Road Trip 2014 – Northern Arizona

July 1, 2014

Today we had a 470 mile trip through New Mexico and Northern Arizona. Our end-of-day destination was my uncle and aunt’s house in Cottonwood, Arizona, about 60 miles south of Flagstaff. We planned two intermediate stops: The Petrified Forest National Park east of Holbrok, Arizona and then Winslow for a late lunch.  As we headed west on I40 we saw some smoke from a wild fire up in the mountains south of us near Show Low.
The Petrified Forest in north eastern Arizona
I tried looking at Google Maps earth view to get you a better idea of what this area looks like from the ground, but it just doesn’t do it justice. The main entrance to the national park is just north of I40; from there we took the drive on the north side which borders the Painted Forest, which is part of the bad lands of Arizona.
Panorama of the Painted Desert in Arizona

Here is a picture I took of the Painted Desert back in 207 that really shows how it got the name.

Painted Desert. Picture from 2007

The temperature was hovering around 100˚ F so we didn’t hike around much; we’d jump out of the car to take a picture then go to the next spot. After viewing the Painted Desert we took the park road south toward its meet up with US Highway 180 which we took into Holbrook.  The desert here is very alkaline; the hills all look like they had a powdered sugar dusted on them by a giant sifter.

Petrified wood is not spread everywhere around the park, it is concentrated on the southern end where there is a visitors’ center. The petrified wood are tree fossils that originated with trees that lived in the Late Triassic period, about 225 million years ago (from the Wikiepedia article)

Petrified tree trunk at the Petrified National Park in Arizona.

You can see some of that alkaline soil in the hills in the distance. For an interesting comparison, check the photo of this same tree I took back in 2007.

Jeanette, Carla and Howard braving the heat for a photo op with a petrified (fossilized) tree.
Close up of a piece of petrified wood.

Looking out to the south we could clearly see the fire burning up in (or near) the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.

Wildfire in the mountains south of the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

It was early afternoon and we were hungry for lunch. Of course if I’m within a hundred miles of Winslow, Arizona we are going to go to La Posada hotel. It has two things I love: food and trains. Winslow is where my uncle and maternal grandparents lived when I was a child. We’d drive the 500 miles from our home in Palmdale, California and my Grandpa would take me down to the train station to watch the Santa Fe passenger trains come in and get serviced on their cross-country trip to Chicago. It is, without a doubt, my fondest memory of my wonderful childhood.

Winslow’s main street was Route 66, but fell on hard times when it suffered the one-two punch of the Mother Road being bypassed by I-40 and the Santa Fe railroad moving its division headquarters west to Barstow, California.  The city has rebounded (much better than Tucumcari, New Mexico) and now has a state prison and some other light industry. Carla and I have stayed at the La Posada hotel on a few occasions. The Turquoise Room is a magnificent restaurant. I had the signature black bean and corn chowder soup. they fill the bowl with the two soups and they commingle side by side until you stir them together. If you are driving across the southwest, you owe it to yourself to stop for the night or at least for a meal.

Westbound BNSF slowing down for a crew change and maybe a fuel fill up in Winslow, Arizona
Eastbound BNSF slowly gains speed as it passes a stopped westbound container train in Winslow, Arizona.

Jeanette and Carla viewed the extensive and beautiful artwork in the hotel while I sat train-side. We finally pulled ourselves away and headed to Cottonwood, Arizona to visit my Uncle Jake and Aunt Sally. As we headed west toward Flagstaff a big storm front moved in. I had to grip the wheel tightly as the storm wanted to blow me off the road. We had a few sprinkles but no rain – until a few days later.

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