In my last post, I shared the pictorial highlights from the second leg of our recent road trip, where we dallied for a very long afternoon along the South Rim in the Grand Canyon NP. The beginning of our adventure was spent at the original destination: The Petrified Forest NP. I saved this first park for a series of posts, because I have many more photos to share from the visit.
Situated in Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona, this park was declared a national monument in 1906 and a national park in 1962. The park is split into two portions. The north entrance starts one off at the Painted Desert. Then one drives along a portion of Old Route 66 for another 28 miles before entering the Petrified Forest section. Being that it is Arizona, one expects it to be desert. However, the National Park Service informs visitors that the ecosystem at Petrified Forest is actually one of the largest areas of intact grassland in the Southwest. The park is supposed to contain over 400 species of plants, dominated by grasses such as bunch grass and blue grama.
We were visiting at what should have been the ideal time of year. Following winter snow and rain, April and May are generally the best months to see wildflowers throughout the Southwest. Having received neither the needed snow nor rain to produce many wildflowers, all those ungerminated perennial seeds will continue to stay dormant in soil pockets until monsoon rain showers douse the earth. With luck that will be late July/August.
By the time we crossed the visitor’s threshold, the skies were gray and light rain was spitting; sorely needed moisture. Awful conditions for photography. There were no dramatic clouds, and I had to dry off rain drops from my lens a few times. As I drove along the road, twice I spied a dab of color. I parked on the shoulder, walked up to the plant, crouched down low into the thicket and took my photo.
In the photo above of the shocking pink showstopper of a plant, you can see in the top right corner where there is a grey sliver of sky. That is the road on which one drives in. It’s essentially a mesa. The photos of these flowers were taken at the top of a steep cliff, with the background of red hills being at the drop off in a valley below.
This relic of a touring car rests where park visitors traveled on the now defunct east/westbound roadway of Old Route 66. Today Interstate 40 is active with delivery trucks; they drive in a steady stream and can be seen in the top left of the horizon.