I love stories and I’m sure there must be a Navajo story about how the Painted Desert came into being, but I haven’t found one yet. Perhaps I’ll make my own up to tell to my grandchildren, if I can find the right metaphor to explain the phenomena out there in the Arizona desert.
The Painted Desert is part of the Petrified Forest National Park created in 1906 to protect, and make available to the public, one of the largest petrified wood deposits in the world. First sight of the Painted Desert stunned me as I pulled into the first viewing point. Laid out before me was a vista of mesas, mountains, hillocks, and loose rocks in spectacular shades of red, pink and yellow, dazzling in the afternoon sun. As we drove along the 28 mile forest trail the strata changed to blues, greys and purples, then blindingly white, some of the peaks looking like tepees, others were stacked precariously on rockbeds. The myriad of rainbow colours and the vast empty spaces where telegraph wires, rail tracks or roads are completely absent, was breath-taking. I could feel the sense of awe and reverence that ancient people who lived there must have felt over 10,000 years ago.
The Painted Desert is just the start of the delights the park has in store. There are also ruins of ancient peublo homes at Peurco Peublo, over 600 petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock, Agate Bridge, a large petrified tree that spans a gulley, the Crystal Forest where once the insides of petrified trees held glass amethyst and quartz crystal, Jasper Forest, where the canyon floor is littered with petrified trees left there after being washed from the bluff by erosion and flood waters, and the Blue Mesa with views of badlands, log falls and pedestal logs. This is a thoroughly inspiring place where no-one can fail to feel invisible or insignificant in the presence of such majestic beauty. What more can I say?