Absolutely Petrified

After a dozen nights camped in Chama, New Mexico, it was time to head west to Homolovi Ruins State Park near Winslow, Arizona, where we’ll be camped for a week.

The park houses the remains of some Hopi settlements dating back to the 14th century, only a few walls of which have been reconstructed and stabilized.  Beyond that, there’s little more than a handful of interprettive signs telling us what once stood there.

The most surprising thing about the site were the number of pottery sherds littering the ground.  While it’s illegal to remove them, people (who must believe the rules do not apply to them) still do so.  I’m sure the best pieces are long gone, but there’s still plenty of sherds left on the ground for us non-thieves to admire.

The main reason we’re camped at Homolovi (pronounced ho-MOLE-lo-vee) is because it’s the closest public campground to Petrified Forest National Park.  The park houses not only thousands of acres studded with petrified tree trunks, but it also contains some of the most colorful Chinle “badland” slopes around.  Some of these barren hillsides form what Arizona tourism folks have dubbed the Painted Desert.  We were eager to get there and photograph both petrified wood and painted wonderland.

After enduring 2½ days of rain in camp, we finally made it to the rocky forest.  The first day, we stopped at nearly every one of the park’s slew of scenic overlooks and hiked nearly every one of its tourist trails, the longest of which was a whopping mile in length.  The following day, after strolling the final tourist trails, we set out on a three-mile, off-the-grid hike through the backcountry.

One big difference between our cross-country hike versus the tourist trails soon became apparent.  Our backcountry route was rife with small pieces of petrified wood.  It would have been so easy to pick one up and take it home as a souvenir.  (We absolutely did not do so.)  Virtually none of those pocketsize pieces can be found beside the tourist trails these days.

It’s a pity, but beside the park’s popular pathways, petite pieces of the petrified plants have apparently been previously pilfered.