As we’ve come to learn, certain national parks are all about the views, while others are all about the features. And when talking about Petrified Forest National Park, it definitely falls into the latter. I hadn’t heard much about this place before we left home, but once we started looking into the national parks of Arizona, it was obvious PFNP wasn’t one to miss.
Petrified Forest National Park is similar to Yellowstone in the sense that you drive around to see intricate details throughout the park. There is some backcountry hiking that you can do, but most of the trails are short walks or quick overlooks. The light crowds made it possible to take our time moving throughout the park, so we strolled along, got up close and personal with the petrified wood, and stared in awe of the banded colors of millions of years past.
We also took a moment to scold some fellow park visitors who clearly did not think the rules applied to them. This is not something I (Cori) do normally, but in certain situations you must stand up for what is right. Let me explain: as we approached the end of the trail, a family stepped off the side. At first, I thought they had done so to let us pass, but instead they began walking through the fragile landscape towards some larger pieces of petrified wood. Let me state here that there is plenty of wood close to the trail in multiple other areas, and it is very frequently signed to not walk off the paved path. They proceeded to walk all around an area clearly marked as NO TRAFFIC. You see, these delicate soils and compositions break down under our feet, and many parks’ landscapes are ruined by years of ignorance to the damage our footsteps create.
Needless to say, I proceeded to yell to this family (from the trail) that they needed to come back to the paved area. They proceeded to blatantly ignore me. So I called the park police. Don’t be like this family.
After spending the day at Petrified Forest, we decided it was best to move on to Gallup, NM and closer to our home for the week, Bluewater State Park. Normally, we always opt for boondocking in the area, but this place felt like there was something special about it.
There were a few logical reasons that guided our decision as well. Joe Skeen Campground was the closest boondocking in the area, but the length restrictions on most sites and iffy internet service made us question if the drive there was worth it. We also needed a dump and water- AKA the reality of living in an RV- and the limited options in the immediate area made the state park’s amenities look even better.
When we arrived, it was sunny and peaceful and we immediately saw one of the key factors that lead us to stay at the park: wild horses. There is a large herd that has made the park and surrounding area their home, and we quickly realized they would be our frequent “nayyyy-bors.”
Sorry, couldn’t help myself there.
Aside from the horses, the hiking throughout the park was another point that caught our attention. Without a car, it’s tough to get too far from the RV to explore, so we took advantage of the numerous trails that covered the park. The small, quiet canyon felt like our own little secret, and we soaked up every minute of tranquility we could next to that stream.
As the week went on, though, we realized Bluewater State Park wasn’t quite the “hidden” gem we thought. When we arrived on Sunday, there were maybe 10 or 15 other rigs there. By Friday, that number had grown to over 100, and it was obvious our sleepy site near the water was about to get a lot rowdier. The Easter weekend probably had something to do with this, but it made it clear that it was our time to move on. We watched the horses as one final sun set, and Saturday morning we made our way out of the calm-turned-crazy and on towards Colorado.