We extended our stay in Holbrook to let some strong winds and rain pass through the area. There is not much to do on a rainy day in this little town, but we did use the time to visit the local museum, the Navajo County Historical Society, located in the former courthouse building.
The museum (free admission) had some very interesting displays depicting life in Holbrook over the years. As we began our tour the old safe pictured below caught our eye.
The safe was manufactured in York, Pa, our former home town. Small world!
The other thing that attracted our attention was the old jail, in use until 1976.
When we spoke to the docent on duty about the jail, he laughed and said his mother spent some time in it. He didn’t mention why she was locked up, but he did say she was a wild lady and owned a local bar!
The weather cleared the next day so we headed out for our final visit to Petrified Forest NP. A girl in the visitor center had given us directions for some hikes they call “off the beaten path” hikes and we had two fairly short ones we wanted to explore. The first was a hike to Martha’s Butte. The origin of the name Martha’s Butte or who Martha was is unknown. There is no real trail to the butte, we just followed a couple of washes then headed out across the desert with the butte in front of us.
As we approached Martha’s Butte we veered off a bit to the south to go around the smaller mound.
On the south side of the mound is a large petrified log embedded in the clay hill. This was long thought to be a petrified stump still in place. But an excavation in 1933 by a park naturalist named Walker revealed it to be a a log portion at a steep angle. The log is now known as “Walker’s Stump.”
We knew there were petroglyphs around the butte but were surprised by how many examples we found.
One large, flat boulder was covered with art work, both on its sides and across the tabletop.
The flute player depicted below is a variation of a Kokopelli, a fertility deity.
During our visit we shared the butte with a four man archaeology team contracted by the park service to document the location of the art work.
On the return hike we found a number of really colorful pieces of petrified wood. Also, a turn down the wrong wash (they all looked the same) caused us to turn a two mile round trip into almost four miles!
Upon finally returning to the Jeep we drove about four miles north to the Jasper Forest Overlook. The overlook sits on a mesa looking down on the desert below covered with pieces of petrified wood.
We parked in the large lot and found the trail leading down into the desert. The path joins an old road from the 1930s constructed by the CCC. The road was closed in 1965 and is almost completely eroded away today. Directions to our destination said to follow the old road, but where was it?
We followed a wash for about a mile looking for the old road but couldn’t find it. But we did see many colorful pieces of petrified wood.
We eventually turned around, hiked back up the wash a bit, and headed across the desert. Finally we spotted an old culvert that identified the remains of the road. Once again we managed to turn a 2.5 mile hike into 3.5 miles!
We knew the old road looped around our destination for this hike, a feature called Eagle Nest Rock. The rock was a famous spot for visitors, including the legendary naturalist John Muir, for many years. The feature fell down in 1941 after a period of unusually heavy rain. Below is what it looked like before the collapse.
This is what it looks like today.
During the return hike we went past more colorful pieces of petrified wood.
Returning to the parking area we went out on the overlook and found an interesting display board that compared the Jasper Forest from the past to what it looks like today. On the display board a photo of John Muir from the early 1900s is superimposed over a recent photo taken on the same spot. It shows almost no change.
The two smaller photos on the display also demonstrate how little the desert has changed over the past 126 years.
We arrived at this park thinking we would only really need one day to see all the sights. But we found enough to fill three full days and still didn’t see everything.
Now it’s time to continue moving east. Next up is a brief stay in Grants, NM to explore a couple of national monuments. More on that later . . .