16 May
2016
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Take a Trip: Petrified Forest National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016.

Petrified Forest National park view of Painted Desert

Petrified Forest National Park is located near Holbrook, Arizona and rivals Wyoming for ridiculous wind. The wind wasn’t mentioned in any of my spring break planning materials. Trust me when I say there should be some sort of asterisk footnote in travel guides warning people that wind in northern Arizona during spring is no joke. We live where wind is an ever-present annoyance. If we thought the wind was bad at Petrified Forest National Park, assume it was horrible.

View at Petrified Forest National Park of Crystal Forest

Beyond the wind and my fear of our car-top carrier taking flight from our vehicle, Petrified Forest is a unique entity in the national park system offering a rare landscape to explore. The park was crowded at the Painted Desert Visitor Center raising concerns that we were in for an afternoon of full parking lots and trails crowded with people. I’m not sure where all the people went once they passed through the pay booth — possibly most visitors simply take a driving tour through the park, but we ran into very few people along the trails we hiked.

Newspaper Rock petroglyphs at Petrified Forest National Park

Several overlooks are lumped together near the Painted Desert Visitor Center giving views of the Painted Desert badlands with its colorful rock hills. We made a quick stop at an overlook before visiting Newspaper Rock, a site with hundreds of petroglyphs dating back thousands of years. Bring binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens. The short trails takes you to an overlook for Newspaper Rock, which can’t be as appreciated as much with the naked eye.

Boy sitting at Agate Bridge in Petrified Forest National Park

Panoramic view of Jasper Forest at Petrified Forest National Park

The drive through Petrified Forest National Park takes you through the Blue Mesa badlands known for its blue-hued rock formations. Agate Bridge features a 110-foot long petrified bridge that is impressive to view. It’s a short trail from the parking lot down to view the log. Jasper Forest, a short drive from the bridge, gives a panoramic view of a landscape littered with petrified wood logs. The wood appears to reach the horizon.

Up-close view of a log in Petrified Forest National Park

Our favorite stop in Petrified Forest was the Crystal Forest, a less than one-mile loop trail wandering through many colorful logs. We were surprised at the amount of petrified wood in the park. I assumed there would be quite a bit, but there is an overabundance of petrified wood in the park! We’ve visited other places with petrified “forests,” including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but none compares to the amount or type of wood we saw in Arizona. The wood in the Crystal Forest is vibrant and some pieces have the bark pattern ringing the outside of logs. The science behind wood becoming fossilized is intriguing to me. Standing in the windy badlands of Arizona with the remains of a fallen forest from thousands of years ago is mind-blowing. There are no longer trees in the landscape of that national park outside of the fossils at your feet. Believing trees could have ever easily grown in the area seems ridiculous.

Hikers on the Long Log Trail in Petrified Forest National Park

Giant Log Trail - Perified Forest National Park

Near the Rainbow Forest Museum is the trail for Agate House, a reconstructed pueblo, and the Long Logs and Giant Log trails. The trails are aptly named. Large logs of petrified wood are grouped together as if an ancient flood moved the logs to the area and deposited them haphazardly. A few logs are over 180 feet long. We enjoyed walking the trail and attempting to find the largest log. Each turn in the path led to yet another log that could take the title for longest in the the park.

Hikers in Petrified Forest National Park near sunset

Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most unique of the 30 parks we’ve visited and definitely not your everyday forest.


 
May Madness
By     |    May 13, 2016
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May Madness

The month of May is when I’m in high-mama gear. Four school-aged children means that on any given weekday from now until the last day of school, someone has a field trip or track or junior Olympics or an assembly or a concert. Some days it’s multiple children requesting a parent make an appearance. If field tripper was a profession, that would be my career in May. The build-up to the end of the school year starts at the beginning... [Read More]

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A Birthday and Loss
By     |    May 11, 2016
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A Birthday and Loss

Today our third son celebrates his ninth birthday. I cannot believe he’s already nine, but also feel he’s older than those short nine years. He’s a joy-filled, sports-loving boy who was born at a time when his mama needed him most. Ten years ago I was pregnant for the third time and over-the-moon excited to add to our family. Eleven weeks into the pregnancy I experienced cramping and was placed on bed rest. Two days later the cramping turned to... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Canyon de Chelly
By     |    May 5, 2016
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Take a Trip: Canyon de Chelly

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. If there’s a theme to our vacations, besides national parks, it’s canyons. There’s not a canyon rim hike we haven’t enjoyed, from the Grand Canyon to Canyonlands to Yellowstone. We love the views across a canyon and peering into the depths below. We’ve watched videos and viewed... [Read More]

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Surreal Moments of Mothering
By     |    May 2, 2016
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Surreal Moments of Mothering

Mothering has been a series of surreal moments lately. Last week, I traveled with our oldest and a large group of his 7th grade classmates two hours from our hometown to the University of Wyoming, my alma mater. UW is the only four-year institute in Wyoming. Both Craig and I graduated from there. Much has changed in the decades since we called Laramie and the university home. I was giddy leading up to this field trip. We’ve taken our kids... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Flagstaff Area National Monuments
By     |    Apr 27, 2016
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Take a Trip: Flagstaff Area National Monuments

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. When anyone inquired where we were headed for spring break this year, I answered northern Arizona, which translated as Grand Canyon to everyone who asked. While Grand Canyon was on our list of stops over break, it was just one of several. The Flagstaff area is home... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park
By     |    Apr 18, 2016
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Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. We spent years talking about visiting Grand Canyon National Park. We couldn’t ever peg down a good time of year to visit. There were other national parks ranked higher on our wish list. Excuses piled for why we never chose the iconic American spot. This year was the... [Read More]

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Learning the Dance Curve
By     |    Apr 11, 2016
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Learning the Dance Curve

Dance class has brought our daughter much joy over the last couple of years. It’s the thing that brings the most joy to her six-year-old heart. This year we put more time into her sport and added one son to the dance floor. Sports in our family are typically played with a ball on a field or court. There are referees not adjudicators. Scoreboards clearly tell you where you stand. Dance has been a learning curve. I’ve heard people snicker... [Read More]

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Just One More Quarter
By     |    Apr 6, 2016
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Just One More Quarter

I sat in our vehicle on our way home from a week-long spring break vacation believing I was rejuvenated. Spending time with my family, traveling and enjoying the outdoors free of distractions speaks to most of my love languages. I felt waves of anxiety flow away and tense muscles relax over the course of those eight days. There are eight weeks of school left, and I was prepared to bring my A-game to the final quarter of the school year.... [Read More]

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Not-So-Fun Side of Family Vacations
By     |    Mar 22, 2016
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Not-So-Fun Side of Family Vacations

Rule #1 for family vacations is to expect the unexpected. We’ve notched thousands of miles in road trips and spent hours planning each vacation, but not one trip has gone as planned. Some unexpected occurrences are good. We’ve discovered places by listening to locals or veering from our plans because of a roadside sign. We always have an idea of what we want to do or see on vacation, but are known to be easily sidetracked. Some of our best... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Rocky Mountain National Park
By     |    Mar 14, 2016
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Take a Trip: Rocky Mountain National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. My husband and I spent 44 hours this weekend without children enjoying the tail-end of winter in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The start of 2016 has been rough, and we needed to regroup. Snowshoeing in the park was the most peaceful I’ve felt in months.... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Devils Tower National Monument
By     |    Mar 11, 2016
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Take a Trip: Devils Tower National Monument

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. Devils Tower National Monument, the first designated national monument in the United States, is located in northeast Wyoming. It’s a geological beacon sprouting from the prairie of the Cowboy state. There are nothing but rolling hills on all sides of the 867-foot tower which overlooks the Bell Fourche... [Read More]

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