San Juan Mountains - "Big, Cool"
After climbing Pikes Peak we headed west to Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde National Parks.
Campfire at Mesa Verde - Where are the damn marsh mellows?
With a full stomach from the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast (thanks Mesa Verde NP) we headed South to New Mexico.
Lisa and I are still on the desert road traveling towards Interstate 40 where we will turn West towards Arizona. However, to get there we must travel through the second largest Indian reservation in the country. The Navajo Nation. At first we were interested in the barren landscape that the government happily gave away to the Indians. The roadwork was terrible, lasted for hours and apparently no one actually goes 35mph like the sign wanted. This was particularly dangerous when large trucks and speeding Indian drivers came a little too close to Lisa's little sedan. After an hour of frustration we stopped at a Subway for lunch and were met with judgmental eyes from the local Navajos. We took our food to go and bid a hasty retreat to the car and were rewarded with 2 more hours of road work.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we found Interstate 40 and took the West exit. What we did not know was that the Navajo Nation continued all the way to Flagstaff, Arizona! We just couldn't escape.
At least we were in Arizona now!
The fun didn't stop with the Navajo Nation either. On our way to Flagstaff we made a short detour to visit the Petrified Forest National Park.
We pulled into the visitor center to get a map and some goodies. I was crouched on the floor looking at stickers when someone sat next to me, literally cheek to cheek. Obviously it was Lisa, right? WRONG. Some random lady pulled up next to me and was breathing in my ear as I freaked out and sprinted away in an akward, get me the hell out of hear, kind of shuffle to the opposite side of the store. Meanwhile Lisa was half laughing half freaked out about the whole ordeal. Needless to say we ran out of there and took to the outdoors.
The colors and massive soil erosion reminded me of when Dave and I were at Badlands National Park. Except these huge mounds had brillant red, pink and white color patterns.
These mounds, called the "Tepees", look exactly like those found in Badlands National Park. Besides the soil erosion, Petrified Forest has two distinct features that are unique to this park. Petroglyphs and petrified wood.
These cave drawings or "petroglyphs" are historical artifacts from Puebloans dating back 10,000 years. Lisa was not impressed. She said anyone could draw those figures on the rocks. So Lisa is not a history buff, I still like her. I thought these drawings were very interesting and I'm pretty sure I have doodled similar scenes in my notebooks from middle school.
The park is called "petrified forest" so we assume that we are going to see a forest, right? Wrong. There was a forest here about 223 million years ago, we obviously waited too long to visit. Either way the remnants of the forest are pretty amazing.
Over time people have been stealing these logs from the park and surrounding areas. Why anyone would want to have, hold and cherish a piece of petrified wood is beyond me. Signs reminding visitors to keep off were posted everywhere in order to preserve these 223 million year old specimens. Video cameras were also installed to keep people from stealing or touching them. With all of the signs, video cameras, fences and warnings you would think that these pieces of wood were heavily protected. None of that stopped some twelve year old boy from jumping on top of several logs and repeatedly kicking them. At least he had fun and the parents didn't seem to mind that he was quiet.