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).

DSC06164  DSC06211

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.


DSC06208 DSC06204 DSC06224     

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.                                    

DSC06222  DSC06202

DSC06193   DSC06200   

The day was frigid.  We only stopped to take pictures.  We ran the crystal forest loop so fast we had to do it again.

DSC06185   DSC06197

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.

DSC06194   DSC06188   DSC06191 

Almost all of the logs in the park retained most of their original exterior form during petrification, but lost their internal structure.

DSC06184    DSC06179    DSC06181 

Here is a list of what causes each color:

DSC06177  DSC06175 DSC06174 

    DSC06172 DSC06173


DSC06166   DSC06169


DSC06155     This was our first stop, and when we pulled into El Morro the first thing we saw was this sweet crack.

DSC06143  Then we noticed they had installed a device to the top of it to measure the distance it moves.  Seems the crack is widening.  I guess that means it’s “unsafe” to climb.  Blah..Blah..Blah…

DSC06148 DSC06142  DSC06145

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?   


DSC06133   DSC06128

DSC06136  DSC06140

DSC06141  DSC06132


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.