Sunday, May 29, 2016

Spring 2016 Shakedown, AZ: Part 2

Part 2 of 3 - Continued from Part 1
Historic La Posada Hotel, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert

May 3, 2016 (continued)

From the Mogollon Rim Road I turned north onto the smooth asphalt of highway 87, I headed NE toward Winslow. The highway continued for some miles through woodlands and meadows, but then dropped down off the high ground into grasslands, then desert as I approached Winslow.

Click on any photo to view the larger version - highly recommended.
I've only posted a small selection of site photos here, follow the links to the full photo albums.

La Posada Hotel, Winslow, AZ

Front entrance of this historic hotel.

I drove past the hotel looking for gas. I wasn't sure of how much time I had as I'd failed to pay attention to the park hours when I'd researched Petrified Forest before leaving home. I did recall that unlike some national parks in the west, they are not open 24 hours. After filling my tank, I phoned the park and on a second attempt managed to get a human to answer. This time of year the gates are open 7am to 7:30pm. Excellent. Plenty of time to visit the historic hotel and still get to the park and visit the attractions in the southern portion before they closed the gates.

Ballroom(?) on the second level

"La Posada (1930) was the last and most elegant of the great Fred Harvey Hotels built by the Santa Fe Railroad. It was designed by Mary Colter - perhaps the greatest architect of the Southwest - as a fabulous Spanish hacienda." -- from the brochure.

Track-side view of the green and hotel.

La Posada was indeed very attractive and well appointed in the southwestern style. There is a gift shop of southwestern arts and crafts, a world-class restaurant, a small art museum, and of course the hotel itself. Behind the hotel is a grassy common, the train tracks. The hotel nowadays functions as the train station and the fellow at the ranger station had told me that many people ride the train from points east and west just to stay at the hotel and dine in the restaurant.

The casual, yet elegant dining room of the restaurant. I love the stain-glass windows of the Franciscan Monk/Explorers.

View my full photo album from La Posada.

Petrified Forest National Park

From Winslow, I took I-40 to Holbrook, then exited onto US-180. There is no camping in the park, but the park website mentioned stores just outside the south gate that allowed people to park overnight in their lots. This made me curious, so I looked at those establishments via Google Maps satellite view. Sure enough I could see what looked like an area beside the buildings where RVs were parked. Google has a street view for this section and I dropped down to that level. There I could easily see a large sign on at least one of the souvenir shops that said "Free Camping." So when I arrived at the park highway junction, I turned off the highway and pulled in to check it out. The store was closed, but there were RV owners standing around talking. "How does this free camping work?" I asked. "That's what we were wondering," they replied. "I'll see ya later," I said as I drove off.

I drove on into the park and asked the uniformed official at the national park entry gate about the camping. "Yes," he said, "both stores offer camping. The store on the eastside has free camping, opens in the morning and closes early. The store on the westside of the entrance road, opens later in the day, offers electric hook-ups for $10/night, and closes about the same time as the park." (I heard a rumor later, that if you arrived at the westside shop after they closed, you could hook-up for free.) I got my park map and drove on into the park. I stopped at the southern visitor center and got advice from the young woman there about what I would be able to see in the two hours before the park closed.

I love the contrast of the colorful petrified log and the delicate yellow wildflower blossom.

First I walked the Long Logs and Agate House trail. The round trip is a bit over 2 - 1/2 miles. Note: you must park in the VC lot and walk over the bridge to get to the trailhead; also, though I didn't go in, there is a souvenir shop/snack bar concessionaire at that location, too.

Long Logs Trail

Agate House

In most places this species of flycatcher perches on shrubs to hunt. As there are none of those here
the clever Phoebe chose a tall piece of log on a hilltop.

From there I drove north and stopped at the Crystal Forest trail where I walked the short loop. At the VC the attendant said I'd have time to drive to Blue Mesa, but instead I chose to head back south and stop at the parking area for wilderness access in hopes there would be a good sunset to photograph.

Crystal Forest

Sunset in Petrified Forest.
Disclaimer: this is the actual sunset, but a composite photo using two different lenses & exposures to enhance the effect.

Though it wasn't exactly dark as I headed out of the park, I used my headlights. I stopped at the store on the westside to look at their curios and use their rest room, however, that facility was closed for the night. I drove across the street to the free camping area and was a little surprised to see how many campers there were.

I was somewhat amazed at the whole scene. The store obviously had spend real money on the camping area. It was a large flat gravel area in two sections. There were concrete pads holding picnic tables, many with ramada covers. They had cleverly created a large windbreak built with concrete blocks in two walls that met at an angle with a raised area for tents shielded from the prevailing winds. I said cleverly, as the sides facing the road were painted as their billboard, advertising for the store. When I pulled in there must have been a half dozen good size 5th-wheel trailers, a couple mid-sized motorhomes, several tent campers, a couple pickups with camper shells, and one of those Jucy Mini-RVs. I found a nice spot in the second section and talked briefly with the Swiss couple in the Jucy van before dark.

May 4th

Petrified Forest National Park (continued)

After breakfast I walked over to a couple who were tent camping and pulling a small sailboat behind their car. I was curios as I used to own a small sloop when I lived in the SF Bay Area. They were driving up from Mexico to the Seattle area. Ian had been working in Mexico and now had a new job in Washington. He, Miranda, and baby Zion were visiting the parks and camping on their way north. I was to see them, and the Swiss couple, a few more time both at Petrified Forest and in the Canyon de Chelly campground.

Early morning shot of the campground. By this time a few campers had already left.
The dark shadow in the middle is cast by a 5th wheel trailer behind my left shoulder.

I was impressed enough with the free campground that I decided I'd purchase a souvenir at the Crystal Forest shop, to show my support, before I left for the park. However, the shop was not open as I left. (I did buy a piece of petrified wood at the gift shop at the north entrance to the park as I was feeling good after devouring an excellent, juicy green chile cheeseburger at their cafe.)

I drove into the park, stopped at the VC long enough to use the facilities, and proceeded north taking up where I'd left off the evening before. I took a few photos at Agate Bridge.

Agate Bridge (with concrete support added early in the last century.)

I then drove the Blue Mesa Loop taking photos at each station. I was admiring the view at the Blue Forest trailhead when Ian and Miranda came over the rise, wheeling baby Zion, from having walked the trail. "Are you thinking about walking the trail?" Ian inquired. "You really should do it. It is amazing!" What good advice. This was my favorite part of the park and I took dozens of photos. So many that I'll just provide a link to those I don't post here and I strongly encourage you to view those, and to take this trail if you visit the park.

Blue Forest Trail as seen from the overlook on Blue Mesa

Blue Forest Trail

View my full album of amazing photos of the Blue Forest and Blue Mesa!

I also liked Newspaper Rock. However, be warned, you cannot walk down to the petroglyphs, but must view them from a platform above and at some distance. The park provides binocular viewers, but I encourage you to bring your own binoculars. I was glad to have my telephoto lens so I could admire the imagery later in my photos.

One of the three "panels" of petroglyphs. More panels & views in the link below.

I've circled the areas containing petroglyphs in this photo from the overlook. Bring your binoculars.

I skipped Puerco Pueblo, figuring it would be a typical pueblo ruin (let me know in the comments if I'm wrong), and I wanted to photograph Painted Desert before to sun got too high and washed out the color. I also wanted to make sure I made it to Canyon de Chelly and Spider Rock in time for photos.

View my full album of Petrified Forest (does not include Blue Mesa; use link above.)

Painted Desert

It was already 11am by the time I reached the Painted Desert, but the light wasn't too harsh. I took photos/panoramas at several of the overlooks along the road.

View from Lacy Point overlook

Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark

The Painted Desert Inn is a beautifully restored lodge perched above the Painted Desert. Built in 1920 as a homestead inn, it went through a number of incarnations. It was purchased in 1936 by the National Park Service. In the 1940s it was managed by Fred Harvey, and though it closed during the war, it was reopened and renovated by architect Mary Colter (of La Posada fame, see above.)

Painted Desert Inn photographed from the south side.

Trading Post Room

"The murals at the Painted Desert In depict symbols, stories, and ceremonies of the Hopi and their ancestral Pueblan people who lived in this region. The mural above, is called the Salt Lake Mural. It tells the story of two young Hopi men on a salt gathering journey who walked a 230 mile trip from their home to the Zuni mesas and back, passing through what is now Petrified Forest National Park. It was both a physical and Coming-of-Age journey." - from the placard on the table below the mural.

Salt Lake Mural

The facility was undergoing a slight remodel, so the ice cream parlor and library were not operational, though most of the public rooms were still open, if not complete. I took many photos inside and out.

North side of the inn with the Painted Desert in the background.

View my full photo album of Painted Desert photos including more of the historic inn.

Do you buy any of those souvenir pins for your hat or vest? Do they fall off? Shopping hint:

I stopped at the north entrance of Petrified Forest for lunch and a souvenir, as mentioned above. I also asked the nice woman behind the jewelry counter about the little clips that hold onto the posts of those souvenir pins one buys. One of my pins popped off my hat at Bear Canyon Lake and I was lucky to find it in the gravel by my truck. I didn't find the clip and this is not the first time this has happened. She said I could get replacements at any jewelry store. She also said there were types that clamped on the pin and wouldn't fall off. When I got home I searched Amazon for the clips. They're there, once you figure out what they are called. Here is a link to the ones I bought that seem to work well. It is a cylinder with a small set screw (and included wrench.) At this time they are less than seven bucks for a dozen clips & the wrench.  Note: when you tighten the screw, you slightly bend the pin. Also, the link contains my affiliate code, so if you buy them via the link I get a few cents to help support the blog. Thanks!


  1. Great descriptions, and wonderful photos as always Bill! One day I'm gonna follow in your footsteps!


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