This was originally posted on August 15, 2010 as Marcus and I roadtripped across the US to our new home in Los Angeles. I will be reposting our roadtrip posts all week as we vacation in Mexico, and will be back with our best roadtripping tips next week. See you soon!
- Miles traveled: 454 miles
- Time traveling: 11 hours
- Average speed: 41 mph
- States traveled: Arizona
Having reserved today mostly for sightseeing, we set out pretty early and grabbed breakfast at a Mexican joint near our motel. We’re both big fans of Mexican food, and our huevos rancheros were delicious.
Our first stop was the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. The park is a 28 mile loop with several pull-off points to look around and take photos.
The first stop was at the actual forest area. These trees are around fifty to two hundred MILLION years old. They became petrified when they got covered in mud, sand, or volcanic ash and submerged in water, causing the minerals in the sand to soak into the cells of the wood.
The different colors seen in the wood are created by different minerals: iron, the main ingredient, causes reds and oranges, copper causes blues or greens, quartz causes white or gray, and manganese and carbon add black. We’re both huge nerds so we had a pretty good time geeking out over these trees.
We hopped back in the car and continued along the trail. The hills in these next pictures are known as “Teepees” because of their shape. The bands of different colors are caused by the different concentrations of minerals in the soil.
They were very pretty but it was hot hot HOT out there in the desert. We only made a couple more stops on the trail before moving on. Our next stop, recommended by the book, was a little place called Stewart’s Petrified Wood.
It’s pretty hard to miss due to its giant dinosaur statues, teepees, and a yellow school bus perched on a cliff above it.
It’s illegal to take pieces of petrified wood from inside the park, but it is collected and sold legally from private properties in the area. This place had tons!
These raw pieces were being sold at $2/pound, but there were also shiny, polished pieces for several hundred dollars per slice. Also for sale were meteorites, fossils, carvings, and ostrich eggs. Oh, did I not mention the ostriches?
There was a huge pen of ostriches next to the shop laden with huge signs saying things like “Ostriches bite!” and “We are not responsible for accidents!” So we were understandably a little cautious as we approached them. They did not seem particularly friendly. The man in the shop asked me if I wanted to feed them, to which I replied, “But the sign says they bite!” He coolly responded, “Nahhh, they won’t bite you!” This guy seemed slightly less than trustworthy so I chose not to feed the ostriches, but we chatted for a few minutes about them. He said they have over one hundred ostriches!
We left pretty soon after that because I got bit (stung?) by what I assume was a fire ant. I’ve never encountered fire ants before, but as soon as I felt what it did to my leg, I was pretty sure that’s what it was. It burns!!
We continued on to the Grand Canyon, and let me tell you, that is one big hole!! We really lucked out because apparently this weekend was a “fee-free” weekend, and we got free admission to both the Petrified Forest AND the Grand Canyon (would’ve been $10 + $25).
The South Rim of the canyon has about a 25 mile trail to drive along with look-out points throughout the route. Each point gave a totally different view of the canyon.
We were able to wander around a little bit at each look-out and Marcus had a lot of fun scaring me by climbing out on rocks to take pictures.
I tried to explain to him that no one would be able to tell if his pictures were taken from a position safely on the path or more dangerous perch out on a cliff, but he said that wasn’t the point. What do I know? Just about as soon as we got out of the car, I tripped on a rock, stumbled toward the edge, and cut my foot. It was a high-injury day for me.
It was pretty spectacular, and we were both really glad we went. I don’t really think you can get a sense of how big it is just by looking at a few views of it. The whole thing is over one million acres! It’s crazy just to think about that!
I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading along with our journey – at this time tomorrow, we’ll be at our house in California!
This is part 5 of my six-part roadtrip series! To read the next part, come back tomorrow!
- [Roadtrip Rewind] Leg 1: New Jersey to Indianapolis, IN
- [Roadtrip Rewind] Leg 2: Indianapolis, IN to Joplin, MO
- [Roadtrip Rewind] Leg 3: Joplin, MO to Shamrock, TX
- [Roadtrip Rewind] Leg 4: Shamrock, TX to Holbrook, AZ