My pals, Heather and Nico, drove five hours from Tucson to Holbrook to help me cross the Petrified National Forest. We had 3 days to cross 75 miles…
The first day I walked 18 miles and they joined me for the second half, just in time for a big strong headwind. By the time we reached the ranger’s station, I was exhausted. So we called it a day and went to find out campsite.
We camped in a moonscape fairyland called, The Crystal Forest. I’m not joking…
Earlier that day, while I walked, Nico and Heather had gotten the necessary parking permits and back-country passes. There are no trees in the Petrified Forest. We set up our tent on pure white sand, surrounded by huge chunks of petrified wood, up to 8 feet long, lying every which way. Looking at the rough bark turned to red stone with kaleidoscope colored centers, I could imagine the huge pine trees they had been 250 million years ago. I still can’t believe we were allowed to camp in such a beautiful place.
As soon as the tent was staked to the ground to keep the howling wind from carrying us away in the night, we explored and played like giddy children. I kept wondering how such a magical place is possible and how glad I was to be there with two dear friends.
The next morning we broke camp and retuned to the ranger’s station. Again, I started the day alone with my thoughts, while my friends ran errands and arranged the next night’s stay in the “forest”. By mile 15 I was tired but determined. Fortunately, Heather and Nico joined me and lifted my spirits for those last 8 miles.
They left me at the ranger’s station at this end of the park… but it turned out to be closing time. I asked a few quick questions and found out that the road on my map that runs from the park road to my next destination doesn’t exist. When Nico and Heather returned to the station with the cars and gear, I asked where we were camping. Heather pointed to a hill impossibly far off in the distance on the other side of a big snaking dry riverbed.
“There,” she said.
I nodded and looked down at my feet, mentally saying, ‘You can do this… it’s not as far as it looks.’ It was just as far as it looked, but my pep talked worked and my tire feet made it.
The next morning we decided to leave the park and try to find another route from the park to the next town. There was none. At the Route 66 diner, the owner suggested I walk along the railroad tracks.
“Is that legal?” I asked the woman.
“No.” She shrugged.
“Is is safe?”
“For you…” She shook her head as she looked me over, “White with blonde hair… no.”
So, I talked it over with my friends and finally decided that I could skip 26 miles and call it good. So I walked from Chambers to Sanders, and that was that. Maybe some day I will find a way to walk from the Ranger’s Station in the middle of the Petrified Forest to Chambers… but at that point I was exhausted and so sad that my friends were leaving.
We said our bittersweet goodbyes and I headed down the road alone. Wouldn’t you know that more good things waited just just up the road.
Love and goodness to you all,