A beautiful day saw us headed 60 miles west to the first proven and best preserved impact crater site in the world - Meteor Crater. It is far from the largest crater in the world since it is only ¾ of a mile in diameter, and it is definitely not the oldest since it was formed only 50 million years ago; however because of the weather in this area, it looks like it was formed very recently. Even with some erosion, it is still 550 feet deep in the middle and 4,000 feet across. The walls rise about 150 feet above the surrounding plateau. To give visitors an idea of its size, it supposedly could hold 2 million fans watching 20 football games being played simultaneously. In the center is a fenced area where extensive geological and geophysical studies are made. Because of the distance, it is almost impossible to see details of any objects in this area. New minerals formed from the extensive heat and pressure resulting from meteor impact have been discovered in this crater. It was also used as a training site for astronauts headed to the moon.
Besides the crater itself and the excellent outdoor viewing areas, there is a well developed “museum” of crater history and locations. On display is the largest fragment found from the meteor that made this particular crater. This piece, the Holsinger meteorite, weighs in at 1,406 lbs. Probably what we found the most amazing was that this huge “hole” was made by an iron meteor only 150 feet in diameter! The only way Tony could get a “picture” of the entire crater was to take a movie; hopefully it will download for you.
While at the crater, we met a group of motorcyclists doing a Run for Cancer along the length of Route 66. They told us of a “Roadside America” attraction we needed to see in Winslow, AZ. Since it was on our way back “home”, we decided to take Route 66 through Winslow. At a bricked intersection, that has a huge Route 66 sign painted on it, is a statue of Jason Brown - the man who wrote the song TAKE IT EASY and has the words “Standin’ on the Corner” which was made famous by the Eagles. Sadly [only kidding] we missed the annual “Standin’ on the Corner” festival by 13 days.
To us Petrified Forest National Park [PFNP] made it very easy to understand the last 250 million years of the world’s formation - at least for this part of Arizona. There were excellent displays to clarify what happened in this area to make it as it is today. When all the continents were together in one land mass, this part of Arizona was basically along the equator making it an area of tropical forests located on flood plains of a large river system. As flooding occurred, the trees fell, were carried by the rivers, deposited, then covered with clay, silt, and eventually volcanic ash. This protected the trees from oxygen which allowed the dissolved minerals to penetrate thereby replacing the organic material with rock. This build up of soft, fine rock and volcanic material also resulted in what is now known as the Painted Desert. Over millions of years, there were upheavals causing the petrified logs to move upward towards the surface where erosion of the soft rock over the next several millions of years exposed the now stone logs. And that is how we ended up with multi-colored hills littered with petrified wood!! Also some of the earliest dinosaur skeletons have been found in the soft rock as well as skeletons of early reptiles.
We were impressed by the numerous colors in the “wood” which result from the different mineral combinations. There are also pieces that still look exactly like freshly cut wood. We asked a ranger about the difference. His explanation was so complex that all we really understood was that these wood-looking pieces were buried without the presence of water to dissolve the minerals. We did learn why the trees looked like they had been sawed into rounds at regular intervals. It is because the very hard minerals couldn’t flex with the upheavals and fractured leaving nearly flat surfaces.
Although it is illegal to take even the smallest piece of petrified wood from the park, it is all over the area outside the park. Holbrook, AZ where we stayed is the major location for petrified wood in Arizona. Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Company has the most gorgeous furniture made from petrified wood. Tony wouldn’t buy me a beautiful coffee table. It might have been the cost, $5,400, or the fact it would probably break at least one of the axles on the RV. Next to the office in our campground, there are numerous pieces - even whole trees, that the owner would love to have removed, but he can’t find a buyer. The cost of moving the pieces is the problem; a cubic foot weighs 200 pounds. Plus it is so prolific in the area. If you own land, you probably have your own buried a few feet down in the soil.
As with the other National Parks in this part of the southwest, there are remnants of Pueblo dwellings used until the late 1300 early1400s. The difference is the ones in this area used petrified wood for walls. In PFNP there are also excellent Petroglyphs. We’ve included photos of Newspaper Rock that has over 650 drawings. There were also intricate designs as well as a bird, looking much like a stork, holding a small child. Could our idea of storks delivering babies go back that far in history?
We are now headed back to Kanab, UT where we want to put in some volunteer time at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Hopefully it will be an interesting and rewarding experience.