I left Canyon de Chelly and took to Highway 191 S to Interstate 40 W; arriving at Meteor Crater just a few hours later. With the highway speed limit at 65 mph and the interstate at 75 mph, it seemed lightning-fast!
Meteor Crater prides itself on being "The first proven, and best preserved meteor impact site on the planet, due to early research and the area's arid climate." "Meteor Crater is the result of a collision between a piece of an asteroid traveling at 26,000 miles per hour and planet Earth approximately 50,000 years ago. Today, Meteor Crater is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep."
I spent the entire two hours they told me to allow, seeing the fantastic, 10-minute video, browsing through the comprehensive, interactive exhibits in the museum, attending the ranger-led talk and of course seeing the crater and it's several features from the 3 different viewing platforms on the rim.
Meteor Crater PROS: Plenty to see and do during your visit; even the gift shop has a ton of different rocks and fossils to look at or purchase.
CONS: It's $15 to get in, and its Subway restaurant is selling sandwiches for $8-9.
Around 7pm I arrived at KOA RV Park in Holbrooke, the only place to legally pitch my tent within a relatively close proximity of Petrified Forest National Park, which I'm seeing tomorrow. It was $22.20 with tax, making it one of the most expensive campgrounds I've stayed at so far, and it's right next to the interstate, but there was only one other tent there, you get plenty of amenities like a good-sized pool (I floated around in my tube for while watching the lightning storm in the distance), internet access, electric outlets and water faucets at every site, and it was the cleanest campgound I've ever seen in my life!
|"Giant Logs Trail," Petrified Forest Nat'l Park|
Friday, July 22nd
I arrived at nearby Petrified Forest National Park via the south entrance at around 10:30 this morning, and spent FIVE hours walking thr trails and stopping at all the scenic overlooks. "With one of the world's largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood, multi-hued badlands of the Painted Desert, historic structures, archeological sites, native grassland, and displays of over 200-million-year-old fossils, this is a surprising land of scenic wonders and fascinating science." The park is relatively small in comparison to say Yellowstone or Yosemite, and the ranger at the visitor center told me I could see everything in 2-3 hours - man, was she wrong, lol! If by "everything" she meant just driving though and stopping at all the scenic overlooks, she's right.
After talking with the ranger at Rainbow Forest Museum, I watched the informative orientation video and was on my way - right out the back door, where there was the first walking trail (all the walking trails in the park are paved). I grabbed a trail guide and walked the 1/2-mile "Giant Logs Trail," which features "some of the largest and most colorful logs in the park. 'Old Faithful' at the top of the trail, is almost 10 feet across the base." The logs were beautiful - "coming from minerals in the silica-saturated waters. Iron, carbon, manganese, ans sometimes cobalt and chromium produced patterns and blends of yellow, red, black, blue, brown, white and pink." As old as 225 million years ago, these wonderful creations are truly remarkable. I can't believe I got to touch them.
|Slice of Petrified Log|
Next I combined two walks for a total of 2.5 miles, starting with the "Long Logs" trail, which features one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the park. I connected up to the trail to Agate House, the ruins of a small pueblo occupied for a short time about 700 years ago. its walls made of the blocks of agatized wood! Remarkable!
Next stop was Crystal Forest, where I walked the 3/4-mile loop through the field of fallen trees, where "despite more than a century of collecting, a few beautiful crystals hide in the petrified logs." And even though I saw plenty of signs that forbid disturbing or defacing of anything in the park, I saw people young and old alike, grabbing the pieces of wood to get a closer look. Pathetic.
I continued driving north to the scenic vistas - Jasper Forest, Agate Bridge, Blue Mesa (where I walked a little bit of thr trail through the beautiful badland hills of bluish bentonite clay), Newspaper Rock and Puerco Pueblo (tons of cool petroglyphs!), Route 66 pullout, and then into the Painted Hills of red and orange at overlooks Lacey Point, Whipple Point, Nizhoni Point, Chinde Point, Kachina Point, a peek inside historic Painted Desert Inn, Tawa Point, Tiponi Point and a little visit to Painted Desert Visitor Center at the north entrance.
Painted Desert PROS: A fascinating walk through time, through colorful, fallen forests from 225 million years ago!
~ No campground.
~ No real "hiking" trails, per se.
I left the park around 5:30pm and headed east on I-40 into New Mexico, to the touristy little city of Gallup, the center of commerce for the Navajo people.