With my business obligations complete in Sedona, Linda and I hook up the trailer and head north toward I-40 eastbound. We intended to complete an early morning hike, but there has been non-stop traffic all morning as thousands pour into the area for a weekend getaway. We decide to avoid the crowds and get an early start on the next leg of our journey.
Linda and I are taking an extended loop through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, where we will attend a wedding for a Nephew on Linda's side of the family. It's been a long time since all the sisters were together in one place, so this will be a fun and happy experience. The wedding is also taking place in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where Linda and I attended school, met, married, and we are looking forward to walking around campus once again. After the wedding, we plan on driving through Kansas and Colorado before returning home to Cedar City.
We don't have to be in Oklahoma until Wednesday night, and it's early Sunday morning as we join the traffic heading east. We have our trailer, Linda has her GPS Rockhounding map, and I activate my GPS Peakbagger site as we move down the road. In no particular hurry, we hope to stand on some mountain summits, find some rocks and camp along the way. It sounds like the perfect vacation to me.
We exit I-40 near Holbrook, Arizona, and drive toward the southern entrance of this fantastic National Park. Memories flood back as I remember visiting this area as a child. Today's Father's day, so I have a chance to reminisce with my 95-year-old father as we visit briefly on the phone. Our first stop is at a rock shop just outside Holbrook, and I marvel at the acres of inventory they have on property stacked high with petrified wood. We visit the shop briefly, then drive to and enter the park. The southern entrance is remote but contains a museum, visitor center, and a trail for a walk among some of the giants of the petrified tree forest that exists here.
Linda and I have hunted petrified wood in our local area. We are excited to find small pieces for Linda to craft into jewelry art. If we locate a sample large enough to cut, we have hit the jackpot. Both our mouths drop open as we exit the back door to the museum to start the tour.
Linda pushes her hands deep into her pockets to avoid being tempted to pick up even the small pieces as we wander along the trail. I thought I remembered this place, but I certainly don't remember seeing full-blown, trees petrified.
It's cold, and clouds move through the area, making the colors of the segmented trees shine. We continue to be mesmerized by the abundance of material in the area. Reaching a high point bluff, we look out across the park and begin to recognize that all the large brownish bumps seen just below the ridgelines are probably petrified wood. If true, then this area has tons and tons of these ancient marvels.
Back at the visitor center, with map and GPS locator on for peak bagging, we head north along the only road through the park. Our next goal, before it gets dark, is to reach the Blue Mesa Summit, an unranked peak in Apache County and the Adamana quadrangle. It's a beautiful drive to the summit along the Blue Mesa plateau, and we park for a minute to log and admire the "Bad Lands" of the park. According to the guide, "A badland is an area of soft rock strata that is cut and eroded into many gullies and irregular shapes where vegetation cannot take hold." Standing on the Blue Mesa summit looking north, it is easy to see why this area is considered to be badlands.
Driving a few yards past the Blue Mesa Summit, we stop and park at the Blue Mesa Trailhead. A one-mile walk dropping down off the ridge and making a loop through sections of the badlands is another off the beaten path trail. A few cars are also in the parking lot, but it is far from the "freeway" trails Linda, and I often experience in National Parks.
The colors become subdued into tones of grey and purple as the cloud cover becomes complete. The trail is an excellent asphalt path that allows for easy walking as we work our way to the bottom. Soon we note the large pieces of petrified wood tucked into the corners and gullies of the canyons surrounding us.
The large sections of petrified wood are easy to spot. A close look at the ground, however, reveals millions of tiny fragments of stone, which appear like sawdust on the landscape.
Linda is cold, or she has her hands in her pocket, resisting her desire to pick up just "one little piece." I'm proud of her for not taking one of the many stunning slabs of "rainbow" wood we see along the trail.
We finished two trails, bagged a peak, and feel pretty content as we stop just outside the southern gate to look for a place to camp. There are two rock shops just outside the entrance, and one of them offers free camping, first come, first served, and we pull into an open spot. Just outside our door is a two-ton piece of petrified wood. I'm pretty sure Linda laid awake most the night trying to figure out how to sneak it on board.