Friday, October 16, 2015

Petrified Forest National Park

     Last week Tim and I made a trip out west for a short vacation in the high elevations of Arizona. We traveled to Phoenix then drove North, heading toward the Petrified Forest National Park before settling into our Route 66 Flagstaff Hotel. The drive was gorgeous, seeing the towering cacti and the scraggly-looking shrubs that covered the desert. As we moved north the landscape became very chaparral-like, dry and very scrubby, with less cacti and more shrubs and grasses.
     The mountains and rocky scenery painted the landscape with earthy red, orange, and ochre tones. Our first steps into the petrified forest were awesome and very beautiful, prepare to be overloaded with desert scenery in 5, 4, 3, 2...
The petrified wood is better weathered than these sad dinos. But at one time, during the Triassic, dinosaurs roamed these lands among these preserved and mineralized trees that remain here in this National Park.
Big sky and wide landscapes is what this land is all about. You often forget, that despite the billions of people on this Earth that expanses of land even exist like this!
Petrified wood is no longer organic plant material, it has become mineralized and is no longer at all wood but rock. 
The process of becoming a mineral makes these petrified wood pieces look quite beautiful, each one is very unique getting it color due to the presence of various elements, reds and oranges mostly results from iron. 
In the Triassic, 200 million years ago this place looked more like a swamp. Wet, with mosses and lush with green. Dinosaurs lived here as well as giant crocodiles. The conditions within this environment were perfect for the process of petrification. When plants died, they could quickly be buried in a low oxygen environment where their organic cellular structure would be replaced with stone.
Super excited to see my first reptile of the trip here, a plateau fence lizard. I laid across the path to catch a shot of this guy as he scuttled under a rock for cover, as I probably looked very scary to this 4 inch lizard.
Quartz is often found within the petrified wood, an entire area of the park, the Crystal Forest has a bunch of quartzed (is that a verb? Now it is) petrified wood pieces. Unfortunately before the area was highly patrolled by the National Park Services, much of the quartz was taken from the area.
Different layers tell history, the grey stuff is referred to as the newspaper layer, it looks like wet newspaper pulp, it crumbles and erodes like it too! It is important to keep on the trail to preserve these features within the park.
More of that "newspaper." I'm sure a flash flood from a heavy rain can really erode this stuff.
The layers in these hills and rocky outcrops coincide with time and different layers reveal different fossils and artifacts. From 200 million year old dinosaurs, to more recent megafauna like giant sloths, to humans who lived on this land and used it for their survival and culture.
Pretty stoked to see this dude, a collared lizard! Named for the collar-like marking around its neck, this lizard is always dressed business casual, and is super professional.
Part of the iguana family, this lizard preys mostly upon insects. Males can be vivid blues and brightly colored when mature and vying for the attention of females.

Petrified wood that looked pretty similar to normal wood, complete with lichens growing on it!
Sometimes there isn't much to say. Fantastic scenery.


The colors, the immensity of these features, and the world surrounding them is just absolutely unreal. Note the tiny grass patches, this isn't a little hill! 
In New York City, we get pretty pumped to see ravens. Out west, they are a dime a dozen. One of the park rangers referred to them as flying rats, I suppose they never visited New York. The ravens here are not shy and give you the opportunity to get some nice head shots.


One more before we drive 2 hours west to Flagstaff along Route 40, which runs the route of historic Rt 66.