Arizona Trip 2020 – Northern Arizona

Visit Date: January 20, 2020

After brunch in Flagstaff, we headed down to Winslow, Arizona for a two night stay at the La Posada hotel. I’ve written about it before but I want to mention it again: La Posada is a beautiful old hotel worth visiting, even if you aren’t a train fan.

Entrance to La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona
La Posada Hotel. Winslow, Arizona

The hotel was part of the Harvey House chain that serviced Santa Fe railroad passengers between 1930 and 1957. It was designed by the architect Mary Colter, who also designed some of the iconic buildings on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Once the railroad travel business waned the railroad converted it into offices. It was slated to be torn down in the 1990s but was was saved when Allan Affeldt and Tina Mion bought it in 1994. They have been working on restoring it ever since. Tina Mion is an artist who has had three expositions in the National Portrait Gallery. Her style is striking and many of her works are displayed throughout the hotel.

She is working on a series of portraits of the First Ladies portrayed as playing cards. President Woodrow Wilson had two wives (not at the same time of course) while president. Ms Mion painted the two women as opposite ends of the King of Diamonds. Wilson’s first wife – who died when First Lady – is on the bottom and her head is cut out of the card and resting on the floor. You can see the portrait here. For more of her work, go to

The Turquoise Room is the restaurant at the hotel and the food there is delicious. If you go, you must try the Corn Chowder and Black Bean soup. So good.

It was too cold to spend much time trackside so I contented myself with looking down on the tracks from the Manager’s Suite – our second floor room. The trains are not too loud. Honestly. Those headed west are gliding to a stop west of town for a crew change. Eastbound trains do exert some power as they work to get up to track speed.

The next morning after breakfast we walked over to the newly opened Winslow Arts Trust museum which is in the renovated Santa Fe Depot immediately next to La Posada. This depot brought back strong memories; it was where my Grandpa brought be to watch trains when I was just a little guy.

Doors to the Winslow Depot. Now home to the Winslow Arts Trust Museum.

The exhibit was “Life Along the River: The Ancestral Hopi at Homol’ovi” We visited the Homol’ovi pueblo ruins during our Route 66 trip in 2015. The exhibit was moving and informative. It will on display through January 2021.

Later we headed east to Holbrook and the Petrified Forest. It was a cool crisp day which was great for hiking around. Usually when we visit in the summer it is much too hot to do much more than take a quick look before jumping back into the air conditioned car. But this time we spent plenty of time hiking around two different areas of the National Park.

The largest petrified tree is just behind the visitor center.

Petrified tree in the Petrified Forest National Park

A close up of one of the chunks shows how the crystals and minerals formed in the tree.

Petrified tree segment.

I love the juxtaposition of the old trees against the wide open desert spaces.

Panorama: Petrified National Park. Arizona
Petrified National Park. Arizona

It’s disconcerting to see these remnants of huge trees out in the desert where no living large trees are to be found. The forest lived in the subtropics when the earth’s continents were still bunched together. It’s mind bending to think about just how long these stone trees have existed and how far our North American continent has moved.

Being winter, the Forest Service was busy repairing bridges in the park meaning we couldn’t go very far into the park. But we did go to the last hiking area before the road closure. I love this picture of a grove of trees that millenia later fell and broke apart.

Petrified Forest Grove. Petrified National Forest, Arizona.

Another old tree; this one in pieces

Petrified Forest National Park. Arizona

In this picture you can still see the bark and tree rings.

Bark and rings. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

My favorite picture of the day was just across the road from our hiking area. It shows how the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are made up of the same geology.

Painted Bluff looming over the Petrified Forest.

We wanted to see the Painted Desert – the adjacent National Park. There is a road that connects the two, but as I said, the road was closed. So we had to haul ourselves back 20+ west to Holbrook, and then east another 30 miles on I40 to get to the Painted Desert Visitor Center. It was getting to be early evening and we had spent a full day driving and hiking, but we found a small hike along a ridge overlooking the scenery. You might want to click on these images to get a better view.

Painted Desert National Park. Arizona

We were standing on a huge basalt column that prevented the erosion that carved these canyons.

Here is a panorama that may provide a better idea of the view.

Panorama of the Painted Desert.

We went back to the La Posada for dinner in the Turquoise Room, read some, and were lulled to sleep by the train traffic outside our window. The next morning, Tuesday January 22, we had a long drive to Phoenix. As we headed west to Flagstaff we gained elevation and fought through Western Oregon-like rainy weather that threatened snow. But the cacti were stoic as we saw at a rest stop between Winslow and Flagstaff.

Prickly Pear Cactus at a rest stop west of Winslow, Arizona.

We stopped at In ‘n Out for lunch, then proceeded directly to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. More on that in my next post.

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