Happy 100th birthday National Parks System!! August 25, 2016 marks 100 years. We celebrated by visiting 4 national park sites.
Petroglyph National Monument
We stopped on our way out of town for a quick look. Most of the petroglyphs required miles of hiking and we really didn’t have the time as we had over 7 hours of driving and that was before I decided to make a detour to the other two national monuments. We met an older park ranger and learned about the petroglyphs in the area and she gave us a new national parks map. We could not stay long.
El Malpais National Monument
As we were driving to Phoenix on Interstate 40, I was looking at my new parks map and saw that there were two national monuments that were really not that far out of the way and were sort of on the way to Phoenix. We decided what the heck, we are here, let’s go see them. The first one was El Malpais. The name El Malpais is from the Spanish term Malpaís, meaning badlands, due to the extremely barren and dramatic volcanic field that covers much of the park's area. We stoped at the visitor center and realized that to see the cool things of the park required a 22 mile one way backtrack route. We thought what the heck. So we drove to the Sandstone Bluffs overlook and the La Ventana Natural Arch. Both very cool places. We came back from our trip and stopped at a Lotsaburger. It is a New Mexico chain. The burgers were pretty good. Our next stop was El Morro.
El Morro National Monument
We got to El Morro around 2pm, just in time for cake. It was pretty good and I was ready for dessert after the cheeseburger. El Morro is located on an ancient east-west trail in western New Mexico. The main feature is a great sandstone promontory with a pool of water at its base. This was the only reliable water supply in a 40 mile radius so everybody stopped here. Travelers left signatures, names, dates, and stories of their treks. While some of the inscriptions are fading, there are still many that can be seen today, some dating to the 17th century! We walked to the pool and looked at the inscriptions. What we would be called graffiti now, is a treasured reminder of years past. Very cool place. I also bought a new hat. I really like this hat. I think I look cute!
Petrified Forest National Park
Our last stop on the birthday of the national parks system was at Petrified Forest. It is an easy drive from one side another. Along the way we saw the Painted Desert and little remains of Route 66. Oh how I love the history of Route 66. Finally on the south side of the park we saw what the park was named for, the petrified wood. It is amazing stuff.
Drive to Phoenix
From there we had a long 3 hour drive to Phoenix. Since we added so many detours, it was pretty late when we left Petrified Forest which meant a lot of night driving on very curvy desolate, mountain roads. It was an interesting drive! We drove through Apache Forest were we saw snow at the peak! It was a very long steep downhill into Payson, AZ. We stopped at Burger King at like 8pm for some dinner. From Payson we took what I would imagine is a very scenic Hwy 87. It had a lot of hills and a lot of semis. It was constantly an uphill/downhill road with lots of turns. At one point our southbound lanes were on the opposite side of the northbound lanes. That was a little weird at night. We eventually made our way to our hotel. It was in the low 50s in the Apache Forest and some two hours later, it was 98 degrees at 9pm in Phoenix. Crazy weather!
Day 6 miles driven: approximately 500. Wow!