 1250 and may have housed nearly 1,200 people. The short trail through the site gave us great views of multiple petroglyphs and also their solstice sundial – absolutely incredible that they figured out how to accurately mark times of the years to help them with crop planting etc.
At the Northern end of the Park is the Painted Desert, where much is designated Wilderness area. We stopped for a couple of (super windy) pics at Whipple Point before continuing around the the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark at Kachina Point. This is a Pueblo Revival-style structure with cultural history exhibits, renovated by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC: we have come across a lot of their work throughout the National Park system) in the 1930’s. It has extensive views of the Painted Desert and murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. The detail in the furniture was wonderful; we understand it needs to be preserved but it would have been lovely to sit at the bar and enjoy a drink – the Inn is no longer in service.
We returned to the campground for more playground time before bed. We really crammed a lot of new knowledge into our day today!
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)