In February 2013, after spending some winter months in Georgia with family, we embarked on yet another adventure. Our destination was southern California, and our route was filled with key stops that a traveler shouldn’t dare miss. A few of these “don’t miss” destinations are located on each side of the border of New Mexico and Arizona. We were lucky enough to choose this path and get to experience El Morro National Monument, Zuni cliff dwellings, and the Petrified National Forest(which was our favorite, that’s why we talked about it first).
This tiny marvel of eastern Arizona is surrounded by Navajo Indian reservation and Zuni Pueblo. It is one of the most fascinating places we have visited. These trees, Araucarioxylon arizonicum(from the late Triassic period, about 225 million yrs. ago), accumulated in river channels and were buried periodically by sediment containing volcanic ash. Buried here for millions of years until an upheaval of massive proportion and years of erosion unearthed these beautiful giants.
The millions of years they have been in these conditions have caused a transformation, like a caterpillar to butterfly, turning these trees into stone. Some have crystalized, some have opalised, but they have all been petrified.
Here is a little science for ya….. Groundwater dissolved silica (silicon dioxide) from volcanic ash and carried it into the logs, where it formed quartz crystals that gradually replaced the organic matter. Traces of iron oxide and other substances combined with the silica to create varied colors in the petrified wood.
The day was frigid. We only stopped to take pictures. We ran the crystal forest loop so fast we had to do it again.
Yep, we went back to the van to warm up, then we did it again, and again till the light was no longer on our side.
Almost all of the logs in the park retained most of their original exterior form during petrification, but lost their internal structure.
Here is a list of what causes each color:
- carbon – black
- cobalt – green/blue
- chromium – green/blue
- copper – green/blue
- iron oxides – red, brown, and yellow
- manganese – pink/orange
- manganese oxides – blackish/yellow
This was our first stop, and when we pulled into El Morro the first thing we saw was this sweet crack.
People have been passing this way for thousands of years. Some of these traveler’s have signed there names on Inscription Rock. Was Kilroy here?
We made a quick stop in between to see the Zuni Cliff Dwellings. We didn’t even know we were near any, but when we saw the sign on the road, we had to stop. This prime real estate was occupied during the 3rd pueblo period, about 1200 to 1300 a.d.
So, we hope you have enjoyed these 3 quick stops, and don’t forget to mark them on your map.