Cliff Walls and The Scared Wood's

Day Three: Canyon de Chelly and the Petrified Forest. 

Living Navajo Ranch, How many horses can you find? 
Once past the Four Corners area we high-tailed it to Chinle, Navajo Nation, AZ. Here is where our children were again exposed to the hardships of our Native Americans. They have seen it once before near Glacier National Park two summers ago; the trailers, the correctional facilities, the over-fat, malnourished poor and the wild, mangy dogs. I have a sense of guilt when I warn my children to stay close and avoid touching surfaces when we stopped for gas well past nightfall. I am part paranoid white-girl and part keeping my children safe from diseases like whooping cough and tuberculosis. We also got the impression that we were not where we should be when all the native customers fell silent and turned to look at us with a halo of shock. "What is Anazai* doing here?" They seem to be asking. Humbly we offer that reservation living is a very sad state of affairs. John and I were shocked to research that NA’s didn’t even get the right to vote until the 1960’s; carry-on our Hapless Stewards of Our Land.
Midway down, in seam are the Ruins

We arrived to our hotel on the shortest day of the year, the approach was dark, the location felt somewhat safer and we slept okay, except the achy nag on my hips. The captain’s chairs of our minivan seem to be playing compression rugby on my back during this long haul.

We were surprised to find out that we had chosen a hotel minutes from the entrance of Canyon De Chelly (pronounced: schay) NationalPark. Another free-entrance and more beautiful vistas and mesas; I would recommend taking your kids to Canyon De Chelly prior to the Grand Canyon. The reverse would be anti-climatic and they would likely not find Canyon De Chelly as impressive as it really is otherwise. This is considered sacred Navajo lands with a rich human history dating back from the 500AD Ancestral Peubloans to current day active Navajo farmers.
Canyon De Chelly - Ruins located in seam.

Petrified Wood Fragment
In this park, you will see cliff dwellings from across the canyon mesa top approximately ½ mile as the crow flies. Almost indistinguishable along the 500-foot cliff face are found the alcove brick-homes. The feats of daily climbing required by the Ancients and therefore the fitness of these people must have been amazing. Of course the average life span was 5 years for children, 20+ for childbearing women and 30+ for the men. I am not sure everyone was always successful in managing the cliff face. Below in the river basin we saw several horses, homesteads and farming. And reverberating off the cliffs walls we could here the playful howls of coyotes; probably only hearable due to the lack of other tourists in the park.

Heading to Sedona we fortuitously discovered that the Petrified Forest National Park was on our drive along the original Route 66.  My husband and I have always, independently desired to visit the Petrified Forest, but never realized where it was, we were ecstatic and it only required our pass again!
Old Faithful Stoned Root Ball
The colorful stones and rainbow-like conical topography are beautiful. Full stone-trunks of conifer trees lay across this otherwise scrubland. Over 225 million years ago this area was a tropical environment. The trees of this floodplain fell amongst a mix of silt, mud and volcanic ash and buried the logs. Sediment covered the organic tissue and cut off the element that would normally decompose the trees: oxygen. Silica-laden groundwater seeped into the wood composition to replace the organic tissue with crystallized quartz. Eventually the climate changed and the basin uplifted, over time weathering exposed the now fossilized trees from the sedimentary rock of the Painted Desert. Other fossilized plant and dinosaur remains have been found as well. Great efforts are made by the National Park to protect the Petrified Forest from thievery. It made the previously “Scared Wood’s” feel safe.  (Ha, sorry for the pun! For those reading that might not know, my last name is Wood.)

We entered the Park at the North end, or Painted DesertVisitor Center and cut through south to the Rainbow Forest Museum dropping out onto SH 180. It was nice not to double-back like so many other parks. We were hoping to get lunch in the next town: Holbrook, AZ; however, although sizable on the map, has fallen prey to the real story of Radiator Springs.

This formerly bustling town nestled on the original Route 66 was mostly deserted and all restaurants were either “Closed for the Season” or closed permanently.  We even came across the “Wigwam Motel,” the real cone-shaped roadhouse that the Cars character Sally was innkeep. This too was closed. We speculate the lodging is probably closed for the winter, as many other places seem to indicate. However, much was also vacant, Holbrook did not reap the benefits of a Racecar Star making their sleepy town famous. Nonetheless, my son was as excited as Lighting McQueen taking Doc-style turns on a dirt track.
So, we the weary travellers carried on to Flagstaff and then Sedona.

*Navajo word for enemy of the people.