Time to travel to our next location! It's a special one too! We're visiting the Petrified National Forest!
Our travels today are taking us down the I-40 and will take a little over 3 hours.
At an elevation of 7275 feet about sea level, we crossed the Continental Divide. Rain that falls west of the Divide will make its way to the Pacific Ocean. Rain on the east side heads to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Arizona! A new state!
The drive towards the National Forest was flat and empty, save the power lines that are no doubt going to support the sites near the park.
Like this Petrified Forest Gift Shop! This is where we're parking for the night. They're an independent camp ground with only electric hookups. No water or sewer, but we won't be here too long. We can run from our tanks long enough. Electric is the important thing here. Gotta have that AC!
We're the first ones to park here today, so we had no problem backing in to a spot. It's a big empty dirt lot.
But we're surrounded by these giant chunks of petrified rock! The kids were amazed. Theresa has been talking them up, but it's the first time they're really getting to see and touch them. Since we're here so early in the day, we've still got time to head into the park!
Our campsite is just a few hundred years from the entrance to the park! I took this photo from behind our RV. The gates to the park are just in the distance.
Right there! It's nice to have that Annual Pass to the National Parks so we get free entry. The ranger gave us a map and reminded us not to collect anything from the park. Got it.
Just inside the park gates is the Visitor's Center. There's three of them around the park, but we're at the Rainbow Forest Museum.
Along with the Petrified Rocks, the park is known for the many animal fossils, like this 4 foot skull from an animal similar to an alligator. The entire animal would have been 17 feet long, 2100 pounds, and lived 210 million years ago!
Wow, these polished stones are amazing.
So colorful! But how do they get that way? We've got to learn more. And I know the perfect way!
The Junior Ranger Program! The kids learn so much from them!
We never can remember to bring a pencil. Good thing they always have them, and the pencils here are even more special. They are rainbow, both on the outside, and the lead inside!
Amongst the fossils, the kids worked through the parts of the book that they could.
We had to look at the different exhibits to answer some of the questions.
And we learned what makes the stones turn different colors. We've learned about them, but we've got to go outside and see them!
Right behind the Visitor's Center is the Giant Logs trail. Not only can you see the massive stones, but you can get up close and feel them too.
There's hundreds of them around here.
And not just little pieces.
They can be so big that you can't even get your hands all the way around them.
Ian taking some field notes. The guide book asked him to touch, smell, and see the rocks. Use his senses to get a sense for what he's looking at. I suggested he add "taste" to those too but only got an eye roll.
Around 216 million years ago, this area was a giant forest with a river running through it. The trees here fell over and into the river, getting covered with silt. After many years, water and minerals crept into the tree and would replace the organic material.
Hard to believe this was a forest, but time changes things.
It's incredible seeing all the detail after all these years.
You'd swear that it's tree bark. It's got the color of tree bark. But put your hand on it and it's definitely stone.
Theresa - It's like something out of a fairytale. Wood turning into stone. That's not supposed to happen in real life.
It's also incredible seeing all the different colors. Yellows, oranges, reds. Even blues and purple.
Ian - What makes it silver?
Joe - Bird poop...
That got a good laugh.
Just beside the Rainbow Forest Museum is a gift shop, but they've also got a movie about the parks playing. Since they are no Ranger Talks going on, a movie will work out great to give us information about the park.
We looked around the gift shop and the kids were excited to see that you could actually buy pieces of petrified wood! None of it was collected inside the park. I had them hold off for now. I wanted to check out the gift shop where we parked the RV and see how their prices compared.
And since it's a gift shop they sell treats! I think ice cream would be perfect on a hot day like today. The kids used their goodie bag money from Pop Pop and Gram to buy us treats.
I checked with the employee and got the okay to eat our ice cream while we watched the movie. Perfect!
They do a good job on these National Park documentaries. I'm excited to go see more!