Log Day 4: Painted Desert and Petrified Forest
  Nave Album****1982 West Trip Go Back

August 4: Painted Desert and Petrified Forest

I set the alarm for Brenda and I to get up at 5 AM to head for Petrified Forest. We moved the boys down to the lower bed, put the camper in shape to roll and left about 5:45 AM. Brenda had made coffee so she and I had a cup while we watched the beautiful sunrise in the now-cleared sky. We drove through the bluffs and wide range country into Arizona at dawn, a really exhilirating time for us. We were at the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest welcome center at 7 AM.

We bought some of the nice picture books and watched a 17 minute film about the formation of the petrified trees. About 8 AM we headed down the road into the Painted Desert. This was in every respect an outstanding experience for the family.

At the first turnout, Tiponi Point, we had a beautiful view of the colored humps and bluffs. The sunlight was beautiful for photography and the boys ran down a trail and over a few of the colored humps. They enjoyed the activity after three long days of driving. There were wildflowers and multiple desert plants which looked like some of the feather corals we saw on the reefs in Florida. It looked like a desert reef. The roads were nice and clean, the turnouts convenient - a well-managed park.

At each point the boys could run and climb. At the highest point, Pintado Point, the view was probably most dramatic. We had coffee and snacks there. At Lacey Point the boys ran down the sloped sides to the valley and jumped four rabbits. Near the bottom they watched a ground squirrel or something run about - they said it had green markings. Asked what it was, Jeff replied "I think it was a green-speckled gully runner".

We left Painted Desert and crossed into Petrified Forest. We looked at the Puerco Indian Ruin and then climbed the 120 steps down to Newspaper Rock. The rock with its petroglyphs was neat, but the boys were much more excited about the big rocks alongside the steps down. They crawled and climbed through the passageways for 20 to 30 minutes and had a great time. Jeff said "This is my idea of the west. I could stay here a week!"

We discussed their enjoyment of this place and their relative lack of enthusiasm for the beautiful rocky structures we had been driving through for two days. His comment: "Who cares about rocks if you can't climb on them!"

We drove around the Blue Mesa to look and I took pictures while Brenda and the boys walked around. Again the boys ranged pretty far down the erosion humps and valleys.

We stopped finally at the Long Logs Point at the south end of the park. Mark's strong desire was to "climb a mountain" to have a picnic lunch. There were some white humps which appeared to be large and a half mile or more away, but turned out to be only a couple of hundred yards. They enjoyed climbing the humps to have their lunch while Brenda and I had lunch in the van.

We left Petrified Forest, having spent over six enjoyable hours on the 27 mile stretch through the two areas. We bought some petrified wood and geodes at a shop on Hwy 180 just outside the park - the first of several shops.

Driving on toward Flagstaff we again saw mountains rise, blue and misty and beautiful across a wide open plain. This time we did climb into them as we approached Flagstaff.

We had to scratch the idea of the loop around Montezumas Castle and up Oak Creek Canyon becaus it was about 140 miles and we had spent too long at Petrified Forest.

Still, we were early and I hated to miss the Oak Creek Canyon I had heard so much about, so we decided to try driving to Sedonia to camp.

We drove thoward the canyon through a nice forest of Ponderosa Pine and after gentle slopes we came to a sudden steep and twisting descent, through many switchbacks into a dramatic valley with high forested bluffs. We drove down the valley through crowds of campers in the narrow valley along the stream. It opened into the fantastic red bluffs we had seen in western movies. A fantastic valley!

The trip into the valley was however less than ideal - the boys were in an extremely ill temper and refused to enjoy the beautiful scenery - they were tired from their excursions in the Petrified Forest.

The steepness of the road discouraged me from trying to retrace it before dawn on the way to Grand Canyon, so we decided to turn around at Sedonia and drive back to the Flagstaff KOA Campground. Also bearing on my mind was an increasing whine from the right front wheel which spelled wheel-bearing trouble. Exhausted, we checked into the huge sprawling camper city which is the Flagstaff KOA. We are not extremely impressed with this type of camping- it is too public-too much like a city - too crowded. The bathhouse facilities, etc., are extremely nice, but it seems to me they charge too much - a really money-making business.

Adding to our misery at the end of an otherwise outstanding day--the boys disappeared for an hour while Brenda fixed supper and let it sit -- waiting. We walked the campground to the game room, etc., about four times looking for them. Nearly 2000 miles from home and they were gone! After an hour of anxiety they wandered back in - they had wandered a mile and a half down the trail out of the campground toward the mountain.

They couldn't understand our anxiety about getting lost in a strange area with dark falling - about snakes or injury. They had interpreted a tired nod from Brenda that they could explore as giving them free rein, when she meant they could explore the campground! Perhaps we cleared the misunderstanding and set a rule not to leave the campground without us with them, and to let us know where the were at all times.

I had to make the painful decision not to head for Grand Canyon in the early morning. It just seemed foolish to head into open country with a wheel bearing squalling, so we decided to stay over and get it fixed in Flagstaff.

We were exhausted after our first real day of touring.

Back to the boys exploration - they did walk carefully, take care of each other, and Jeff said "We didn't have one argument!" So there was evidence of the bonding we hoped to strengthen on this trip.

We traveled 277 miles on this day.

Map for Day 4
  Nave Album****1982 West Trip Go Back