Tuesday, June 22
Holbrook, AZ – Gallup, NM
Our main attraction for the day was to visit the Petrified Forest National Park, located between I-40 and HWY 180.
But first, on the way out of town we stopped by the Wigwam Motel for some neat pictures before driving over to the Holbrook Visitor Center to get my passport stamped. The Visitors Center is located in the old courthouse building and to our surprise the entire building is a free museum with displays and exhibits in each room. It was fun exploring the rooms and my Dad even put on a judge’s robe and sat behind the bench.
Afterwards we made a coffee stop at Thanx-a-latte where the super friendly ladies gave us two good tips: To visit Jim Gray’s rock shop on the way to the Petrified Forest National Park and once in the park to take the Blue Mesa hike.
And taking their advice, we drove a mile or so past the coffee shop and there was Jim Gray’s. It was like stepping into a rock museum. The large building was full of rocks and fossils! It seemed like they had samples of every kind of rock imaginable. There was even a fantastic display of rocks and fossils from Jim Gray’s own personal collection. It was quite a sight to see and a stop we wouldn’t have made if the coffee shop ladies hadn’t recommended it.
We continued East on HWY 180 to the South entrance of the Petrified Forest National Park. We drove into the park a mile or so and stopped at the visitor center. Behind the visitor center was The Giant Logs Trail that wound among small hills covered in pieces of petrified trees. There were pieces of petrified wood everywhere! One of the logs, Old Faithful, is 35 feet long and weighs 44 tons.
You’re not supposed to take any rocks home and we didn’t, but it was hard not too.
After that we drove North through the park making stops along the way:
-Crystal Forest, which looked a lot like the Giant Logs Trail.
-Jasper Forest, here you looked down into a valley littered with pieces of petrified trees.
– Tha Agate Bridge, a petrified tree that fell across a ravine that people used to walk across.
– Blue Mesa, pretty blue and purple hills with a short hike to the bottom. We hiked to the bottom of Blue Mesa and despite warnings of a steep trail and running across several people that said they couldn’t do it, we had no problems. It was a paved walk to the canyon floor and while it had a few switchbacks it was no issue for us. The blues and purples were beautiful and I’m glad the coffee shop ladies recommended this.
The very North of the park resides on the other side of I-40 and that section of the park is called The Painted Desert. The scenery and colors are very different from the South section of the park. There are several scenic overlooks where you can take pictures and admire the different shades of colors that make up the rocks.
We also took a look at the closed, Painted Desert Inn, which is built in the Pueblo Revival style and was a popular stop during the heyday of Route 66.
The visitor center on the North side is a lot larger than the South one. They also have a gift store but inside they have a cafe where we bought some delicious Indian Fry Bread.
Back on I-40 we later discovered an abandoned Pancake House restaurant which had a very unique sign and octagonal shape. Right next to it is the abandoned Fort Courage tourist stop. The fort was a replica of the one used in the TV show F Troop. Long closed, we walked around the remains of the old fort and I really wanted to walk up the dark wooden tower but I was nervous that someone might be living up there.
Next on our trip was the Yellow Horse Trading Post. I had seen some videos of this and was expecting something totally different than what was there. I expected animals and a huge space full of things to see but it wasn’t like that at all, so I was very disappointed with this stop.
We continued East until we got to Gallup where we were going to spend the night. Our hotel was the historic and famous El Rancho. The hotel was built back in 1936 and a hot spot for all the movie stars filming westerns in the area. All the rooms are named after movie stars that stayed in the hotel.
It was super fun to explore the hotel and it even had an old style elevator that had a metal door and brass screen you had to manually open and close.
After check in we drove down the street to eat dinner at the 66 Diner. It was not not an authentic 66 establishment but it did have good food.
We drove down main street to look at any old signs or buildings we could find and then retired back to the hotel where we explored some more and I did some sketching in the lobby.
Another full day, but we got to spend enough time at each place that we wanted. If I were to do it all over again I would skip Yellow Horse and spend more time at the hotel.