Four Corners, Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest; Arizona, here we come. 

Our final stop in Utah as we head back east was actually a stop at the bottom corner where Utah touches New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. I couldn’t resist being in all four states at the same time.The Four Corners Monument is located within the Navajo Nation. The Nation encompasses a big part of northern Arizona and New Mexico. In Arizona it includes a few of the places we visited, Caynon de Chelly (pronounced de Shay), the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.  We spent the night in Chinle at the Canyon’s entrance. I chatted with a Navajo woman who explained to me that the Spanish explorers named the canyon, and her people. She explained that Navajo is not how they refer to themselves and they consider the name a slur.  They proudly chose the name Dine (Dih-nay). The Dine inhabit the land between the four sacred mountains bound by the great rivers living on the mountain tops, in the canyons and the valleys. She also said we would enjoy the Canyon hike and the many overlooks. There is only one hike that you can take without a guide. This trail is steep with narrow paths and scary drop offs. I always find walking down more frightening and this was no different. The 400 foot altitude change, which kept me short of breath, added to my awe as I gripped the wall a few times and let several locals run past me up the sliprock. It was an invigorating way to start the day. We were still proud of our hike and the Canyon is lovely. The afternoon brought us to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. The size of the desert and the forest are as overwhelming as the colors of the sand. A sunny, cloudless afternoon showed off the Painted Desert Inn and the striped sandy landscape. The Inn, originally built with petrified wood, was rebuilt in an adobe style in the 1930s. It is a museum today and still has original murals on the walls of the former cafe. The forest consists of acre upon acre of fallen petrified trees. They became petrified when their forest was undermined by flowing waters and the trees toppled into the water. The trees were buried beneath layers of silt, mud, sand and volcanic ash which protected them from decay. Deprived of oxygen, the absorbant dead wood became saturated with minerals. The silica and quartz slowly bonded with the cells of the tree replacing the wood. The forest is no longer wood, it is stone. The resulting colors point directly to them mineral. Quartz is white; red, yellow and orange are all iron; blue is copper. Why are they all broken and in even pieces? Because of the high concentration of silica. It’s the same principle that applies when you drop a piece of chalk on the floor and it snaps evenly. Silica has a natural tendency to break cleanly. Our hikes took us past huge trees filled with sparkles and an array of colors, it was far from petrifying!

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