Monday, October 1, 2012

Sunday, 30 September

Another day, another desert. Yesterday, as we approached Flagstaff, we were driving through trees and shrubs and flowers. Today, east of Flagstaff we might as well be in a different state. The land is flat and the mountains are much farther away. There are no trees occurring naturally. The ground is covered with grass and a few low shrubs. This is the short-grass prairie. We could spot last night's campground miles away because they had planted trees.

The campground was only five miles from Meteor Crater, so that was our first destination. In 1969, when Gene was crossing the country on his motorcycle, he was heading for Meteor Crater when his transmission blew up. So he was finally able to make it 43 years later.

Meteor Crater is an impact crater about 3/4 of a mile in diameter and 700 feet deep. Due, no doubt, to the desert climate it is extremely well-preserved, considering it was formed  about 50,000 years ago.  There is a visitor center, a museum, a 10-minute film (made from about 3 minutes worth of film), and guided tours are offered. We looked at the crater and saw the film, then pressed on.

Driving across the flat-land, we decided to stop for a quick look at the petrified forest. We ended up spending about three hours.

 On entering the park, the first thing you see is the dramatic part of the Painted Desert. Where there has been extensive erosion, it has revealed that beneath the flat, dull surface are layers in different colors, mostly reds and greys. Thus the name.

At the southern end of the park are the petrified trees. The area was once apparently fairly swampy and well forested. As the trees died and fell, they became buried in the sand so that normal decay was stopped and the cellulose in the tree was gradually replaced by silicas. Eventually erosion revealed the trees, now turned to stone.

The ground in places is littered with broken pieces of trees, and even logs.

The ends reveal different colors of hard material, which can be polished to reveal shapes and colors.

By the time we left the park, it was time to find a campsite. We did make it out of Arizona just across the border to Gallup. Tomorrow, New Mexico.

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