|One of the things we both so love about our life in the motor home is discovering things we had never heard of. Such was just the case as we mapped our way from New Mexico to Fresno,CA where we would leave the motor home and fly to Seattle to spend Christmas with our kids and grandkids. While looking at the atlas, Mike discovered the Petrified Forest National Park (which we didn't know existed,) was on our route so the trip was planned to include that stop and what a stop it was. After stopping at the Visitors Center to get the details, we learned from the Rangers that it was a trip in which we could drive the motor home starting at one end and coming out at the other, with parking lots accommodating the MH while we enjoyed the many areas of the park. Beginning at the north end, we were treated to the vistas of the Painted Desert and the famous Painted Desert Inn which was owned and operated by Fred Harvey and the famous "Harvey girls." The Inn being just a couple of miles north of Route 66, it became a layover for many a weary traveler. Having just read a book about the Harvey girls, it was fun to envision them working there and seeing the tiny rooms they were boarded in. The Inn had been a pueblo many, many years ago and much of it was made from the petrified wood from the area. It was later bought by Mr. Harvey who had a contract with the Santa Fe Railroad to provide restaurants and hotels along the route for their passenger trains. From the dining room of the restaurant you look out over the incredible colored vistas of the Painted Desert where your eyes feast on just about every pastel color in the world. Breathtaking doesn't even begin to describe the drive through the park with ever changing scenery, colors and vistas. From the pastel colors of the Painted Desert to the blues, grays and purples of formations created in areas due to a lack of oxygen and on to the hills scattered with huge petrified logs, many of which look like a chainsaw had cut them into chunks, it was an unforgettable experience. Just before leaving the park we stopped at a museum where we saw a film on how the forest was created more than 250 million years ago. Being closer to the Equator and the ocean before the land masses started to break up, the area had been a sub-tropical zone where many plants and animals lived that needed lots of water and moisture. As the land begin to break up and the area became more arid, it was hit by many volcanoes which petrified the forest. Today the landscape is littered with petrified wood which contains many gems and minerals, many of which are different colors of agate. When you enter the park you are asked if you have any rocks in your vehicle and you are checked when you leave the park. The Ranger told us they have over a million pieces stolen from the park each year And sadly at that rate this beautiful park won't last forever. He did tell us however that many people send them back after returning home being 'bit by their conscience'! But the sad part of that is, they end up in a pile behind the Museum as the Rangers have no idea where in the park they have been taken from. This is one of the most beautiful side trips we have ever made and one we highly recommend you don't miss if you are in the area. We took tons of photos but are always sad that the camera can't begin to capture the colors your eyes get to see. Driving on after leaving the park while being treated to another of Mother Nature's beautiful paintings, we talked about what in the world the area would look like in another 250 million years...an answer we will never know.