Petrified Forest National Park

(Note: Sorry for the delay, we know it has been a while since we posted. We’ve had an extremely busy couple months with some pretty big changes. That said, we still have some amazing posts in the works about the past couple months and we want to do the locations justice. So please bear with us while we get the photos edited and the posts written. It should hopefully be worth the wait!)

We had a couple options for how to get from Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon, but we knew it was going to take us a couple days to drive the 7+ hours for us since we could only drive a couple hours after work each day. So we decided to take I-40 as we knew we’d have cell service and there looked to be a number of free or cheap campsites along the way. Petrified Forest National Park also just happened to be about half way and we would get to bag another National Park.

 

So the first night out of Santa Fe, we stopped at an the Dancing Eagle Casino to dump tanks and to fill up water, propane and the fridge. It was just a gravel lot though and we had miles to make, so the next night we drove the rest of the way to Petrified Forest.

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We pulled into some free spots at the south entrance to the park that are technically owned by some private gift shops. Fortunately they don’t charge for the sites which was really nice. It was about as “middle of nowhere” as you could get. You could see for miles and miles. We drove 5 miles into the park and could still see our RV from the top of a hill.

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We just checked out the South end of the park which was supposedly the less popular part of the park but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so vast and empty. The solitude was amazing compared to so many national parks we had been too. Usually national parks tend to have so many people in such a small place we can feel like we need to elbow our way to anything. It was completely different here. Just quiet, solitude and vistas as far as the eye could see.

The park itself knew what it was and didn’t try to be anything else. There were a handful of walking trails that took you through different “groves” of petrified wood. We loved them because this park was totally fine with bringing Cheat along, a real exception in the National Park system.

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A log in the “Long Logs” area of the park where a log jam formed on a river and silt covered the logs and petrified them. Note how the log is so hard that the ground is eroding out from underneath it but it is totally untouched.

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There were a couple of “famous” fossils to get pictures with:

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“Old Faithful” A log named by the wife of the first Superintendent of this park because everyone came to see it the way everyone who goes to Yellowstone goes to see the geyser.

There was a museum where you could learn about why the wood was here and how it was formed and see some pretty amazing fossils of Phytosaurs (You know how they say “birds are dinosaurs that are alive today” and “crocodiles were around at the time of the dinosaurs” but no one calls them dinosaurs? Here is why).

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Skull of a 25 foot long Smilosuchus

It was so odd that the park had such an extensive amount of petrified wood and the wood was so impervious to the elements that they just left it out and about. Usually when I think of fossils, I think of precious and rare things we put in museums, not rocks we leave lying on the ground everywhere.

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Overall, it was a unique park with some really nice views, some quiet, interesting hikes we could bring cheat to, a little history and geology lesson, and a sense of just how small and short-lived we really are.

 

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