Petrified Forest NP – Part III

Holbrook, AZ

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.

Heading toward Martha’s Butte in the distance

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.

A small arch!

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.

One of the archaeologists at Martha’s Butte

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.

Jasper Forest

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?

Where’s the road?

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!

The original gravel road over a culvert

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.

The flat rock top to the original formation sits on the left side.

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 . . .

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Petrified Forest NP – Part III

  1. geogypsy2u says:

    That safe looks like a hefty duty washing machine. The natives must have been in the area a long time for so many petroglyphs. Well all those extra long hikes probably took you places few visitors tread.

  2. exploRVistas says:

    Even though that spot hasn’t changed much, it’s interesting to see that it has changed a little. Very interesting. 🙂

  3. You hit the jackpot with all the rock art! Love the before and after photos showing the desert then and now.

  4. colibabas says:

    Every time I see petroglyphs I think to myself…this must be how they blogged about their day LOL!

  5. Jeff Pierce says:

    The ‘glyphs on your first hike are totally awesome, and nicely highlighted by the desert varnish. I’ll skip Rock Art Ranch and follow in your boot prints!

  6. LuAnn says:

    I didn’t realize there was so much to see in this park. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Laurel says:

    You guys really did get off the beaten path. (Well, of course you did!) :-)) The petroglyphs are interesting, and your photos of the petrified wood are beautiful…but what really captured my interest is the photo of Eagle Nest Rock. I wish that was still there. But glad to see that little has changed in the park otherwise.

  8. Sue says:

    The colors of petrified wood are just stunning to see, pictures just don’t do them justice. I’m so happy to see that the desert remains relatively untouched….as it should be.

  9. Gay says:

    It’s amazing and totally awesome the Desert there remains untouched! I really enjoyed these posts about the Petrified Forest and hope to visit one day!

  10. The kids were sure busy creating all that rock art!
    You were wise to spend a few days there since there is so much to explore. We only spent one day due to bad weather but I have always wanted to go back and do more hiking.

  11. I’m looking forward to eventually exploring area like these, but man, do they look unforgiving! When you talk about hiking across the desert where there are no actual trails, that kinda scares the heck out of me. I’m such a wuss…. I know. 🙂

  12. pmbweaver says:

    Isn’t “off the beaten path” your middle name? Martha’s Butte is beautiful. I just love the colors.
    My gosh…I don’t think I have ever seen so many petroglyphs in one place. That is amazing.
    I love “Pam’s Arch.” Very petite like her.

    The colors on that piece of petrified wood you are holding, Pam, is gorgeous!
    Can you image what John Muir must have thought about all his travels and discoveries. What a man.

    I love those last two photos. How cool to have such a great photo from 1883.

  13. We were only there for a day thinking there were nothing else to do. But we can always trust you to find additional trails and things to do, thanks for showing us what we missed! Great photos of the colorful petrified logs! Amazing and interesting place.

  14. Sherry says:

    What fun finding less used trails and making hikes a little longer than intended. Love the fact that we can see today exactly what others saw so long ago. Doesn’t happen often for sure. Really fine photos of the beauty of the petrified wood. Wish I were there. It’s about the farthest thing from where I am.

  15. Jodee Gravel says:

    That jail looks very sturdy! I figure most of those old jails hold a lot of interesting stories, how fun that the docent has a family story to share 🙂 You found some really beautiful pieces of petrified wood on your hikes, but those petroglyphs are especially wonderful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s