Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Route 66: Day 8

by Kathy 8. March 2010 20:50

<< Day 7: Taking it Easy! | Day 9: Engine Issues and El Morro >>


Petrified Forests (Not People)


The area around Holbrook, Arizona, is known for its abundance of petrified wood, as well as minerals and rocks. Genevieve, our amateur geologist, was eager to check out some of the local “rock shops.”

We found two promising shops, only to discover “closed” signs in both of their windows (perhaps because we were traveling off-season, during the holidays).

We made a special detour to drive by the Wigwam Motel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This motel was built in 1950, offering Route 66 motorists the opportunity to sleep overnight in a concrete replica of a teepee. The Wigwam Motel was closed in 1982, but was reopened in 1988 after restoration of the 15 teepees. To help create a nostalgic mood, the owners have placed vintage cars in the parking lot.

Outside of town, we came across another rock shop, Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Co., at the junction of Highway 77 and U.S. 180.

The building may look a little austere, but the interior was a wonderland of rocks, minerals, gems, petrified wood, trinkets, fossils, and more. Genevieve was thrilled to find a small chunk of her favorite mineral, galena (which is used in electrical objects, such as refrigerators, light bulbs, blenders, and other common household items).

The shop had an extensive array of geodes and nodules—rock “bubbles” filled with crystals. Geologists are not entirely in agreement regarding how geodes are created. However, a sign at Jim Gray’s shop offered this explanation: Geodes start by being blown out of a volcano, as a bubble. The bubble then hardens and is buried under volcanic ash. Over millions of years, silicon and quartz seeps into the center of the bubbles, filling them with beautiful crystals.

When the hollow center of the bubble becomes completely filled with crystals, it is called a nodule.

There was a display of many geode and nodule slices, with humorous titles. Two of my favorites were “Happy Jaws” and “Sun Your Buns”:

One of the stars in the shop was "Wild Bill"--a 2.9 million year old fossilized alligator skeleton from Florida:

Outside the shop was a small collection of dinosaurs. Sebastian and Genevieve each picked out their favorites.

For Sebastian, it was the coelophysus (found locally):

Genevieve liked the allosaurus (spelled “allosarus” here):

We could have spent hours at Jim Gray’s shop. Genevieve said that it was “better than a book store”--and that is saying a lot, as she loves books!  She added, “Each rock and mineral has its own personality.” (I love that girl!)

We pulled ourselves away, heading onward to another exciting place—the Petrified Forest National Park.

When I hear the word “forest”, I normally picture lots of trees standing tall and close together, with some type of greenery, and animals wandering around. The Petrified Forest, however, was completely different. This forest consisted of fossilized logs that were scattered around, lying horizontally on the desert ground. It was fascinating!

The transformation of trees into “rock logs” is a magical trick of nature. The desert here was once a vast floodplain. Numerous streams washed fallen trees into the floodplain, and the trees became covered with silt, mud and volcanic ash, which slowed down the decaying process. The groundwater contained silica, which seeped through the logs and gradually replaced the cellulose in the wood tissues, cell by cell. The silica eventually crystallized into quartz, changing the logs into petrified wood.

The colors found within the crystallized logs were exquisite:

These colors are caused by the minerals in the silica-saturated waters—iron, magnesium, cobalt and others.

We started with the visitor’s center, which had a small exhibit about the dinosaurs that used to roam around here:

There was also a display showing all of the different types of petrified wood that are found all over the United States:

Genevieve and Sebastian picked up Junior Ranger booklets and immediately set to work finding all of the answers.

We hiked a short trail near the visitor's center to see the park’s largest log, known as “Old Faithful.”

Genevieve in front of Old Faithful:

Another view of Old Faithful, with Sebastian:

We then hiked two more miles, starting out with the Long Logs trail, which has the park’s largest concentration of petrified wood. At the beginning of the trail, we could see the striped mounds of the Chinle Formation in the background.

Genevieve and Sebastian were enthralled with the snow. They called, “Mom! Come and look at these snow crystals!”

Sebastian made a snowball and tossed it into the air (can you find it in the photo below?):

We hiked past countless pieces of petrified wood.

It is against federal law to remove any petrified wood from the park (even the tiniest chip). However, each month visitors go home with approximately one ton of it concealed in their pockets and vehicles. Over time, the park’s landscape has changed, as the ground cover of petrified wood slowly diminishes.

A few people feel so guilty about stealing a piece of petrified wood, that they send the piece back to the park, along with a note of apology.

Outside of the park are acres of private land with petrified wood. Anyone who wants a piece merely needs to visit one of the many shops nearby that sell it for very reasonable prices. (For a mere $16, I bought a beautiful and colorful chunk, a hefty 8 inches across, complete with a layer of thick petrified bark.)

The scenery on our hike was gorgeous, and I never failed to catch my breath when looking at the soft dusty stripes of the Chinle Formation.

The Chinle Formation is made from a mixture of mud, silt, clay and volcanic ash. The clay in the mounds swells when wet and then contracts and cracks when dry, resembling wrinkled elephant skin. The surface movement makes it difficult for plants to grow, and also increases erosion.

We were stunned to see distinct faces, naturally appearing in the bare hillsides. Can you see noses, foreheads and eyes here too?

The northern slopes of the Chinle Formation were covered in snow:

Sand and snow patterns:

Sebastian was enchanted with the icicles on this bench.

We continued hiking to the Agate House, a partially restored 8-room pueblo made of petrified wood logs and mud. Archeologists estimate that it was originally built in 1050 to 1300 A.D.

The view from the pueblo:

Back at the visitor’s center, Volunteer Ranger Dick Jones carefully reviewed the children’s answers in their Junior Ranger booklets. Then he swore Genevieve and Sebastian in as Junior Rangers at the park.

The park has a 28-mile road that passes some interesting rock formations as well as petroglyph areas. Here are some views as we headed north:

We stopped to take a short hike to see the Puerco pueblo ruins, a 100 room village that was inhabited by the ancestral Puebloan people between 1250 and 1400 A.D. The pueblo was built in a rectangle, with windowless one-story rooms around a central plaza. The people grew cotton, corn, squash and beans on the sandy slopes below the village, and carried water from the nearby Puerco river.

The lower walls of the pueblo have been partially stabilized.

Genevieve and I took a photo of our shadows among the ruins:

The area below the village contained many petroglyphs, carved into the dark rock faces.

Genevieve and I, with the floodplain in the background:

There were no other visitors at the ruins while we were there; however, these resident ravens were hanging out in the parking lot (probably hoping for some food).

These dry desert grasses had a reddish tinge:

Continuing north within the park, we reached the area known as the Painted Desert:

We passed the Painted Desert Inn, which was originally completed in 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, with updated designs by Mary Jane Colter (who designed the Hopi House at the Grand Canyon).

From 1947 to 1963, the Fred Harvey Company operated the Inn. Public protests kept it from being demolished in the mid-1970’s. It has been declared a National Historic Landmark, and reopened in 2006 as a museum and bookstore. We arrived in the late afternoon, and the Inn was closed for the day.

We continued wandering along Route 66, which merged in and out with the interstate into New Mexico. Sometimes the snow on Route 66 had not been plowed, so we were forced to drive along beside it on the highway.

Here are some photos in the fading daylight:

The setting sun enhanced the pink glow of the rocks:

These hills had a softly rounded shape:

And a day in the desert just wouldn’t be complete without the long hoot of a train whistle:


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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin