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Turning a certain age this year allowed me (and my husband) to acquire a lifetime pass to national parks and we were eligible before the cost went up this fall. Now, the goal is to use these passes to visit and marvel at the wonders of nature found in our country.
For years and years, we have driven west on Interstate 40 and seen the signs for the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. “Someday we will stop there,” we said time and again, but we never did. On our way out, we were too excited and anxious to get to our destination. On our way home, we were too exhausted and just wanted to get home. Until this year . . .
Weather issues loomed as we planned our trip west in December. We decided to leave two days earlier to avoid snow and ice. This created the perfect opportunity to explore the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.
We exited the highway and were amazed to find that the Painted Desert visitor center was just over the hill from the highway. The parking lot held only a few cars, no crowds today. The volunteer explained how the park worked and gave us a map to guide us through the park. Off we went with his recommendations and anticipation of sights to explore.
It was windy and cold, but at least the sun was shining. We were not dressed to take any of the side hikes available. So as we followed the road, we stepped out at the vista points and marveled at the incredible landscapes that were so different from what was along the highway.
Several hours later, we reached the end of the road and found our way back to the highway to continue on our journey west. It was just the break we needed from the routine of driving west. Here are a few photos:
These red hills cannot be seen from the highway.
Look way down at the bottom, that’s a petrified log.
Here is a close up view of that log from above.
On our way back home, we returned to the park because the temperatures were better for taking one of the hikes and we were not in a hurry to get home to the frigid temperatures.
We returned to the Blue Mesa area. As we followed the trail, we marveled at the colors and land formations. Unfortunately, the camera didn’t capture the true colors. These hills (mesas?) really were shades of lavender, but at least you can get an idea of the color variations. Enjoy!
This is what the land looks like right before the Blue Mesa, flat and colorless. No hint of what was ahead.
Enter the Blue Mesa!
This is the trail that takes you down to the bottom of the Blue Mesa. You feel like you are walking around another planet.
View from the bottom
Here is a close-up of the sides of the hills.
Another interesting view of the land in the Blue Mesa.
If you have the opportunity, stop and explore. It’s amazing!