As we crossed into Arizona after visiting Utah’s Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, we were greeted by Monument Valley’s towering rock formations. The spirited land of the Navajo Nation easily captures your senses with its vast beauty. Traversing across the desert opens your eyes and minds to God’s creations.
Our planned destination for the day was to be the 9th park of our 12 national park tour: the Petrified Forest National Park. But first, since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped at the Hubble Trading Post – an important historical site for cultural tourists like us.
At Hubble Trading Post, it’s interesting to see the large spread where the trading post has been serving the Navajo Nation since 1878. The store is still stocked with food and goods needed for any expedition. But there is also a wonderful selection of Navajo and Hopi artwork, ranging from rungs to pottery and kachinas to jewelry – both new and “old stock.”
Now supplied with trinkets and snacks for the next portion of our trip, we continued our trek south.
As you enter the Park from the east entrance, you are welcomed at the Painted Desert Visitor Center (which itself is an interesting piece of mid-century modern historic architecture and houses a former Fred Harvey Gift Shop, with the sign still hanging above the entrance). From this point, you head through the Painted Desert and you quickly realize it is an accurate description. The colors of the unique geologic formations were certainly painted by a gifted Creator.
One of the stops along the loop through the park – The Painted Desert Inn – is another piece of architectural delight in the form of a guest lodge first constructed with petrified wood, and was also once operated by Fred Harvey. It sits upon a mesa with breathtaking views of the seemingly unending desert landscape and blue-sky vista. This is a must-see site with wonderful history and artifacts of Southwest tourism captured inside.
Already we had seen and learned so much, but we soon found out there was much, much more! The park is home is hundreds of petroglyph sites that I wasn’t expecting to see. I’ve always been enamored by these precious pieces of rock art and at Painted Desert, I was pleased to see so many beautiful etchings. Already my cup runneth over.
At this point though, we really wanted to see some old, dead wood here in the Petrified Forest. There are a few stops along the tour that help inform visitors of how petrified wood was formed and why this area of Arizona was home to so much, but we wanted to see more. There were petrified logs along the road (pretty cool) and their were lookouts with views of ancient forests (pretty neat) … but finally we arrived at the Crystal Forest.
At aptly-name Crystal Forest and the next three stops, you are able to walk amongst the petrified wood, seeing up-close the beauty that took millions of years to form and are now captured in the present for us all to experience and enjoy. It’s amazing to think how this was once a forest of trees with all the sounds and smells of what we know of as “the woods.” And now today, it is a sparse desert with these incredible, fossilized specimens that almost get lost in this vast landscape. We felt blessed to find this treasure.