Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The sun is shining. Weather about 85 degrees today. Last night we went swimming at 8 pm and eased our feet in a hot tub after a day's walk around the Boyce hompson Arboretum. We're in the suburbs of Phoenix, back in the big city, and today hope to visit the Heard Museum to investigate Puebloan culture.

On our way here, we stopped at the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, a fascinating walk through geologic time clear back to the Turassic (sounds like Jurassic and is about that far back, counting in millions of years). Once this inland desert was part of a great sea with trees several hundred feet high. A volcano exploded, these immense trees were knocked down, creating a logjam and a great lake. Then the dam broke, all these trees were washed away and covered with sediment and more volcanic eruptions. The whole mess just settled down deeper and deeper, with greater pressure, and then minerals began to seep through the decaying trees, petrifying them.

The results are miles of petrified trees scattered over a desert landscape, their colors glowing green, purple, white and gold, attesting to the high mineral content. Of course, people have been carting chips and chunks off even before this park was approved in the early 1900s, but enough remains to thoroughly enjoy. Even now, park officials estimate they lose about one ton a month from people who just want a little rock to take home. But they are beautiful. Equally beautiful are the badlands here (see photo of Blue Mesa badlands above), heavily eroded sandstone hills that once outlaws hid in.

Local color? Yes, we saw an authentic roadrunner just before leaving the park. Another memorable day. Make it a good week wherever you are, despite rain and snow and . . . I think I may want to be a snowbird when I grow up. Beth

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