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Grand Canyon Vacation
Grand Canyon Trip - Petrified Forest National Park

Somewhere along the Park Drive north of Jasper Forest, one sort of slides from the Petrified Forest into the Painted Desert. "Painted Desert" is the poetic (but accurate) name given to a huge sweep of Chinle Group rocks that show a wide variety of colors from different minerals in the rock. I could give you a lot of dry commentary about the geology, but really I don't think the photos require any additions from me:

Submarine Rock formation

The overlook called Blue Mesa more or less marks the beginning of Painted Desert. I got several good pictures here, including this one, which I thought looks strikingly like a submarine surfacing.

The Tepees

A few miles' drive north of Blue Mesa, you find a set of rock formations called The Tepees, which do a marvelous job of showing off the multicolored Chinle rocks. The amazing variety of colors comes from the variety of minerals in the rock.

Painted Desert vista

On north from The Tepees is a stretch of road with no stops, then several overlooks in quick succession. From here, you can see the main sweep of the Painted Desert away off to the northwest. The large hill in this photo is called Pilot Rock. Its summit is the highest point in the Park.

Painted Desert vista (2)

The mixed reds, grays, whites, and blacks of the different rock layers combine to produce something that really does look like the result of an artist gone berserk with some really big paint brushes. And it's like that everywhere you look in this part of the Park.

These technicolor badlands, a paradise for rockhounds and fossil-hunters, sweep away to the north and west in a huge crescent that ends on the outskirts of the Grand Canyon nearly a hundred miles away. The sheer scale of the Painted Desert boggles the mind almost as much as the Grand Canyon itself does.

On the way back from the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, I took an hour and stopped at Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. Meteor Crater is a gigantic hole in the ground, five hundred feet deep and half a mile across. It was made by a meteorite that hit here around fifty thousand years ago. The meteorite was vaporized in the explosion generated by the impact; today, all that's left of it is thousands of tiny fragments scattered across the land. I literally did not have a lens that was wide enough to get the whole crater in view, so I had to settle for a few photos that showed how the rocks at the crater rim had been deformed by the explosion.

Meteor Crater West Rim

If you're ever out that way, Meteor Crater is well worth a look. Besides the crater itself, which is very impressive, there's a small 'space museum' that includes displays on the meteorite, the space program, and the Apollo astronauts who trained here briefly because NASA thought the landscape was much like what they'd encounter on the Moon.

After leaving Meteor Crater I headed back to my hotel. Next day's plans included Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument.