Petrified Forest and Gila Forest, Arizona - New Mexico - July 2000

Picture of catwalk We spent the night in Deming, New Mexico near the imposing Florida Mountains. The next morning we headed north to Silver City where we visited the tourist bureau, ostensibly in search of ghost towns or wineries that might be in our path. We found neither, but did come across the 'catwalk' in Gila National Forest near Glenwood, New Mexico.

Picture of catwalk2 This is a mostly suspended hiking trail along the canyon formed by the Whitewater river. It follows the approximate route of a very old ramp built by miners trying to come up with an easy way to get ore from the canyon to the road. It's a nice trail only about a mile or so in length one-way with a couple of nice swimming holes on the river as well.

Picture of petfor We crossed back into Arizona that afternoon and eventually emerged onto the vast plain where the Petrified Forest is. While there are chunks of petrified wood across the entire park, they are concentrated in the southern portion where there are so many one quickly becomes habituated to them.

Picture of biglog

Picture of wood_zoom This is a close-up of the wood. These logs were actual trees about 225 million years ago. They were petrified when they were buried in the sediment at the bottom of a riverbed or lake. Water seeped in over time slowly replacing the organic material with rock and crystal. The subsequent erosion and uplifting have brought the logs to the surface again. The new material is considerably harder than granite.

Picture of bluemesa This area of the park is called Blue Mesa. It's one of the few hiking trails in the park. Overnight stays are also prohibited in an attempt to prevent people from stealing petrified wood. People being what they are, we saw them doing it anyway.

Picture of us_bm For scale purposes, that's a minivan on the ridge in the background. This area (Blue Mesa) is basically a small section of badlands in the middle of the park. And yes, next time I'll let Melanie stand on the rock.

Picture of painted_desert At sunset we reached the Painted Desert. Actually, the term 'painted desert' seems to refer to any section of northeast Arizona which has banded mesas like these. Unfortunately for us, the sun disappeared into clouds at sunset so we didn't get the spectacular picture we'd hoped for. The layers are hematite (red), limonite (yellow) and gypsum (white). After we left here we went to the town of Chambers. This is where tour books and internet travel sites really break down a bit. Chambers has a Best Western hotel, so you might imply that it has something else as well. Okay, it sort of does, it has a Fina station which is maybe open sometimes, a pre-fab post office, and a liquor store (which we patronized). All of this is spread over the 3 square miles of Chambers. Luckily, the hotel had a restaurant or it would've been fritos for dinner for us. Well, fritos and bourbon I suppose. Around this time Melanie had taken to reading phone books at night as well. This is not as dull as it sounds, because many of them were only two or three pages long. For instance the Mexican border town of Palomas contained four, count'em four entries. One of these entries was for the word 'the' explaining that you should look up the second word of the title instead. Interestingly, none of the other three entries started with the word 'the'.


Back to Trips