American Southwest 2007 - Sedona, Petrified Forest

Thursday, June 7

On our way south to Sedona, we drove through Oak Creek Canyon. Along this route we drove through forests of birch and pine before emerging again into a landscape of towering red rocks. Somewhere along the way my digital camera stopped working. There was a good camera shop in Sedona, but although the manager was familiar with this camera, he couldn't help me. He advised me to call Olympus. In the meantime, we still had our traditional film camera (whose days, no doubt, are numbered) so we were still able to take pictures. Without the digital for all those little "throwaway" shots, though, it just wasn't the same.

We lunched in Sedona and walked around a little bit, then headed north again and got back on I-40. We stopped briefly in Winslow, Arizona to find the "Standin' on the Corner" monument and then went to Petrified Forest National Park. It was very hot and dry there. This was one of many places where we really appreciated the little cooler we had in the back seat, filled each morning with fresh ice, keeping our water and soft drinks cold. The park lies within a vast area known as the Painted Desert. Layers of sediment with varying mineral content are revealed on the cliffs and hills as stripes of starkly contrasting colors.

This area was once a floodplain where many tall trees grew. Fallen trees were covered by mud and volcanic ash, which preserved them. Over time, mineral-laden groundwater seeped into the wood, replacing its tissues with silica. This crystallized, forming the petrified wood we see today. The wood is found on private property as well as on public land, and is often polished and made into decorative objects or jewelry.

Sadly, the park is not as interesting as it was when I was there as a child with my parents. Every year, people steal tons of petrified wood from the park, so that there is less and less to enjoy. The rangers now have a "zero tolerance" policy and encourage visitors to report suspicious activity. In fact, we reported someone while we were there, but we don't know what came of it.

After a long, hot, dry day, we were content to rejoin I-40 and continue heading east. We stopped at Grants, New Mexico for a quick dinner and then spent the night in Albuquerque. From our motel room, I called Olympus customer support. A technician tried to help me reset the camera, but nothing would solve the problem. He told me I would have to send the camera to a service center for repair. This was disappointing news.

Sedona is a small town known for scenerey, artists and mysticism. There are many shops, galleries, and public art displays.

The local theme was "Javelinas on Parade". These sculptures were
decorated by various artists and then planted around the town.

The Petrified Forest: Prehistoric trees were buried in sediment millions of years ago,
and the wood was gradually replaced with minerals, creating petrified wood.
The material is scattered like driftwood because it was once driftwood,
washed into this former floodplain by ancient rivers and streams.

The petrified wood is often very colorful. It weighs nearly 200 pounds per cubic foot and is as hard as quartz.

Many of these trees were huge.

The surrounding area is called the Painted Desert because of the interesting colors in the landscape.

Unfortunately, there is much less wood here than there was when the park first opened; thieves continue to take tons of the rock every year.

The people who lived here 600-900 years ago left these petroglyphs.

It's a long, hot, dry road back to the main highway.


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