Saturday, February 21, 2009

Painting on a Grand Scale

A 28-mile drive takes visitors through portions of the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.

We began our visit to the Park at the southern entrance, about 20 miles southeast of Holbrook (AZ) via Route 180. Our first stop after leaving the Visitors' Center and heading north was Agate Bridge. Centuries of scouring flood waters washed out the arroyo, or gully, beneath this 110-foot petrified log to form Agate Bridge. The stone log, harder than the sandstone around it, resisted erosion and remained suspended as the softer rock beneath it washed away.

Enthusiastic visitors fascinated by Agate Bridge worked to preserve it through the establishment of Petrified Forest National Monument in 1906. Conservationists felt this ages-old natural bridge needed architectural support and in 1911 erected masonry pillars beneath the log. In 1917 the present concrete span replaced the masonry work.

The three-mile Blue Mesa loop road includes lookout points from which we took these next four photos.

The Blue Mesa consists of thick deposits of grey, blue, purple, and green mudstones and minor sandstone beds.

The Blue Mesa is approximately 220-225 million years old.

Naturalist John Muir called this area "Blue Forest."

At the base of the layered hills in this photo are two hikers enjoying a closer look at the colorful stone.

A short distance away is a formation called the Tepees. Here layered blues, purples, and grays, created by iron, carbon, manganese, and other minerals, stand in the cone-shaped formations.

The next three photos were taken from Lacey Point.

The views from Kachina Point at sunset must be spectacular.

We tried to imagine how vivid the red colors would appear as the sun disappeared below the horizon.

But the Park closed at 5:00. So, it was back to I-40 and the 80-mile drive back to the RV Park.

We left the National Park with one last look at the vegetation. This plant presented a striking contrast to the black background.

It seemed to be waving farewell.

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