Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Petrified Forest National Park

Today we departed the Grand Canyon, and drove to Petrified Forest National Park, where we stopped for the night in Holbrook, Arizona.

The morning on the Grand Canyon was beautiful, and I got a chance to go out running on the rim trail around seven, before most of the visitors were out. Then the whole family went on a ranger-led program, Walk on the Wild Side, with Ranger Ronnie. She taught us to smell trees, and to identify animal poo, and, trained as a paleontologist, she told us about the geological record of the canyon. It was just our family on the program, so Ranger Ronnie was really terrific accommodating our three girls, especially the seven-year old who has so many questions, and the three-year old, who has so, so much self control.

At the end of the ranger program, with the Grand Canyon as the backdrop, Ranger Ronnie inducted both Lillian and Maisy into the Grand Canyon junior ranger program, complete with badges. The Junior Ranger program has been a really enjoyable way for the girls to participate in the national parks. Every park we've visited has had the program, and it usually provides a little book, maybe 12-20 pages long, with activities appropriate to various ages of children. After the kids complete some number of the activities (based on their ages), they can have a park ranger check their work, and receive a badge. Our seven year old has been really into it, and has collected about seven different badges, so far, and we bought her a junior ranger vest to display all the small, wooden badges. We highly recommend it.

After a family walk along the rim trail, we packed up and got on the road to Petrified Forest National Park. Petrified Forest National Park is one that I remember visiting as a child, and it was on our way, so I thought we could visit it as well. It was only a short stop, a couple of hours, but we had enough time for a short hike to see great examples of the petrified wood. The fossils retain so much of their structure that the look very much like tree trunks (Courtney, when she saw them from a distance, first that they were just regular downed trees), but when you look closely at the cross sections, it is clear that the internal structure has been replaced by quartz. It makes for beautiful fossils, so much so that park signs warn of outgoing vehicle checks to make sure that visitors haven't taken any of the petrified wood with them.

Our seven-year old also did the junior ranger program at Petrified Forest, then we were back at the campground for swimming and grilling hamburgers and hotdogs.

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