Friday, July 14, 2006

the petrified forest

The Petrified Forest is not one of America's favorite national parks, but it is one that no one should miss. It's like being on another planet. Dorothy and I visited here last October, but learned so much more this trip with a rambunctious 3 year old boy and very curious 6 year old girl along. How did an ancient forest come to be in the middle of the Arizona desert? According to the park ranger, Arizona has not always been where it is now. 225 million years ago it was located nearer to the equator and was lush with tropical forests. Then the shifting of the continents began and the forests arrived at their present location. The combination of torrential floods knocking them over and volcanic ash burying them caused minerals to leach through the ash over millions of years and be absorbed by the wood cells. Eventually the trees turned to stone. Some of them still possess wood material (permeatized), but most are pure stone (agatized). I asked the park ranger if she was interested in an alternative theory. She said, "Aliens?"
"No," I said. "But just to the west of here there is a meteor crater over a mile wide. Do you think the dust and ash from the collision could have covered the forest and caused the petrifaction?" She got this far away look in her eyes. I didn't pursue it. Experts are never interested in alternative theories, especially from amateur thinkers, but I think that since the crater was discovered after the scientists developed the current theory, maybe it should be considered too. Yes, there is a volcano nearby but not as close as the meteor crater. Marley had her own questions and between the two of us we kept the park ranger on her toes.

Petroglyphs carved into the rocks by the Puerco River indians 650-2000 years ago.

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