Road to Santa Fe

The Road to Santa Fe

Our road to Santa Fe was by way of Flagstaff, where we stayed for a couple of nights. It is a nice enough town with a big university, but most people come here to visit the great outdoors, not experience the blandishments of urban life. It advertises itself as a place from which to visit the Grand Canyon, even although the canyon is 80 miles away! But in American terms that is pretty close.

Flagstaff, and most of northern Arizona, is at about 7,000 feet, and in late April it can be pretty cold. Out of town we still saw snow on the ground.

On our day in Flagstaff we went to look at Red Mountain, which is about 25 miles out of town. This is a recent (¾ million year old) cinder cone which you can walk to fairly easily. The cinders are the most un-cinder like I have seen!

Inside the Red Mountain cinder cone

Inside the Red Mountain cinder cone

They look more like Old Red Sandstone than cinders! But you will find small amphibole and pyroxene crystals scattered about and there are some hoodoos. (Earth pillars protected by “hats” of resistant volcanic bombs.)

Hoodoos at Red Mountain, Arizona

Hoodoos at Red Mountain, Arizona

The mountain rises 1,000 feet above the plateau and is U-shaped. There is an amphitheatre, eroded out of the base of the U.

Chris looking at Red Mountain

Chris looking at Red Mountain

The open end of the U faces away from us, the amphitheatre faces towards us. There is a very good web page about the mountain HERE.

We then had a marathon drive to Santa Fe. Not long after leaving Flagstaff we drove a few miles off the interstate to look at Meteor Crater.

Meteor Crater from a distance

Meteor Crater from a distance

As you drive towards the crater you can see the rim rising above the plain. Once you get on the rim and defy the very strong wind, you can see into the crater.

Looking into Meteor Crater

Looking into Meteor Crater

From the edge you can see the inner walls of the crater and how they have been forced upwards by the force of the impact.

Inner wall of Meteor Crater

Inner wall of Meteor Crater

There is a surprisingly good and informative museum at the crater which tells you a lot about meteor impacts in general and this crater in particular.

We pressed on and came to Petrified Forest National Park which straddles the interstate. It was lunchtime and so we decided to go in and have our picnic in the park. And, as it was still National Parks Week, entrance was free!

A visit to the exhibit at the park entrance soon convinced Chris that she was fascinated by petrified wood.

Chris and a petrified tree

Chris and a petrified tree. Chris is at the top left.

These fossils are about 225 million years old, of Late Triassic age and can be rather beautiful. You can, for a price, buy specimens but unfortunately they were too heavy for us to consider. But one day…..

Cross section of a petrified tree

Cross section of a petrified tree

Part of the park is what is called the Painted Desert and this is quite a good name. While we were there the skies were overcast and the light flat so the colours were not at their best but it was still pretty good.

The Painted Desert

The Painted Desert

We had our picnic huddled in our car as the wind buffeted us and rain threatened, and then we set off for Santa Fe where we had accommodation booked and of which I will write soon.

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