Me and Ross have been in this area numerous times, including staying a winter in a cabin in Flagstaff a couple years back, but we never made the trip out to Petrified Forest (and Painted Desert) National Park. It was always too far way, we were on our way somewhere else, or we ran out of time…ever since I was a kid actually. When I was 10 I lived in Arizona for a while and my step dad was always animate about seeing everything there was to see in Arizona whenever he wasn’t working construction. We lived in Southern Arizona so the trek north was quite a ways in our old RV – Petrified Forest is over 2 hours just from Flagstaff and the opposite direction of most everything else. We got close a couple of times but never made it over to that desolate corner of the state before we had to head back to San Carlos.
So when Ross’s brother came to visit, we made everything in northern Arizona, and most of Southern Utah, a priority. We dedicated a weekend day to finally driving out to Petrified National Forest, and of course, making the mandatory stop at one of my favorite places, Two Guns, Arizona, a ‘Ghost Town’ that features an abandoned trading post, the site of a horrible Indian battle, mining discoveries, an old RV park, a gas station and much more.
The history of the Petrified Forest was pretty amazing, an ancient jungle, each of the fallen, petrified trees an extinct species now completely replaced with ores and crystals. We managed to trap and pick the brain of one of the rangers before she made a daring escape to help some other tourists, but we got a lot of questions answered and got a great picture of how the area used to be. She shared an inside joke with us about how the place should be renamed to “Badlands Petrified Log Jam National Park”, after I told her it looks a lot like the South Dakota Badlands. I like the name enough to basically adopt it, after all, there really is not a single standing tree aside from the rogue, rugged, juniper tree.
While looking at some petroglyphs at another stop, we were surprised to see a large dust storm coming from the east. The wind picked up and I had to be led by Ross’s arm back to the truck because I was worried I’d get sand in my contact lenses. We made it back and I was barely able to shut the door before the dust really hit us. We continued on, though with the storm continuing on all sides, making for some amazing views in the Painted Desert section of the park. There were haboobs (dust storms) and dust devils (mini tornadoes) all along the landscape, mixed with bouts of rain and epic clouds. By the time we made our last stop we could barely open or close our doors due to the strong winds. We headed back just in time to see a great sunset behind Flagstaff.