Friday Postcards from the Petrified Forest
We had 45 minutes until sunset, or rather, when the sun would be set. We had arrived at the Petrified Forest much later in the day than we originally planned (I blame the beauty of the Grand Canyon), but there was no way we would miss this natural phenomena when we were so close.
When we pulled up to the national park gate, the not-so-pleasant ranger informed us that we had to be out of the park by 6pm or driving towards an exit, without any stops, by 6pm at the very latest. No exceptions. It was 5:05pm. We could do this. We could see at least half of the park before it got dark. No problem.
Oh how little we have learned while traveling with our boys.
I frantically photographed as Mike tour down the road. I didn’t care that some of my shots would be blurry. I was going to capture every moment of that magical light hitting the Painted Desert on one side of the road and the Petrified Forest on the other. We stopped at the first lookout and ran up the path, thinking we would just peek at the field of petrified trees and then get everyone back in the car.
The kids had other plans.
Dek and Ty had been in the car for hours. Here was a path they could run down and see some pretty cool tree rocks in the process. The path made a loop and they were going to run it. We didn’t have the heart to say no even as we saw the sun start to dip behind the horizon. We would only see this section of the park. We would not get to any other lookouts or turnoffs before dark, which happened by 5:45pm that night.
Do I regret it? No. My boys got to stretch their cramped legs, which they really needed to do. We had two more days of solid driving to go on our cross-country road trip. More importantly, we witnessed one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. I had heard about sunsets over the desert, but I had never witnessed one. I thought they were exaggerations, but as the sky burst forth like a firework, throwing red, blue, green and yellow at us, I knew that the stories were true. We weren’t meant to see the entire park, but we were meant to witness this sunset. And I wouldn’t trade that for every lookout point and turnoff in the park.