Saturday, April 11, 2015

Petrified Forest And Painted Desert

We are still in the KOA at Holbrook, AZ and plan to head out later this morning and head for Grants, NM.  It has been cold at night here, near freezing.  I haven't been able to lay down without coughing.  I spent last night in bed coughing, up sitting in a chair coughing and then back to bed because the chair didn't work.  Cough drops work for an hour or so and then I start again.  My diaphragm feels like it is on fire and my throat is sore most of the time.  This morning I am feeling wasted and I have three or four hour drive (with no stops) to our next destination.  I am so exhausted from lack of sleep and constant coughing.

We spent Friday in the Petrified National Forest and the Painted Desert.  It is a seventy mile loop from Holbrook through the park and back again.  The park is another amazing asset with many wonderful things to see and learn.  The ancients lived here and there are signs, petroglyphs,  that they were around in many places throughout the park.  There are the ruins of a 100-room village built sometime between 1250 and 1380 and may have housed nearly 200 people.  There are petroglyphs to view and a solar calendar that uses a crack in a stone and a petroglyph on another rock to tell when the summer solstice would arrive, critical to these farmers when it came to knowing when to plant their crops.

The Painted Desert was beautiful but like most days here on this trip there was a haze in the air so the colors in the pictures don't do justice to the real thing.  Miles and miles of mounds (tepees) of sediments deposited over tens of millions of years create rainbow effects much like those glasses filled with different colors of sand.  The Triassic river system was responsible for these deposits.

In the mid-1800" mappers and surveyors came here telling of a remarkable "Painted Desert where trees turn to stone."  Pioneers, ranchers followed.   The hard rock like wood was used for souvenirs and commercial applications until some of the local residents became concerned that the petrified wood supplies might not be endless.  In 1906 set aside the area as the Petrified Forest National Monument.  In 1932 another 53,000 acres if the Painted Desert were added to the park system.  In 1962 it was designed as a national park.  In 2004 Congress authorized expanded boundaries nearly doubling the park's size.  Research continues today, unlocking the secrets to the past.

Historic Route 66 can still be seen winding through the Painted Desert.  In fact, the Petrified Park is the only National Park to contain a section of the heavily travel road to Los Angeles from Chicago.  Built in 1926 it became a part of pop culture after World War II.  It stands as a symbol of opportunity, adventure and exploration to travelers who took the winding trip.

Trips took longer because there were no interstate speeds.    It was a trip across culture and lifestyles with each stop providing different local and regional experiences.  While getting to your destination might have been important, it was the trip itself that was the prize for many adventurers.  2,200 miles of open road, dotted with small towns and roadside tourist traps not to mention neon signs lighting the way to motels, burgers and filling stations.

One iconic place to stay was the Desert Inn located along Route 66 within the Painted Desert.  With restaurant and a place to sleep it offered a special place to take a break to the bone weary traveler.  It was opened in 1940 by Fred Harvey who was also involved in the hotel in Winslow.  It closed in 1942 because of the economy after the start of World War II.  In 1947, Mary Jane Colter, was given the task of renovating the entire structure.  If you will recall, I have mentioned her several times before.  She has certainly left her mark on the southwest.

The facility operated but deteriorated over the next decades until it was closed in 1963 suffering from structural damage.  A public campaign saved the building from demolition in 1976 when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. After another restoration the building now stands as it would have in 1949 and serves and a museum and gift shop, giving visitors a chance to step back in time alone Route 66.

Hope all is well and thanks for dropping by.

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