We leave the Airbnb at 6 am Monday. It’s only been three weeks, but it feels a little like we are leaving home. Google Maps tells us that if we drive straight through to Mesa, Arizona it will take 12 hours and 10 minutes. But we will make a few short stops and hopefully a longer visit to the Petrified Forest National Park.
Our first stop as we drive south on Interstate 25 is the Dunkin Donuts in Pueblo for some caffeine and a jolt of sugar. With Covid-19 restrictions we aren’t allowed to eat in the restaurant so we inhale our donuts in the parking lot and save the caffeine for the ride.
The scenery changes as we drive south. Around Trinidad, Colorado the landscape is filled with pines. South of Raton, New Mexico and Wagon Mound, New Mexico the landscape reminds us of the Patagonian Steppe around El Calafate, Argentina. The high desert is even dotted with elk or possibly deer which from a distance remind us of the guanaco we saw in Argentina.
At 2 pm Arizona time we arrive at Petrified Forest National Park, just off of I40. I am happily surprised to find that the Visitor Center has reopened. After receiving an overview of the park from a ranger we pull up to the Entrance Station, pay for our pass and begin the 51 mile road that winds through the park from north to south.
As we exit the South Gate to find Arizona 180 we realize we spent two and one-half hours in the park but could have spent a full day, possibly two, hiking and taking photographs. Perhaps we’ll return on a day when we do not already have a 12 hour drive.
We continue our drive to Mesa, making our way through the Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto National Forests. As we descend in altitude the sun is low in the sky. We arrive at our destination in Mesa an hour after the sun has set.