Other Worldly

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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!

 

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15 thoughts on “Other Worldly

  1. My parents took me to the painted desert when I was eight years old. I think I was too young to appreciate it. Seeing your photos makes me want to go back soon. (But not before Ari is nine since I don’t want him to have the same feeling as I do as an adult.)

  2. Just gorgeous! My family went there when I was in middle school, and I’m so glad we did. My parents were always really into national parks, and now, I can’t wait to take my own family when my daughter is older. (We’re doing state parks already though — she has been to 3 so far!) I loved how you’d always thought about stopping, but never had before. So many things we miss by thinking we’ll do them “some other time” (makes me think of the movie UP!) — glad you didn’t skip this time!

  3. You will never regret having that National Parks pass! My husband has had one for a couple of years and we have truly enjoyed. You have visited places that are all new to me – how gorgeous your photos are! Fabulous!

  4. What wonderful photos! My husband and I have been talking more and more about traveling out west. With scenery like this, it’s hard to resist! I’m so glad you were finally able to stop and enjoy this beautiful place.

  5. We got our park passes last year. Such a bargain, now to take advantage of them! Your posts is inspiring and amazing to see what was just over the hill. Glad you had the chance to return for the hike.

  6. Judy C. says:

    We got our park pass many years ago and have enjoyed many of the parks as we have traveled. I’ll have to add this one to our list! Somehow, the camera never captures those beautiful colors.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. That is a definite yes for our next trip west. I always worry about the ice too. (I’m not sure how our trailer would perform) Thank goodness for such great weather predictions. It does look surreal and almost spooky in some of the pictures. xo

  8. I “discovered” the desert and the Southwest about ten years ago and fell in love with the landscape. I believe you about the purple colors since I saw them myself, especially in the area of Abiquiu where Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted. It’s amazing what treasures and surprises there are “just around the bend, off the beaten path” if we just slow down and take the time to find and enjoy them. Glad you got to experience this amazing landscape.

  9. Beautiful post. Breathtaking beauty! Thank you for sharing. When our kids were young, we deliberately scheduled time in a December road trip to include Petrified Forest. We arrived before the park opened (an all night drive) and saw the landscape in the light of a winter sunrise.

  10. mrsday75 says:

    I love those stops on the side of the road. One year we stopped at the home of the first Pony Express office. It was one of my favorite places on our trip.

    My husband bought his lifetime pass a couple of years ago. We love it! And I’m going to be pinning your post to my travel board! We’re starting to plan this year’s road trips!

  11. Joyce says:

    What interesting places you travel. The next to last photo looks like an old lava flow. So happy you took the time to stop and then share your trip.

  12. Great post. I have looked into park passes for our upcoming trip. Your photos make me want to visit some of the wonderful sights our country has to offer.

  13. It is sometimes hard to make the time to stop at beautiful places like these, but it is always worth it. This might be one time you were thankful for the threat of snow!

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