Alex and I didn’t intend to visit Petrified Forest National Park. It wasn’t even on our radar but we knew there was some free camping at the Crystal Forest Gift Shop just outside the park’s south entrance. It was the free overnight camping spot that we needed-the park just turned out to be a major bonus.
We did a little research and learned that this is one of the most pet-friendly national parks. Jane was allowed on every trail within the park. We also learned that this park is a great one to drive through-there’s a 28 mile road that cuts through the park with lots of pull-offs for cool trails or areas of interest.
We entered from the north and stopped at one of the first pull off sites, the Painted Desert Inn. When you walk behind the Inn, there’s an overlook that opens up to a view of the Painted Desert. What an unexpected view that was! Red desert hills as far as the eye could see. Just miles of backcountry wilderness...We kept driving south and passed a few of the other pull offs before stopping at Jasper Forest. This area has a stunning overlook of an area with a high concentration of the petrified wood. The wood itself is no longer even wood. Millions of years ago, the trees died or fell down and were quickly buried under layers of sediment, the wood has soaked up groundwater and silica from volcanic ash and over time, has crystallized into quartz. The different minerals in the wood have created a rainbow effect on the petrified wood and the crystals shine in the sun.
Our last stop in the park was at Giant Logs Trail. This short trail has a small trail guide to accompany it and has 11 stops with points of interest. Stop number 6 is a giant log named Old Faithful that is 35 feet long and weighs 44 tons. The trail guide features a photo of Albert Einstein and his wife standing in front of Old Faithful so I made Alex recreate the photo with me.
As we left the park through the south entrance, we stopped for the night at the Crystal Forest Gift Shop and Museum. The gift shop offers free overnight camping in their large parking lot for up to 4 days. The parking lot had a few other overnighters, mostly truck campers and vans, we were the largest but had no trouble getting into our spot. The gift shop doesn’t have water hook-ups but does offer electric hook-ups for $10 but we opted for the free site, for a quick, free overnight stay, it was perfect.
We made friends with the people parked next to us. They were two couples caravaning in truck campers and headed to Alaska for the summer. One of the trucks was named the Tardis and after a tour I agreed-it was definitely larger on the inside than the outside!
This was the first night that we really looked up at the night sky and saw the stars we’d been hoping for. The night sky was so dark and the stars just slowly appeared as our eyes adjusted to the dark.
We decided not to stay another day to explore the park and instead woke early and continued our journey west towards Flagstaff for our first attempt at boondocking.
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