This morning started out from Gallup, NM and straight to Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona right along Route 66/I-40. We took the north loop first up through the Painted Desert. We passed the Painted Desert Inn. A guy built this originally in the 1920s out of petrified wood to be his home…but he built it on top of a bentonite clay layer and bentonite clay has a huge swelling/shrinking profile with water… so the poor guy’s house was very unstable. ha He sold it to the national park service in the 1930s. In the 1940’s – 1960’s The Fred Harvey Company leased it and operated tours and hotel stays here.
If you’ve never heard of The Fred Harvey Company, they operated a very interesting business model of offering high quality and luxury type travel to the Southwest via a partnership with the Sante Fe Railroad. Their hotels offered fine dining, comfortable transport and full guided tours to areas like the Petrified Forest or the Grand Canyon. They hired “Harvey Girls” which all had to wear a certain uniform, they couldn’t be married, some of the jobs had very strict roles- like at the Grand Canyon-the Harvey Girls had to have college degrees in history or similar, speak Spanish and were mentored by local architects and anthropologists so they could speak to everything about the Southwest as tour guides. Other Harvey girls worked as hostesses or waitresses but almost always young, attractive, educated and unmarried.
I digress, by the 1960’s even Fred Harvey had to move their business to a new visitor center at Petrified Forest because of the building being so unstable. It was scheduled for demolition in the 70s but a campaign to save it still has it standing today and maintained by the National Park Service.
The north rim was very pretty but nothing just spectacular to photograph. Most of the painted deserts hills were very far off on huge lookouts. We completed that loop and headed for the south loop of the park. One of our first stops was Newspaper Rock to see petroglyphs from over 1000 years ago from ancestral Puebloan people of the area. There are over 650 petroglyphs on these rocks, but you could only view them from a lookout point high above…so the photos I could get are grainy.
We continued on around past The Teepees, named for the cone like shape the formations are in.
There were lots of quick pulloffs from the car to see various parts of the Blue Mesa
We saw The Agate Bridge, a 200 million year old tree that petrified into stone still spanning this gap as all of the other dirt and rocks has eroded over the years.
Jasper Forest was a lookout point where there were tons of petrified wood scattered all over the ground. Then we did the Crystal Forest walk which was a mile or so loop through a lot of up close petrified logs.
These trees would have been alive around 200 million years ago….when they fell, or floods in the area at that time would have washed them downstream in a bunch of mud or volcanic ash, they were covered by a silica sand for so long with such low oxygen content that it slowed the rot of the wood and had just the right mineral conditions for the silica to slowly, slowly replace cell by cell of the organic tree material with the silica through a process called mineralization that eventually hardened into solid rock like opal, chalcedony or quartz. So even though these “trees” still have bark, rings showing the age, etc- there is no wood left at all, its all rock hard stone.
We saw a Collared Lizard on our path. That was the highlight for Norah. It was cool. Yellow feet!
This sign made us all giggle. Be in your car by 6:30pm or hungry coyotes might eat you. haha So cheerful and yet macabre. I love a good juxtaposition.
After finishing the loop, we stopped at the Crystal Forest Gift Shop where Norah picked up a piece of petrified wood and a piece of turquoise with her souvenir funds. We continued along Route 66 to Holbrook, Arizona where we passed the famous Wigwam Motel. I’ve always wanted to stay here for some reason. There is another part of this same WigWam hotel chain in Cave City, KY…and when we go to Mammoth Cave sometime when it opens back up post-Covid, I think we may stay there. Someone just bought that one and is remodeling it.
The Route 66 travel continued along to Winslow, AZ.
Where, of course, we had to stand on a corner! 🙂
We headed for lunch at The Turquoise Room inside the La Posada Hotel. This building has a fantastic backstory and history. The same architect that saved the Painted Desert Inn with a redesign for the Fred Harvey Company was Mary Coulter, one of the only female working architects of her time. She also designed all of the buildings at the Grand Canyon south rim which I’ll blog tomorrow. She had a vision for this hotel to be an exotic destination for railroad visitors to stop and stay, since the Santa Fe Railroad didn’t really have sleeper cars, travelers had to find lodging at the various depots along the way. She wanted to give this hotel a backstory, so it was designed to appear to be an old Mexican hacienda that had fallen on hard times and was purchased and expanded into a hotel for guests. She even designed in a fake archeological site into the grounds to look like the “hacienda” was even built on an old fort. Of all the buildings she designed- and thats a lot- she considered La Posada her best work.
She added walled gardens and wishing well fountain, inset nooks for saints and other southwest influences… there are still tons of stuff on the internet about the original “hacienda” family or the ancient site. ha I love this. She faked it so well, today we still think its real!
The hotel opened in 1930, right after the stock market crash of 1929…so business was slow. It was good business into the 40s…but steadily declined as people travelled by car instead of by rail. It eventually closed, became an office building… and someone bought it in the late 1990s and restored it to its glory as a hotel and restaurant. I would totally recommend a stay here if you’re in Winslow. It had a great vibe. Norah was just impressed with their cornbread that magically arrived with her grilled cheese. ha The girl loves her cornbread.
After lunch, it was time for Meteor Crater. The biggest tourist trap this side of Wall Drug. ha (we’ll see that in a couple weeks ha)
Billboards and signs for miles tell you not to miss it! Funny, we actually tried to go here back in 2010 on our way home from Salinas, California on our first stent out there… and we had Izzy dog with us (which by the way, she’s still kicking- 13 years old with a giant tumor on her side…so who knows for how long…but she’s still around) We got all the way to the parking lot only to find out they didnt allow you to walk a dog up to the crater.
Well, this time around, they have built a huge visitor center and they now have dog kennels, I noted. ha But we didn’t need it this trip! A huge storm was rolling past so all the photos are very gray. They weren’t even giving guided tours of the crater because of the weather. I was nervous letting Norah hold the metal binoculars…so we made it a quick visit outside.
After Meteor crater, continued to Flagstaff area and headed north towards Grand Canyon Village which was our stop for the night. I had REALLY hoped this Flintstone Bedrock City would be open when we passed – and so did Norah- she had been asking for days when we were going to get to Flintstone City. haha This is another example of something I wish I would have found a few years earlier to buy and fix up. Someone new just purchased this RV Park to turn it into a Raptor experience park. I think they planned to tear down the Flintstone park eventually- but so many people visiting asked to see it that they have started charging admission into it again and I hope plan to bring it back to some envisioned glory.
We paid $8 a person to walk into the “backyard” of the Raptor park to visit Bedrock City. Someone’s grand vision that just never quite got there. ha But I LOVED it.
Can’t you just see us buying rundown Bedrock City and fixing this up?? I’d live in the Post Office. I was having total renovation visions in every one of the buildings. It was SUCH a cute idea but so grungy and gross. haha I’m truly sad I can’t own this! But super excited it might be getting a second life.
We drove on into the Grand Canyon Village and decided we felt like Mexican tonight. So we paid $110 for your average tourist Mexican dinner. eek. ha Kegan did get the Molcajete, which is a HAVE TO anytime its on the menu, its beef and shrimp and chicken are marinated in red sauce, usually with cheese and cactus pieces, served with tortillas and always served in this giant volcano lava bowl that literally has it all boiling when it comes to the table.
Norah tried Horchata for the first time. Big fan. She said it’s like Cinnamon Chex milk at the bottom of the cereal bowl. I had a big pile of carnitas covered in guac to keep it low carb. It was great.
Kegan walked outside to get the last of our stuff and encountered 2 elk across the street munching on some shrubs. He said you could hear them eating and crunching. ha Look how close they are to the lady on the sidewalk and they didn’t care one bit. Until some other lady came out making noise and filming and spooked them a bit. Seriously- its like people near these parks have literally never encountered an animal before. No chill. No idea how to act. But I’m practicing my Zen this trip…ha
Overall a much better day of sites and open amenities than the past couple days! Tomorrow we’ll explore Grand Canyon!