A 2 Week Odyssey Through the High Desert of AZ & UT
After visiting the high desert for the first time in the spring of 2011, I felt I had to come back to this area again. It presented a rich landscape of color, contours, and formations, that are a challenge to photograph. My first exposure to the high desert only made me want to see more. It took me about a month to plan the route to take advantage of the many national and state parks and monuments in this area. In all we made it to 11, spending an afternoon to 3 days, depending size of the park or monument we were visiting. This is a first in a series of blogs with pictures from my travels.
The Painted Desert & Petrified Forest.
Like just about everyone, I had heard about the Painted Desert and The Petrified Forest. On our last trip we had skirted a portion of the Painted Desert. On this trip our route would take us near the Petrified Forrest National Park, which also includes a portion of the Painted Desert. It would be the first stop on our Odyssey. We drove from Phoenix to Overgaard, where we would spend our 1st night on the road. My cousin Dave and his wife, Sue, have a summer place here to escape the summer heat of the Phoenix area.
Breakfast on Rt. 66
The elevation change from Phoenix to Overgaard drops the temperature 20 degrees. We hit the road to the park early the next morning with plans to have breakfast at a little place in Overgaard. Only problem it was closed. We decided to drive for a while and stop in Holbrook before we got to the park. We found a little place In Holbrook and pulled up in front. It was then that I saw the sign-we were on historic Rt. 66-that fabled highway from Chicago to LA that exists only in pieces now.
(Petrified Log Balanced on a Ridge)
46 year Later
The last time I was on Rt. 66 was in 1966, on a bus from Chicago to Ft. Leonard Wood MO.-not exactly a pleasure trip. This meal would start a routine that would last for the rest of the trip-a hearty breakfast then hit the road. Lunch would be granola bars and trail mix. We would stop for supper around 5 in order to be in the parks etc. for the best light at the end of the day.
The Petrified Forrest is the only park we visited that is accessed off a major highway. Rt. 40 passes through the park and the main entrance is right off the highway. We entered here and drove the length of the park, stopping to shoot and explore along the way. The colors in the Painted Desert were enhanced by the spring greening of the desert. The Petrified Forrest is truly unique. 200 million year ago trees fell and were buried in silt. Cut off from oxygen the trees didn't rot, silica gradually replaced the wood and turned the trees to stone. Now erosion is gradually exposing them. I found it fascinating to actually touch a tree that was alive when dinosaurs still roamed this part of the world.
Stories Told in Stone
Among the colorful desert scenery and giant trees, there are stories left in stone by people of ancient cultures who inhabited this land long before the white man arrived. On rocks throughout the park, you can find their stories, carved into the soft stone that makes up this part of the desert. Because of the climate they have endured and remain a reminder of the people who once inhabited this land. This was the beginning of a 2500 mile odyssey through national, state parks and monuments, ancient ruins and incredible scenery. Next stop Canyon De Chelly.