May 23th started at 2.30 am, when I woke up with the intention of driving until the Grand Canyon in Arizona to stay there for several days (3 in total). Of course, it was the middle of the night and some people were still partying in Caltech. Anyway, I got to my car and started driving, first towards Las Vegas, and then towards the middle of the Californian/Arizonan desert. The drive was long and the night hours were kind of hard... It was kind of strange when the sun started rising at around 6 and I had already been driving for a long time...
Anyway, I made it to the Grand Canyon in around 7 hours with only one stop (for gas!). As I was arriving there, the sky covered in clouds and the number of cars and people increased: BAD! I entered the park and went straight to the rim for the first view of one of the most impressive natural wonders in the world, but surprise, the canyon was full of clouds and nothing could be seen!! What a deception!! Then I went to the visitor center and they told me the camping sites in the park were fully booked for the next days. And we were also told there were no permits to sleep down in the canyon!! So, we could do nothing there...
But at that moment, I took a crazy decision which turned up to be appropriate: I would continue driving for 2-3 more hours to get to Petrified Forest National Park, where I could spend the night. So there I went, driving through the red lands of Arizona. Going there I went through Navajo and Apache counties!! Cool ;)
Once there, quick visit to the Visitor Center, where I was told I could not sleep in the park, but they kindly suggested to me a place where I could camp for free, just outside the other entrance of the park.
The highlight of that part of the park was the Painted Desert, which I did not know and later on I have seen it is pretty famous. The Painted Desert was pretty beautiful and a great place for photography. As its own name suggests, it is a desert composed of colorful mountains/mesas.
After the Painted Desert and going South, there were some Native American ruins from around the 15th century:
- A town
- Some boulders carved with many drawings
The next part of the Petrified Forest NP was really beautiful and the highlight was a special kind of mesa with colorful stripes! Really surprising!!
These kind of mountains are called Blue Mesas.
And finally, I got to the place the park is named after: the Petrified Forest! The Petrified Forest is surprising. At first sight it looks like logs spread all over, but when you get near them and check them, you find out they are rocks!!
Can you see the minerals inside the wood looking log??
There used to be a forest here and some trees fell down and were covered by the changing ground. The minerals in the ground got inside the wood and petrified it. Later on, that area became a desert and all these log were unearthed. The result is these funny looking rocks.
I continued driving a bit more towards the other end of the park where I would sleep that night.
That night, I was there, in the middle of the desert, surrounded by thunder storms. I also got some rain... and I had driven 750 miles. But it was so nice. It was the taste of freedom!