It was like being dropped onto another planet: we were in a wasteland of what appeared to be ash and rock, like a great fire had rampaged through the area, consuming everything in its path. Every tree lay strewn on the ground, broken into pieces and scattered in all directions as far as the eye could see and nothing was left standing.
This was the Petrified Forest and the trees we saw lying on the ground were mere impressions of a glory long past. 200 million years or so ago, this place was a wonderland of lush green and flowing rivers and the home of mysterious beasts; at least 100 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex wandered the land. Majestic trees towered above the landscape. Over time, the trees were washed down the rivers following storms or floods and collected in a bottleneck here, in what is today called the Petrified Forest National Park in North Eastern Arizona. The trees sank into the silty river beds and were forgotten. But nature did its work and over the next 200 million years: rocks and sand, washed down by the streams and rivers, carried minerals, which gradually became subsumed into the trees’ cellular structure until, finally, forming an imprint of the dying wood and taking on its structure in perfect detail; becoming trees of stone – petrified – until, after an eternity, the ‘trees’ were uncovered once again by natural erosion. Now they lay here, where they had collected so long ago, in glorious red, ochre and white.
This is a strange and eerie landscape that, in the 90 degree heat, takes on an other-worldly nature: a silent and perfectly still delight. We walked and drove around for hours, taking in this unique landscape and here are a few photos of what we saw.
Later, we headed to Holbrook, encountering the historical Route 66 along the way.
Today, the Interstate 40 runs alongside what remains of the old road, which is still demarcated by the original telegraph poles, which have been left in place as an epitaph. You can still see the imprint of the old road in the grass.
We stayed overnight in a motel on Route 66 after a wonderful day.
Next we head for Flagstaff.