After our stop in Memphis, we headed on toward Arizona. We spent two nights in Holbrook, AZ and visited the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest and Meteor Crater from there. All were within a half hour drive of our hotel.
The variety of colors in the Painted Desert made it really beautiful.This area is called "The Tepees". The hills in the area all have this striped pattern, caused by the layering of minerals in the soil.
Below are the remains of Puerco Pueblo. This was once a 100 room pueblo housing approximately 1200 people. The original structure was built around the year 1250.
This is called "Newspaper Rock". There were actually several rocks at the site, all covered with hundreds of very clear petroglyphs. It's pretty amazing to think of people leaving each other messages here almost 1000 years ago.
The Petrified Forest was really neat, and odd. Out in the middle of the desert are hundreds and hundreds of logs, all beautifully crystallized. Apparently, this area was once a forest with many streams. When the trees fell, they were washed into the streams and buried in silt, mud and volcanic ash. The park brochure says that "the sediment cut off oxygen and slowed the logs' decay. Silica-laden groundwater seeped through the logs and replaced the original wood tissues with silica deposits. Eventually the silica crystallized into quartz, and the logs were preserved as petrified wood".
All of the black bumps in the picture below are logs. Weird.
On the way out of Holbrook, we stopped to see Meteor Crater. Scientists believe the hole was made 50,000 years ago when a giant meteor hit the Earth. The hole is 550 feet deep (60 stories, or the equivalent of the height of the Washington Monument), 4000 feet across, and 2.4 miles in circumference. That's BIG! Astronaut training has been conducted here in the past, and there is a model astronaut in the middle of the crater. You need binoculars to see it! There are other meteor craters on Earth, but most have been leveled by erosion. The site in Arizona is the most intact impact site on Earth. It was pretty amazing to see. There is a wonderful visitor center on the edge of the crater, but we didn't have much time to explore. There were cats in the car, and it was getting hot outside!
So, we turned on the air conditioning, and kept moving west...
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