Sunday, October 21, 2007

Day 49 -- Isn't Arizona supposed to be hot?

I haven't been using an alarm clock since I left Oregon 7 weeks ago. Oh, I set the alarm to wake me up for mornings of the Chimpanzoo conference, but I always woke up well before the alarm sounded. Today I wanted to be sure to get up with plenty of time to arrive at the Petrified Forest National Park for the 10AM ranger talk, so I dug my alarm clock out of the suitcase. Dead battery. The room at the Reed Motor Lodge in Springerville had plenty of character: knotty pine wood paneling, lamps that were probably purchased in the 1950s, a strange counter at the back of the room. But no alarm clock. Oh, well. I woke up on my own.

It was a great drive to the national park. About 90 minutes. Changing landscape all along the way with fascinating rock formations. Makes me want to study geology so I can understand why the rocks are piled as they are. I arrived at my destination in time to see the video before the ranger talk. It was a good talk. Very informative. And the audience seemed very well informed, too. The Q&A got pretty detailed about how wood becomes petrified.

The ranger didn't say so, but the park is mis-named. There never was a forest at the site. It is an ancient flood plane where fallen trees collected after being washed downstream. But I guess Petrified Logjam National Park doesn't sound as good.

I followed the 28-mile route through the park and pulled off at most of the views. Some included short trails. I took plenty of pictures, but I'm not sure you can capture the views adequately with a camera. Chunks of petrified wood scattered across the landscape as far as you can see. Much of it is agatized and polished by nature. [Really, one of these days I will again post pictures to this blog. Maybe I'll go back and refresh. Or maybe I'll create a digital album. Someday.]

Before the area was made into a national monument and then park in the early part of the 20th century, people used to come and cart specimens away by the truckload. Some used dynamite to blow up petrified logs to get to crystals inside. Even today visitors pocket pieces, totaling tons every year. There is not a whole lot that can be done to stop someone who is intent on copping a souvenir despite all the signs -- and penalties. The film and the ranger both address the issue. With the receipt for your entrance fee, you get a bright green card to fill out if you see someone taking or defacing anything. And at each exit is a sign warning people to prepare to stop for a vehicle inspection. Apparently many people have second thoughts and send back the pieces they took. Some of the accompanying letters are featured in the film and in the visitor centers.

I wondered why we had a ranger talk and not a ranger walk. When I finally went outside to start exploring, I figured out why: cold wind. Whoa. Was it ever windy. Bright blue skies and relentless wind. Taking pictures was challenging because the wind made it hard to hold the camera steady. I'm expecting it to be even colder -- and maybe windier -- up at the Grand Canyon.

At 3PM I got on I-40 and headed toward Flagstaff. Plenty of traffic, including big trucks. Glad I was able to cover so much territory on secondary roads the few weeks. In Flagstaff I selected a motel on old Route 66. When I checked in the clerk offered me ear plugs. The railroad runs parallel to Route 66, and there is a nearby crossing. Toot, toot. Now I know why a few of the motels advertise "No train noise." I figure if I can (sort of) sleep through the sounds of partying chimps, train whistles shouldn't be much of a problem.

Stopped at a shopping mall just before closing and bought a hat for tomorrow. Something that will stay on my head AND keep my ears warm. I'll be pulling the heavier jacket out of the storage tub in the back seat, too. Hard to believe that not too long ago I was complaining about the heat and humidity.

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