Tuesday, July 05, 2005


We've just got back from a short tour of Northern Arizona. We'd originally planned to take in The Painted Desert but it kinda grew from there. First up was the meteor crater. There's a shot of it in my latest gallery, here[^] but I fear it doesn't do it justice; there's only so much you can do using a cheap point and shoot camera. It's also a trifle expensive to visit but I imagine if you've got one of the very few well preserved craters around you can pretty much charge what you want.

We left Phoenix late and so we only made it as far as a tiny town called Holbrook. As a town it's much like it's namesake in Southern New South Wales. It doesn't have a submarine but it does have a motel that takes the Indian (Native American) theme to an extreme. In retrospect I wish we'd stayed there; as it was we chose possibly the worst Best Western in the world. I kid you not, the room had tincture of mens room perfume. I also couldn't resist taking a shot of the Navajo County Sheriffs (sic) Posse building (Home of the Hashknife Gang). I have to assume hash had a different meaning in those days!

Next morning we took off to The Petrified Forest. You can only look at so many rocks that look like trees (or is it trees that look like rocks). Or at least that's how my wife felt about it. You enter at the southern entrance with the prospect of 25 miles or so of winding rural road ahead of you. We stopped at the visitor centre about a mile in and did the 1 mile walking track. Interesting stuff. Then we moved on to the next stop and did the 1 mile walking track. Moved on and took the side road to Blue Mesa. At this point my wife decided she'd done enough walking so I was left to walk it alone.

Awesome walk. She missed the best walk of the whole trip! See the photos. The walk goes downhill a few hundred feet and then you're in an almost dead landscape of dried clay hillocks. The shadows of crows flying overhead waiting for you to peg out and, at one point, I saw something perched on a hillside that at first I thought was just another piece of petrified wood. But it seemed somehow odd that there would be just one piece alone and so it proved, for as I got closer I could see that it was what I think was a Gila Monster.

We moved on and, coming over a gentle rise, there was The Painted Desert. I took some shots but they don't really show it so I haven't posted them. To be honest, it was a little disappointing but now I can see why they lump it in with The Petrified Forest. On the other hand, that first glimpse over the rise is worth seeing.

From there we went East and then North to Canyon De Chelly. I'd never heard of the place before but it was definitely worth a visit. Not for those of us who are scared of heights; there are one or two viewing points where I found it difficult to get closer than my own height from the edge. But one can't take decent photos that far from the edge so I forced myself closer.

We'd already gone further than we'd planned but Monument Valley was enticingly close. My wife has driven past the area (where driving past is defined as within a hundred miles) more than once without having the time to take the detour, and I've seen this movie hundreds of times[^] so it was a given that I wanted to see in real life what I'd seen in a brief section on the big screen. I wasn't disappointed!

I'm not great at estimating size when I'm being dwarfed but those monuments must be hundreds of feet high! We'd timed it just right, arriving about 4PM with another 4 hours of daylight to go. There's a dirt trail, driveable by most vehicles, of 17 or so miles that takes you right down through them. The area is right on the Arizona Utah border; indeed, to enter the park you have to drive through a mile or so of Utah state; I could feel the alcohol restrictions closing in on me. Just kidding!

I can't find the words to express just how beautiful and awesome that area is. All I can say is that if you are within driving distance it's something not to be missed.

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