Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Awesome Arizona - How Did I Land on the Moon?

Can you imagine trying to cross this terrain?  No wonder so much of this area is called the Badlands.
In yesterday's post I said that Arizona's topography startles the senses and befuddles the brain, and nowhere is that more apparent than the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert area.  Forget about paying Golden Spike, a space tourism company, $750 million for a round-trip flight to the moon.  In northeastern Arizona, you can feel as though you've made a lunar landing for a measly $10*!  

It's difficult to believe, looking at this barren, wind-scoured alien landscape, that 200 million years ago this area where dinosaurs roamed was a verdant valley studded with tall stands of conifers and crisscrossed by streams.

Then, thanks to climate change, swollen streams and some volcanic ash, the trees fell and their wood cells were replaced with silica.  Today, what is left is a place unlike any other on earth.  Colors that appear to be the work of a watercolor artist streak the hills and valley floors.  Here and there, strewn randomly it seems, are logs that can weigh up to two hundred pounds per cubic foot with a hardness that is as much as the gemstone garnet.

Trying to separate the Petrified Forest from the Painted Desert, where one blends into the other with no demarcations, is like trying to separate the dancer from the dance, so, David and I didn't even try.  We drove the 28-mile road through the park stopping at most every overlook, and taking in two of the three visitor centers (all of which have toilet facilities and and items for sale), all the while enjoying our two-amazing-places-for-one experience.

There are many hiking trails in the park where you can view petroglyphs and exhibits as well as the striking scenery, but we didn't do that because the winds were so strong that dust kept blowing into my contact lens.  We were told that earlier in the morning might be a better time to visit this area because the winds are weaker then.
Even the raven has difficulty fighting the wind. 
But, I think even if you only drove through this area, and did not stop at any overlooks, you would still be astounded by this truly other-worldly landscape.  You probably will never walk on the moon, but this national park provides a pretty good alternative.

Practicalities -

* This is the adult admission price the National Park charges, but remember, if you are at least 62, you can get the last great bargain in American; the Senior Pass, $10, will admit you to this park and all other National Parks for free.

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