The Red Rocks of Central Arizona
The Petrified Forest, another of many strange places we have been on our Western USA trip. It is an area where trees that used to live in a tropical climate somehow got left behind. I could tell you the technical bits, but basically they are very old trees that got knocked over and quickly buried, then got petrified by silica dripping though the ground. Today they have been exposed by erosion and lay in colorful broken pieces across the painted desert.
Route 66 used to run right through the park, this old Studebaker is a reminder of the old days when tourists used to drive up and take home pieces of petrified wood as a souvenir. Today there is a hefty fine if you are caught taking any wood, but you can buy it outside the park where it can be found on private land. We also found a free campsite when we exited the park on the 180. There were no toilets after the shop/museum closed but the price was right!
From here we headed west towards Flagstaff. We stopped at Walnut Canyon on the way and discovered a great hike down to some old Indian cliff dwellings. In Flagstaff we found a great little info centre in the train station. A lady there gave us a forest service map of the Coconino forest, showing all the spots you were allowed to free camp in the area. I don’t know how we haven’t found these maps before!
Thanks to our new map we spent the night in the National Forest before visiting Montezuma Castle. Not your typical castle but impressive none the less, the 5 story, 20 room dwelling on the cliff wall was worth seeing.
Our next stop was Sedna and Red Rock, a place that was famous in our minds for mountain biking and hiking. We quickly learned that others were drawn to it for very different reasons, like the “Vortex” which is apparently very strong here and brings people from all over the world to meditate and do yoga on the rocks. We did one hike into a canyon where it was supposed to be but did not find it.
We did however, get the bikes out. I nearly died on the tracks we rode, while Luke was desperate to do more. For now his broken shoulder is forcing him to take it easy although I suspect there is a plan in motion to get his riding buddies out here in the future. The views were spectacular from all the trails we rode and hiked, it would definitely be a place to come back to.
We drove north through the very scenic Oak Creek Canyon back to Flagstaff where we geared up to head to the Grand Canyon, stopping along the way at Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument. Up next, the biggest Canyon of them all!