Looking out over the Painted Desert in Petrified Forest the thought "Hey, looks like it was once a hot, humid rain forest" does NOT cross your mind; but it was. You would be hard pressed to even find a tree now (that isn't petrified). Even though it no longer holds any semblance to the rain forest that it once was; it holds a beauty all it's own.
This region was once part of the Late Triassic Period, 225 million years ago. There were dinosaurs, ferns, fish, clams, and coniferous trees that were as tall as 180 feet! But as they say, "times change" and continents and weather changed. Certain ranges were lifted up and water drained.
So, the burning question is: "How in the world do 180 foot trees become petrified? Here's how it works. As the trees died or got knocked down by wind (remember their environment changed drastically) they became buried by lots of sediment. The trees soaked up the groundwater that was loaded with minerals, silica, and volcanic ash (probably from all those volcanoes just to the east at El Mapais). Over lots of time, they would crystallize into quartz colored by the specific minerals they had soaked up. Voila! Petrified trees!
Maybe there is a lesson here for all of us. Even in death, we can be transformed into something different, something more beautiful than we ever dreamed, something indestructible. And so, when those we love, we adore; move on to heaven, we shouldn't stop looking for them. Maybe they just have a new beautiful, heavenly form.
There are also huge amounts of petraglyphs in the area. It was disappointing that the trail to view many of them was closed, but I could still see some of them from the overlook at Newspaper Rock.
This one was on display at the historic Painted Desert Inn.
I had a question for the ranger after roaming around the different sites. "Why do some trees look colorful and transformed into quartz while others look like you could throw them in the fireplace, even though they are hard as rocks?" His reply was actually quite simple, "They are only have baked; they aren't done yet". I could go all philosophical on you right now, but I won't. OK, I'm going to a little... Maybe we can draw some significant parallels to this conversation. Perhaps the more we endure, the more beautiful we become. I couldn't help thinking of one of Anna's favorite sayings: "We mature with the damage; not the years". And so it is with this landscape, and so it should be in our own lives. Let's not try to get through life without any bruises and scars. Instead, let us quietly, gently, and with much love, become better and more beautiful with the scars.
Who knew a Petrified Forest held so many life lessons?!?
Agate Bridge - They have reinforced (with a concrete bar underneath) a petrified tree that fell across a gully. It is extremely rare for one to be in one piece!
Dining room at the Painted Desert Inn (no longer open to patrons)
The Painted Desert Inn