Really? I thought. I’m looking at ancient Native American drawings, and the first thing I notice is what looks like a fictional spaceship! I was at Petrified Forest National Park looking at many different sand colors and intricate rock drawings. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

In October 2022, I was on a big road trip traveling across Arizona and visiting National Park Sites with my mom, dad, brother, Nana, and Great-Grandpa. On this trip, we visited the state of New Mexico for the first time and saw four NPS sites, a National Forest, and the Bureau of Land Management office in Phoenix. On the first day, we visited Petrified Forest National Park and we went to the Painted Desert visitor center at the north end of the park. We got Junior Ranger books (they have two badges you can earn). In the parking lot, I met a Law Enforcement (LEO) Ranger, Ranger DuWayne, and he talked with me because I want to be a LEO when I grow up! We needed more time in the park, but it was about to close. We decided to spend the night in Holbrook and return in the morning.

We started the next day at the Rainbow Forest Museum at the south end of the park, where we turned in our Junior Ranger books. In the museum, we learned about paleontology, and Buddy became a Paleontologist! We also touched a real piece of petrified wood! We also read about petrified wood thieves and their hilarious remorse letters when they returned their pieces of wood. Outside, Buddy got to hike behind the museum and sit on a chunk of Petrified Wood since he is small and won’t hurt anything. He wanted to see the colors more closely, but the humans stayed on the trail. Then we drove to a trailhead, where we learned about desert pavement. Did you know that desert pavement is a sheet
of interlocking rocks and pebbles that protect the underlayer of the desert from erosion?

Next was Newspaper Rock, known for its many petroglyphs (that’s where I was at in the opening). We looked out into the valley seeing many different colors and petroglyphs on the rocks. There were several giant boulders with sides covered in petroglyphs of different shapes and sizes. Then we went to an overlook where we could see mountains that are in Flagstaff, AZ. The cliffs we saw were beautiful pastel colors. We passed the Painted Desert Inn but didn’t stop because we were hungry. At the gift shop, we bought genuine petrified wood harvested from outside the park. On the way home, TSA searched everyone in my family’s carry-on luggage in the airport security line because we had all put our boxes of petrified wood in our bags, and they couldn’t tell what it was on the x-ray machines!

If you go and decide to drive the whole thing, bring lots of water and plenty of snacks because it is a very long drive. The views were spectacular, and I encourage you to visit the park! Did you know the park is 229 sq miles? Bye, y’all!