December 27, 2021, Albuquerque- There was plenty of mud in the foreground, which did not stop some of the younger members of the crowd from finding their way down a short trail, to the first overlook, in the northern, Painted Desert section of Petrified Forest National Park.
I left 66 Motel, to the cheerful strains of “Come back again”, around 9 a.m. It is always good to have doors remain open and bridges intact. Twenty minutes later, I got a similarly cheerful greeting from the gate guard at Petrified Forest’s north entrance. Whether it is because they are just cheerful, positive-thinking young women, or because of something in my own aura, these types of exchanges are what help brighten even the dreariest of skies.
Nature also provides relief from the grayness that precedes a winter storm. Here are scenes from each of the Painted Desert’s viewpoints.
These scenes are composed of Chinle Sandstone layers, first formed 227 million years ago and making up the bottom layers of the formations, with Bidahochi Sandstone, formed as recently as 4 million years ago, comprising the top layers-including Pilot Rock and Blue Mesa (in the southern area of the park). I have seen other colour blends, at the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, the Paint Pots of Yellowstone and Bumpas Hell, in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Like each of those, Painted Desert is unique.
Some vocabulary: Tiponi is a Hopi word, signifying a badge of authority-usually a sacred ear of corn, given to a priest or matriarch;
Tawa is the Hopi word for Sun Creator.
Chinde is the Dineh word for ghost or remnant spirit.
Pintado is Spanish for “painted”.
Nizhoni is the Dineh word for “beauty”, especially that found in nature.
Whipple Point is named for Lt. Amiel Whipple, a military surveyor who passed through this area. Fort Whipple, in Prescott, now a Veterans Administration Hospital, is also named for him.
Lacey Point is named for Congressman John Fletcher Lacey, of Iowa, who successfully worked to protect the Petrified Forest, which he termed “Petrified Forest of the World”.
The Painted Desert section of the park could easily take up a whole day, in periods of mild weather. I was there for a bit more than two hours. After a quick lunch at the Visitor Center Cafe, the drive across New Mexico was broken only by gassing up at a Flying J, in the small settlement of Jamestown. I was berated by a homeless man who wanted me to take him and his cart to God knows where. There probably wasn’t enough room in the Vue for that cart, so not being a saint, I kept on going.
Once here , in Duke City, a welcome nap evened my keel and a short walk around Old Town brought a soothing smooth jazz performance by a lone saxophonist and a lovely dinner at Little Anita’s, on the north edge of OT. As my mother told me yesterday, life is good.