Monday, November 25, 2019

Petrified Forest National Park, Day 2

Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA
Holbrook, AZ
November 3, 2019

Our second day at Petrified Forest NP was just as colorful, beautiful and interesting as the first day.  This day we chose to enter the park from the north at the Painted Desert VC and travel south.  Our first stop for the day was Painted Desert Inn.  

 The inn was built in the 1920s and bought by the National Park Service in 1936.  The Fred Harvey Company (remember he built the La Posada Inn in Winslow) took over management of Painted Desert Inn in 1940.  Lodging, food (served by the legendary Harvey Girls), and souvenirs were provided to travelers along Route 66 for about 2 years.  The inn was closed in 1942 due to WWII, but in 1947, Mary Colter (remember she was the architect for the La Posada Inn) was given the responsibility for renovations.  The inn is situated on a mesa overlooking the colorful Painted Desert
so the first thing she did was to have new and bigger windows installed to capitalize on the surrounding landscape.

She changed the color scheme and hired Fred Kabotie, a Hopi artist, to paint murals on the lunchroom and dining room walls that depicted Hopi culture.  The murals were painted in 1947-48.
The Buffalo Dance Mural, painted by Fred Kabotie, depicts a ceremonial dance performed in the winter to pray for good hunting and snow.
While Painted Desert Inn gained status as a National Historic Landmark primarily due to its architecture, the murals of Fred Kabotie made a significant impact on the nomination.  They are beautiful ! 
One of several murals painted by Fred is titled  Salt Lake Mural and tells the story of two young Hopi men on a salt gathering journey. It is a 230 mile trip from their home to the Zuni Mesas and back which took them through the Petrified Forest. It is not only a physical journey, it is a sacred one. 

Another Mary Colter renovation was an enormous skylight.  The skylight has multiple panes of translucent glass painted in Indian pottery designs.  

The inn is made of native stone.  The walls are more than two feet thick and covered in earth toned stucco.  Ponderosa Pine logs and flagstone add color, texture and shadows.   

Outside, flagstone terraces are surrounded by low walls that overlook the desert.
The inn closed in 1963. On a side note, I read that the inn was scheduled to be demolished in 1975, but a campaign to save it won out in the end.  The inn now appears as it would have in 1949. 

theIt's not just any's Painted Desert with breathtaking vistas.

Did you know that Petrified Forest NP is the only park in the National Park system that contains a section of Historic Route 66?  Our next stop was to check out an old rust bucket...a 1932 Studebaker.  Not sure this car actually carried any passengers on Route 66, but many a car like it did.  

If you look closely on the left side of the picture above there are "historic" telephone poles that once lined the famous "Main Street of America" or "Mother Road" as it passed through Petrified Forest NP from 1926 to 1953  

Heading south, up next was Puerco Pueblo.
Puerco Pueblo is a 100+ room pueblo site located near the Puerto River.  When it was at its largest size around 1300 it was home to around 200 people.  

Archeologists say the one-story high village was built around a rectangular plaza.  The rooms were for living quarters and storage and most of the activities of the day took place in the large plaza.  

There are no doors or windows on the exterior walls of the pueblo so entry into the village was by ladders used to climb over the walls to across the log, brush, and mud roofs that covered the rooms. 

There are a large number of petroglyphs also on site.
One interpretation is that Hopi stories tell of big birds that came to villages to eat bad children.  Another interpretations is  that it is an Ibis (native to Petrified Forest) eating a frog with water drops falling.  I kind of like the Hopi story!   
The two squares with "steps" represent migration. 

Petroglyphs that interact with sunlight and shadows as the sun moves across the sky to mark the passage of seasons are called Solar Calendars.  One of these Solar Calendars is at Puerco Pueblo.  For about a two week period around the summer solstice (June 21), a shaft of light is projected onto the boulder and travels down the side to touch the center of a spiral located in the crack/crevice on the smaller boulder.       
Summer Solstice Marker

Just passed the Pueblo site is a pull-out for Newspaper Rock.  An official pointed us in the direction of a short paved walk to an overlook.  

There are over 650 petroglyphs documented with some 2,000+ years old.  

The etched out carvings were hard to see partly because of the sunlight, but mainly because they were below us on several boulders that had fallen from the rim wall.

With so many "writers" over so many years (between 650 and 2,000 years ago) it is impossible to read the rock face. Modern Native Americans see family and clan symbols, spiritual meanings, calendar events, territory boundaries and migration routes.

 Blue Mesa was our last stop of the day.  Aside from all the colorful logs we had seen, Blue Mesa turned out to be my favorite section of the park.  It is a 3.5 mile driving loop close to the center on the main park road.  One of the pull-outs is a paved walk.  If you like hiking and don't mind a short 1 mile loop with a steep downhill/uphill at the beginning/end of the trail, this is a gorgeous part of the park.  The trail enters a unique, vibrant badlands landscape with colorful petrified wood.  
In hindsight, we should have gone straight to Blue Mesa first thing to catch the early morning sunlight.  It was well after lunch when we started the hike and our pictures don't show the  contrasts and colors. 

This concludes our stay in Holbrook, AZ.  There is lots to explore in the area and our time there flew by.  Up next, Silver City, New Mexico so stay tuned !  Until then...  




  1. Beautiful pictures. Interesting park.

    1. Thank you Doug! We enjoyed exploring’s a small NP and easy to see everything!

  2. Great pictures of your adventures. Newspaper Rock with all the glyphs was especially interesting.

    1. Thanks Jeff! It is so cool to see the years of writings on those boulders.

  3. I can tell we missed a lot of the Petrified Forest NP on our one day, hurry up and look mode that was common in those early days of our travels. Thanks for showing us there is more Gay and Joe! Lovely photos!

    1. I sure hope you saw Petrified Inn Janna...the murals are worth the stop.

  4. I am so glad we finally made it to this amazing area. Your post brought a smile to my face as I remembered all these wonderful sights. Thanks for taking me with your beautiful photos.

    1. It is amazing Pam...sometimes great things come in small packages. To be such a small park, it has a lot to offer. The colors there are gorgeous!

  5. This is my favorite part of the park! You got great pics of the Inn - the murals are so special. Amazing the colors Mother Earth can generate out of "dirt" :-))

    1. I think it is my favorite part too Jodee...aside from seeing the beautiful colors in the petrified wood the day before. I’m so happy we finally made the stop there!