Spring Break day 9
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Blanding, UT to Holbrook, AZ
Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Petrified Forest National Park
Today started with a long, long drive. Our goal for the day was to drive from Blanding, UT to Holbrook, AZ, and visit Canyon de Chelly in Chinle on the way to break up the drive. We had done this drive before on last year’s spring break, so we were prepared for how long and boring it was! Thankfully, we were back in radio signal and had a nice choice of radio stations to get us through the desert. 🙂
|The view for the majority of the drive…|
We had visited Canyon de Chelly together during spring break 2012, but back then we didn’t even know it was a national monument – we were just going along with whatever the Navigator group was doing. We didn’t remember a whole lot, so we decided it was worth revisiting. It was also about at the halfway point in our drive, so we were ready to stretch our legs and do a little hiking.
We started with a drive on the North rim. We went as far as the Antelope House Lookout, and walked along the canyon rim. Last time we were here, we only remember doing the short hike to the White House ruins, so it was fun to see a bit more of the park. It’s a very interesting area, because although it is a national monument, it’s on the Navajo reservation and many families live and work in the area.
After that, we took a drive on the South side. This drive was more scenic as you could actually see the canyon from the road (the North drive is a ways from the canyon and we had to drive over a mile off of the North Rim Drive to the Antelope lookout). We stopped at the White House Ruins lookout and trailhead and decided to do the hike again.
The hike is 2.5 miles roundtrip, and descends steeply into the canyon, across the river, and to the base of the canyon wall with the White House ruins. Going down was easy, unless you keep reminding yourself that you have to walk back up. 😉 The trail is made mostly of slick rock and switchbacks until you get to the bottom of the canyon.
|The White House Ruins|
We didn’t really stop or take our time around here – we really just hiked down, took picture of the ruins, then walked up. No big deal, just a quick break from driving. As we were out of breath and nearing the end of the hike up the canyon, I told Curtis, “If we do this 18 more times then we’ll be ready to hike the Grand Canyon!”
His response was “You know that when we do the Grand Canyon, we’re allowed to take breaks, right?”
Oh yeah, I was leading and I kept up a fast pace throughout the entire hike. I may have been sore and out of breath, but I was just happy that I was in shape enough to do this. I remember stopping so much last time I was here, and had no hiking experience at all!
|Looking down at the White House Ruins from above.|
After that, we finished up our drive on highway 191 and made it to Interstate 40. Our original plan was to just go to Holbrook, do some letterboxing, and take it easy, but it was only 2 in the afternoon at this point. We were planning on doing Petrified Forest National Park the next day, but since we had so much time left, we decided to do it today and save ourselves a few miles.
I am so glad we decided to do this, because the clouds were just perfect today, and made the views of the Painted Desert so much better! We drove to Petrified, stopped at the visitor’s center, and planned out our visit. The cool part about the Painted Desert is that they allow you to obtain permits and do your own back-country hiking. We didn’t really have that kind of time and didn’t feel up for it, but just knowing that they allow that is cool. Other than that though, there aren’t any hikes longer than 2 miles, so we just decided to drive through and stop when we felt like it.
We stopped at a couple overlooks for the Painted Desert. I think this was my favorite part of the park – I just loved the bright, vibrant colors.
After this, we continued the drive south through the park. To be honest, the drive is…a little boring for quite a ways. There are interesting parks and overlooks, but for a good portion of the drive, all you can see is…scrub land. It was weird to us that all this could be considered a National Park. It just didn’t measure up to every other park we’d seen! But once we took the side roads to different places, it would get to be more interesting. This park isn’t like any other, that’s for sure.
Another favorite stop was at the Blue Mesa Trail. It’s a mile long loop trail that takes you through a badland-looking area…except it’s a bluish-purplish color! It was an easy hike and we really enjoyed it. We finally started to see petrified wood lying all around.
|At the beginning of the trail – it doesn’t look blue yet…|
|See the blue and purple now? It was so pretty!|
|This log is 110 feet long!|
|The Jasper Forest overlook|
|See all the petrified wood in this picture?|
|Curtis lies on the wood to demonstrate how long it was 🙂|
After making it through the 26 mile drive through the park, we stopped at the museum at the end and learned a few things about the area, and how petrified wood is made. Oh yeah, and the skull in the above picture? That was found in Chinle. Crazy!
|Beautiful, polished petrified wood|
We finished our visit by wandering around the Long Logs trail behind the museum. We had been debating which park was more interesting – this one or Arches – and this last trail might have helped Petrified pull ahead just that much more. There was SO MUCH petrified wood all around!
However, remember what I said about how everything we saw on vacation can be summed up by saying “Cool Rocks”? Petrified wood is also just a cool rock. It is interesting how they are formed, and even more interesting that there is so much of it right here in Arizona! But yes, all we did on vacation is see Cool Rocks and Gorgeous Gorges. That’s probably pretty typical though if you’re traveling anywhere in the Southwest!
After this, we drove from the South entrance of the park to Holbrook. But we were not done seeing petrified wood…it was mind blowing how much we saw for sale along the side of the road!
|My favorite part about Holbrook, AZ: The dinosaurs along the side of the road. 🙂|
|All of our exciting maps/newsletters from the parks we visited!|
We made it to Holbrook, settled in at our last hotel, and walked to Denny’s for dinner. (2nd Denny’s on vacation? Yeah, yeah…we just really like breakfast food!) It’s always sad when you know a vacation is coming to the end. What made this better though was knowing that (1) we got our Charlotte back the next day and (2) We have another trip planned in a month!
Day 9 Wrap Up: Drove 300 miles, hiked 4 miles, found 1 letterbox.