March 28, 2022
This week was very busy after the slow winter we had. First, we moved just north of Phoenix to Peoria to a section of land owned by Arizona Land Trust. A permit for the year costs $15 and allows you to park on this land for up to 14 days per year so that’s just what we did. We were parked in a desert with Saguaros all around us before dark. We were even able to fill up our water tank for free at Lake Pleasant just a few miles down the road. We had great cell reception and the site was easy to access. The next day we ran errands and decided that this area of AZ is too hot, windy, dusty, and crowded for us. I had an In and Out Burger for the first time which was actually really good. They only give you four options when you order and it tasted fresh and delicious. This was our campsite in Peoria.
Onward we roamed to Holbrook, AZ. I found that there is free camping at the gift shop right outside of the Petrified Forest National Park. With a little research I also found we could fill our wanter tank at city hall in Holbrook for only 25 cents. We had dumped our water in Peoria so we wouldn’t be towing all that extra weight. Our tank is 75 gallons and water weighs about 8.3 lbs per gallon so that would have been over 600 lbs in extra weight. Extra weight means more weight you have to pull and stop and more gas you will burn so we don’t want that. We did drive by some reservation land on the way in and it was a sad reminder of the meager and barren land our ancestors exiled the Native Americans to. We took the National Park land as government property and left behind the land that was flat high desert with no water or apparent resources. Oh what a shameful past America has…or should we include the present too? Dialetics are important to keep in mind here. We are wonderful and are also brutal. Both are true.
Holbrook is along the old Route 66 and the Painted desert which stretches from the Grand Canyon to Navajo Nation. Holbrook had a famous shoot out in 1886 in the saloon which was so grisly that the floors were said to have been slick with a bucket of blood. Henceforth, the town now has a Bucket of Blood St. We will explore more of this old town later as we were more eager to spend time in the National Park.
The Petrified Forest National Park is amazing. It’s like two parks in one as it contains the Painted Desert as well. The park has a 28 mile road running through it with plenty of scenic pull offs, a few side roads, and some hiking trails. It also has a gift shop at either end and a cafe where I sampled some delicious Navajo fry bread tacos. At this park you are not only confronted with vast wild open spaces, but also with the vastness of time. Starting in the north end of the park you first see the Painted Desert. The painted desert is considered an area of Badlands with Chinle formations similar to the Badlands in South Dakota, though the colors are more vibrant in much of the Painted Desert. These Badlands are described as looking like Neapolitan ice cream and I absolutely love them. Chinle formations are found in many places within the Southwest and are colorful bands of sedimentary rock deposited here between 227 and 250 million years ago by flowing rivers. This place may have shown me the oldest things I have ever seen. The beauty and vastness of the painted desert is difficult to describe so here are some photos to give you an idea of it.
Equally as amazing is the Petrified Forest. Did you know that Arizona was a lush rainforest during the Triassic Period about 225 million years ago? At that time, 180 foot conifers were dense here. The trees died and became buried and the logs soaked up groundwater and silica from volcanic ash. Over time, this crystalized into quartz. Different minerals caused the quartz to take on different colors. Thus creating vibrant stone fossils of these old trees. Some were broken into chunks or slices, some remained a long solid log, some formed bridges over waterways long since dried up. Walking among these fossils is an amazing experience. I think this may be one of my favorite national parks thus far and I’m sure we will go back several more times before we move on.
The park closes it’s gates at 5pm, but we learned that one could obtain a free permit to wilderness camp in the park overnight so I suggested to Luke that he do this and attempt to get some amazing night sky photos in the park. This place, like several large national parks, is dark sky certified so we knew it would be an optimal viewing point for the Milky Way. We just waited for a night that was not too cloudy and Luke geared up with everything he would need to be an adventurer. The park does not allow you to sleep in your vehicle and requires that you camp at least 1 mile away from the designated parking area. The permit can be used for one of four zones which allows wilderness camping. There are no amenities available so campers must pack in and out all their needs and waste. We went to a camping store to get a tent for one person as ours is much bigger and heavier. We also made a trip to WalMart in Winslow, AZ to grab a few other supplies like a small inflatable sleeping pad. While in Winslow, we had to do as tourists do and stand on the corner as sung in the Eagles song, “Take it Easy”. Of course they had an Eagles song playing on loudspeakers on this street corner when we stopped to take this photo. With all of his camping and camera gear packed up, I could barely lift the backpack, but it’s very dry out and 40 degrees or less in the middle of the night, so he was happy to have a gallon of water and extra warm stuff with him. Luke returned from camping this morning very sore as his bag was way too heavy. Once he awakens, we will see if his photos and footage are as good as hoped for. If not, it was an adventure for him so worth the experience. I’m glad he returned safely and perhaps we will scout a part of the painted desert outside of the National park where we can take Milky Way photos without having to hike and overnight camp with lots of gear.
Jennifer MacNeil is currently traveling the US with her husband and two dogs. She loves to have adventures, explore, meet fascinating people, and see amazing places. She strives to learn every day and spread kindness to others. She documents the journey through her photography and blog to share with others.