Greetings from Petrified Forest National Park

In 1956, when I was 8 years old, my father, after 15 years in the Navy on active duty during WWII, graduated from college on the GI Bill in my home state of Kansas and we moved to Los Angeles so he could take a job at Lockheed Aircraft. From then on, we spent every summer vacation driving across the Southwest, first stopping in Colorado to visit my dad’s family and then going to Kansas to visit my mom’s family. This was before Route 66 became an Interstate. Along the way, we frequently stopped briefly at the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest NP. My parents didn’t have much money in those days so my dad and mom took turns driving and sleeping so we didn’t stop overnight. One morning before dawn my mom was driving and I was awake. My dad and sister were asleep. My mom suggested that we stop at the Painted Desert which is quite close to Petrified Forest NP. We stopped at a lookout point and got out of the car and my mom and I watched the sunrise over the Painted Desert. The colors were spectacular, the sky was that beautiful Southwest blue that is found nowhere else on earth and it was so quiet not even a bird was singing. It was truly a spiritual experience. Then we went to the Petrified Forest.

During those cross country trips we stopped at many National Parks. Sometimes we took a more northern route when we returned to LA and stopped at Zion and Bryce and once we even went up to Yellowstone although it was somewhat out of the way.

I will never forget those road trips and how awe inspiring our National Parks are. When I became an adult I made sure to take my son on vacations to our National Parks. We have been to almost every NP in the West. My parents could never afford to stay at any of the beautiful, old National Park lodges so I made sure that my son and I went to at least some (Old Faithful Inn) but we also camped out. I still go to our National Parks whenever I can. I have a vacation to North Cascades planned for this year. I have so many wonderful memories both of my childhood and sharing our parks with my son. Americans are blessed beyond measure to have these parks, both natural and historical. We must protect them.

Barbara Kaye

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest is best known for its ancient trees that have crystallized over 225 million years into rainbow colors. The park also features fossils from huge 18-foot crocodile-like creatures known as Phytosaurs, as well as remnants from 13,000 years of human history, including the remains of villages, tools, and grinding stones. A 28-mile road runs through the park, offering a number of short hiking trails into the diverse landscape of wild grasslands and Painted Desert vistas and colorful badlands.

State(s): Arizona

Established: 1962

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