Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.
It cooled down considerably during the night. Enough that we pulled the blanket back up, finally. We slept great! We wake early and after breakfast we pack lunch and hop on the motorcycle to ride around to visit the Petrified Forest on the west side of the park.
12 miles back on gravel roads we are the second vehicle in the parking area. After about a mile’s hike the trail splits and we take the north branch. The ride over was cold and we are still warming back up.
This is one of the top 3 petrified forests in the U.S. and we have it all to ourselves. They really do look like wood. It’s amazing! There are stumps and fragments everywhere! It looks like the shores of the lake, littered with driftwood. Some of the trees are massive, more than 4 people could reach around. And it was clearly a forest, with new stumps every few feet.
It’s so interesting to see the layers within the earth and see examples of how they represent time. The trees are all on a single layer. A couple of feeet lower or higher and they aren’t there. I’m sure, too, that if the hills were dug up down to that layer of soil even more trees would be visible.
We contine along the trail to the grasslands. As we come up out of the valley a lone bull bison stands in the trail, eating. We pause for a few minutes to see if he will move along. When he doesn’t we continue on, detouring through the grass, giving him wide berth.
Our route goes down and up a valley and crosses a ridge. There is sage growing wild everywhere! As we hike we receive a wonderful, encouraging text message from Jim. It was very appropriate to receive such a message while out on a trail! It really is such a blessing that we have such loving, supportive family on both sides!
The loop trail is 10.5 miles long and intersects with the Maah Daah Hey Trail – a 140 mile long trail that stretches north and south across both units of the Teddy Roosevelt Park. We are certainly glad we didn’t try hiking yesterday. Even with today’s cool weather it was quite warm along the grassland when the breeze was blocked by hills. In high temperatures and direct sunlight it would be brutal.
Apparently neither of us have hiked a loop out in the open before. We don’t know how much we like being able to see that we were just “over there”.
Entering into the south portion of the Petrified Forest we stop for lunch. In the distance we watch a couple on horse back work toward us. Finished eating we meet them part way. She chats with us for a few minutes and mentions how the forest really illustrates how temporary we all are. This forest was big and strong back when the dinosaurs roamed, or swam amongst them. Back when the arid place we stand on was shoreline. Very humbling to consider.
We find a section of log that could have been a surfboard, a piece with crystals formed on it, and some weird series of circles in the side of a hill (petrified roots, perhaps?) Overall, however, we found the northern portion of the forest more impressive.
A couple of men were not far behind us. Back at the parking area, which is now overflowing, we find out that one of them, Maurice, is on a motorcycle trip. He’s from Connecticut and is on a week-long tour here, to Yellowstone, and then to Wind Cave and the Black Hills before returning home. We trade destination and road suggestions then head on out.
I find it interesting how other people’s adventures always sound so exciting. I love our journey and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I hear about his week-long motorcycle tour and think “That would be exciting! We need to do that some time!” Likewise, he loved what we’re doing and was jealous of us.
Back home I journal while Ashley reads. My eyes grow heavy and I lie down for a nap.
Much better! I resume journaling and typing up entries until pausing for supper. I continue on, taking breaks to prep for tomorrow’s departure.
Shower time as the sun sets, then star gazing on the roof before bed. We both see the same shooting star.