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The Petrified Forest
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The Salt River carves its way through the Arizona desert landscape on our route to the Four Corners area. The drive up Highway 77 from southeastern to northeastern Arizona had every conceivable feature, from flat desert to forest to mountains. Matt gazes into a rapids along the Salt River Entering the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert The cold weather in January (highs in the 20's) provided snow to highlight the red colors of the Painted Desert The Petrified Forest area also has an abundance of Indian village ruins and petroglyphs. At least that's what we think they were--they may have been local teenager graffiti for all we knew. Matt stands among a fallen forest of petrified trees and wonders aloud how wood can turn into rock.<br>'Distant volcanoes to the west spewed tons of ash into the atmosphere, carried by the wind into this area where it was incorporated into the river sediments. Some logs were buried by sediment before they could decompose. Ground water dissolved silica from the volcanic ash and carried it into the logs. This solution formed quartz crystals which filled hollows, cracks, even the interior of the cells, and sometimes replaced the cell walls. The process could be so exact the resulting fossils show many details of the logs’ original surfaces and, occasionally, the internal cell structures. Traces of iron and other minerals combined with quartz during the petrification process, creating the brilliant rainbow of colors. Within the larger cracks and hollows the growth of quartz crystals was not limited in size and larger crystals of clear and milky quartz, purple amethyst, and yellow citrine formed.'<br>
So now we know! Detail of the tree bark on a segment of log Cross-sections of logs that seemingly broke apart upon tumbling reveal tree ring patterns inside We raced against the clock to see all of the national park before sundown. Badlands were in abundance, particularly on the Blue Mesa loop road With no hotels in Arizona between Holbrook and and the state line, we drove to Gallup, New Mexico to spend the night. Just about froze on our walk to a nearby Applebee's. Then couldn't find Hwy 666 out of Gallup 'cause they renamed it after printing my old map. But Gallup was a nice way-station on our trip.

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