Susan has always liked petrified wood. She has no idea why, but had mentioned it when we were at the Houston Museum of Natural Science last December so I made a point of making sure we visited Petrified Forest when we were in northern Arizona.
We came for the petrified wood and were more than pleasantly surprised by the incredible scenery which we had not expected. This is because we hadn’t known that the Petrified Forest National Park is within the Painted Desert. The landscape in many parts of the park we went through was both strikingly formed and colored and it is worth a trip to the park for that alone.
The petrified trees are from the early Triassic era, about 225 million years ago. The trees had first been buried under river mud and then under silica-rich volcanic ash. The silica in the ash slowly replaced the cellulose in the tree trunks and after being buried for the last 200 million years or so continental uplift and erosion has brought the petrified tree trunks back to the surface.
There are several areas within the park that are covered in petrified tree trunks. Occasionally the entire tree trunk is preserved as one piece but far more often the trunks are broken into short segments or as fragments. Considering that the trees came from about the same era and were petrified under basically the same conditions there were a wide range of colors and tones in the petrified wood. Sometimes the layers of the tree (bark and underlying wood) were well preserved, more often not.
It’s a big hole in the ground. A really big hole. It was caused by a 50-yard diameter iron-nickel meteor hitting the earth around 50,000 years ago at about 8 miles per second. The kinetic energy in the impact was about the same as a 10 megaton nuclear weapon. Meteor Crater is around three-quarters of a mile across and 500 feet deep.
What a delightfully quirky museum! The Folk Art Museum is part of Museum Hill in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The museum had several exhibits, but the ones we enjoyed the most were the Amish quilts and the folk art dioramas.
There were about 30 Amish quilts on display. A couple quilts were from the 1800’s but most were from between 1920 and 1950. No matter the age, the designs all felt modern and vibrant.
We waited to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico until the weather had warmed up, or at least that’s what we thought. It was 27 degrees overnight and I woke up to this horrid white stuff this morning. C’mon already! It’s April 10th! The only good thing was that it had melted away by the time Susan woke up, so she didn’t see it.
The VLA is a radio telescope about 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. The VLA is composed of 27 individual radio telescopes arranged in a big Y. The individual dish antennas are can be moved in and out along the arms of the Y and at their largest configuration the furthest antennas are over 13 miles from the center. At the time we visited they were in their tightest configuration and all the antennas are within a half mile of the center.