A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Polished Petrified Wood

Petrified Forest National Park

Gift shops around the area offer petrified wood for sale.  
Much of it has been cut and polished to really bring out the beauty on the rock.

Can't have too much petrified wood.

It took 10 hours to cut this slab with a wire saw.
A comparable piece of granite would take two and half hours.

The polishing involves days for flat slabs such as these.

Irregular surfaces like this must be done by hand with nine different grits of ever finer sanding.
Now we are talking days evolving into weeks of work.

The prices reflect the effort involved.
Those flat slabs above were in the four digit range of prices.

 For those with a limited budget these were under $50.

Monday, September 17, 2018


Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park had it's share of petroglyphs to display.
This one here marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
See the large boulder split in half.  On the day of the solstice sunlight will show through the crack...

...as a shaft of light that will pierce that circle on the left face of this boulder with what looks like a "C" in the center.  I don't doubt the purpose of this but what I wonder is how did they know this was "the day" and not the day before or the day after?  Someone put it a lot of time, days, weeks, sitting around observing, making little marks until they were sure that got the correct day.

Okay, I've held back on this subject long enough.  Here are my thoughts on petroglyphs.  I think we, the experts, are reading into these rock symbols more than what is really there.  They interpret them to hold cultural and religious significance (trying to communicate to the world around them as stated in the above sign) to those who created them.  I say they are simply preserving memories.  Today we take a photograph to preserve a memory.  Before the camera we drew or painted a picture to preserve a memory or event.  For example a hunter shoots a deer with an arrow.  It's the biggest deer he has ever taken.  He etches out a drawing of a stick figure launching an arrow or spear into a deer.  He can look upon that drawing years later.  
Yep, I remember that day, that hunt.  That was good.  

I've seen petroglyphs all over from different cultures with different beliefs and religions yet all the drawings look similar and have nearly identical themes.  If you asked someone to sit down and doodle an image of a person or draw a picture for fun you'd pretty much get a stick figure from them.  Why not think these Ancestral People just sat down to doodle some images on a rock for fun, passing what little free time they had away for pleasure with friends creating images on rock without any specific meaning?  For example in the photo below.  Two friends sit down to doodle some images on a rock (far right).  The first one says "Look, I made picture of myself".  His friend replies "Me too, only my penis is longer than yours. Ha, ha!"  Preserving memories or simply doodling.  Pretty much that is all petroglyphs are in my opinion.

One guy walked by and mentioned to me "Someday people will ask what is a newspaper?"
Hmm...maybe long from now this sign will read Google Rock Petroglyphs?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Blue Mesa

Petrified Forest National Park

This is the "badlands" of the park.

It was a steep trail down to the floor of the valley.  Part way I thought to myself I've seen enough of these "badlands" do I really want to go there?  About then this nice looking lady passed by.  She had a big Nikon camera stopping to take pictures here and there.  Well, if she's going to do it then I am. 

I eventually passed her as she kept stopping to take pictures.  Once at the bottom I looked back
 and I never saw her again.  Damn if she didn't turn around and go back!  
Tricked again by a pretty woman.

Anyway, I was glad I made the effort and was greatly impressed with the colors and geology.
There is a cute little kitty up there in that RV waiting for her Dad to come back.

Thanks pretty lady for having me do the trail.

Boy, I bet it gets cooking down there in the middle of summer.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Petrified House

Petrified Forest National Park

They say Native Americans used blocks of petrified wood to create living spaces.
This is a recreation of one such living space.

This is what they had to work from in 1934 when rebuilding the house.
Notice the caption above the photo.

The more I see of these "recreations" where it all is just a result of guesswork the more it kind of bothers me.  Like there are trees out here in the desert of this size to make rafters.  I didn't see any.
If you don't know what you are doing, just leave things as they are.

And like at Bandelier, the rain and snow would quickly dissolve the mud mortar between the blocks of stone.  The visitor is being deceived into believing this is how the home looked. 
Oh well, the regular park visitor doesn't really care.  Just me.

Friday, September 14, 2018


Petrified Forest National Park

As I wrote in yesterday's post the mineral rich water that soaked into the wood is what created the assortment of colors in the rock.

They call it the Rainbow Forest

The park encourages you to stay on the trails and for the most part it appears people do just that.
After all, you can see all the petrified wood that you want just from the trail alone.
Not much point to go wandering about.  It's just more of the same.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest National Park

To begin with, this park would prove to be the cleanest, litter-free National Park I had ever visited.  Not only that, but I saw not one bit of abuse, vandalism or graffiti anywhere - okay, some idiot did scratch in his initials along the border of one sign, but that was all I saw. 

There are a bazillion pieces of petrified wood scattered all about ranging from small easy to steal chips to massive 100 foot long logs.  The park really stresses not to take or disturb any of the rocks but you and I know how people are.  Really, if you want a piece of petrified wood, it can be found outside of the park boundary and even gift shops give away small pieces. 

I took way too many...pictures.  Did you think I was going to say souvenirs?
I was much more impressed with all I saw than I thought I would be.
I guess you appreciate things more the older you get. 

This log was one of the largest.  That tree is five feet tall or in diameter.

 One of the very few I found that showed where a limb once was. Clues like this help researchers determine what kind of trees these were.  Most were conifers, like our pines of today.

This one here clearly shows the thick bark.  
I didn't see any others like this.

This diagram was in the visitor center which I found very interesting.  The land that makes up the United States was on the western edge of the super continent of Pangea.  The southwest, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah was very near the equator about where present day Costa Rica is.  And like Costa Rica the deserts of today's southwest was tropical jungle.  The trees of that jungle were upwards to 200 feet high. The land where they grew had a massive river flowing through it much like the Amazon of today.  Trees would die, get blown over, or floods would take them out and they'd flow down river eventually getting hung up. Silt quickly buried them stopping decay.  Slowly mineral rich waters would leach into the trees and these minerals replaced the cells of the trees slowing becoming
multi-colored rock under the pressure of over lying soils.  And there you have a petrified forest.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Painted Desert

Petrified Forest National Park

The first point of interest in Arizona coming in from New Mexico on Interstate 40 is the Petrified Forest National Park.  The Painted Desert is the first portion you drive through from the north entrance into the park.  It had been around 40 years when I was here last.  Ah, it was like seeing it for the first time.  That is one of the benefits of growing old and not remembering things.

First off, I did not know the exposed terrain that makes up the Painted Desert was so vast as you can see in this diagram.  We see only a tiny bit of it driving.

So as with most geographical wonders it looks so much more impressive in real life 
than what photos are able to display.

And too, the colors would be more vibrant in the early morning or late afternoon hours.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Native American Arts and Crafts Show

Casa Blanca, New Mexico

We are traveling west from Albuquerque on old Route 66 which parallels Interstate 40 most of the time.  It is a nice way to travel, no traffic and I can go slow enjoying the scenery.  At Casa Blanca we came upon the Dancing Eagle casino in the Laguna Indian Reservation.  Indian casinos are nice places to stay (free) so I decided to do just that.  On their flashing led billboard was a notice for a Native American Arts and Crafts show the next day.  Sounded like something fun to see.

Late that morning I walked into the foul smelling cigarette smoke filled casino and on back to their events center room.  Inside there were a dozen or so tables set up lining the walls of the room and it was deathly quiet, as if I had walked into a funeral parlor.  I was the only visitor to the arts and crafts show.  I felt all eyes would fall upon me but no, the sellers were focused on their smart phones.

Most of the tables were laden with Indian style silver and turquoise jewelry.  One table was devoted to beaded crafts such as key fobs and neck pouches.  And then there was the old man who had these hideous looking psychedelic colored fuzzy blankets that looked as if you held a match to them they would go up in flames like a cheap polyester suit.  If they were supposed to be "authentic" Indian blankets they were like no other I had ever seen before.  Ah, but off in the corner was the reason I came.  One gentleman had Indian pottery.  I was interested in the artwork that adorned the pots.

Thomas was very pleasant to talk with.  He looked to be in his 50's but its always hard to tell with Native Americans.  He had a Vietnam Veteran cap sitting beside him so if that was the case, he was much older, as ancient as myself.  He told me how his mother had sat him down to teach him the art of decorating pottery.  It captured his interest enough to go to art school.  Mom had also taught him the ways to create the colors using natural pigments in the traditional way "...but I have forgotten. 
I cheat.  I buy my paints at the art supply store." 

She showed him how to take the thorn point from a yucca plant, pull it out with the plant fibers still attached and use it for the fine pin-striping of lines by dragging the paint soaked fibers across the surface of the pottery.  I was aware of this trick with the yucca plant that served as a needle and thread for the Native Americans but did not know they also used it in painting their pottery.  Thomas said that no paintbrush he has found can do a better job with the lines and so he uses the traditional method taught to him by his mother.

As I left the event center I thought how it is going to be a very long day for these artisans if I was to be "it" for visitors.  I certainly could not see the gamblers giving up their precious slot machines to go see a Native American Arts and Crafts show.