My wife, Helen, and I celebrated our status as new Arizona residents by taking a 5-day, 1,300-mile mini vacation in order to feast ourselves on some of Mother Nature’s most scenic southwest canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rocks and monuments without going to the Grand Canyon or Sedona.
We started our journey on Sunday, June 13, and headed for Globe, a mining town so named because of a globe-shaped piece of almost pure silver found in the area in 1870. Several miles later, we were treated to a 30-minute drive through picturesque, 2,000-feet-deep Salt River Canyon. Here the colorful sedimentary rock layers are visible from the road for miles.
Then it was on to Show Low, elevation 6,500 feet, where Tucson Desert Rats like we’ve just become can escape the summer heat. Here you can bask under 100-foot-tall pine trees or fish for feisty trout in the pristine streams in the area, but this was not our destination for the day.
Our goal was the southern entrance—Rainbow Forest—of Petrified Forest National Park. And words can not describe the thrill of seeing so many brilliantly colored, petrified logs strewn over this first stop of what is a 93,533 acre park.
About 225 million years ago, these logs we could touch and see close up were giant trees clinging to an eroding riverbank before falling into a fast-moving stream that carried them to wet, swampy lowlands. They were finally submerged in water and buried under volcanic ash sediments rich in silica before time and Nature’s handiwork did its magic. Silica replaced the wood until the logs were virtually turned into stone, with iron oxide and other minerals staining the silica to produce rainbow colors.