We woke up in our wigwam. While we were packing up the car,
a random Indian guy walked into our room (!) and
tried to sell us a $200 bracelet. It was a little alarming,
but he left as soon as we declined the bracelet.
We left and headed straight for the Petrified Forest National
Park and Painted Desert loop. (Our National Parks Pass came
in handy again!) Our first stop in the park was the Rainbow
Forest, which has the most colorful set of logs. 250 million
years ago logs floated to the area, were covered with mud, and
silica in water enfused the wood, replacing it with rock.
Iron and other minerals give them color. The result is something
which used to be a tree, and looks incredibly lifelike, but is made
of colored quartz. It was beautiful.
There are heavy fines for
collecting any of the petrified wood in the park. The visitors' center
had a display case devoted to letters from people who had mailed back
pieces of wood in guilty conscience. However, private land owners in the area can
do whatever they want with the petrified wood on their land. As we were leaving the park,
we stopped at a gas station and bought a nice piece from a private dealer.
The loop took us past the painted desert. I'm not sure what we were
expecting, but the primary "paint" color is red. It's a much redder
version of the surrounding Arizona landscape.
We drove on to Albuquerque, about 200 miles away. On the way we passed the
Continental Divide, the north-south line across North
America that divides Pacific-bound and Atlantic-bound rainfall.
We also passed funny road signs and great mountain scenery.
We took a left at Albuquerque and headed North to Santa Fe.
We had a great first impression of Santa fe and would definitely
like to spend more time there. Most of the buildings are old adobe-style, and
the downtown area is quite touristy but still charming. St. Francis Cathedral
is just off the main plaza. It's named after the patron saint of birds,
animals, and Santa Fe. After two days in the desert, we were
not expecting so many nice trees to be in the city. We had a wonderful dinner at
Gardunio's, a local Mexican restaurant.
After dinner we left for Taos where our friend Matt Newsum lives and where the
Laughing Horse Inn awaited us. More on that tomorrow.