Yesterday was a really special day of exploring the Petrified Forest Trail, but my favorite was the Trail of Sleeping Rainbows, which is an extension loop to the first trail. You must do this extra loop if you visit, as this is where you’ll find the most concentration of these rainbow beauties greeting and guiding you along the way.
It was like walking on the rainbow wood road…instead of the yellow brick road.
There were incredible specimens of stunning petrified wood everywhere – 5 1/2 million tons of fossilized wood to be near exact.
They are over 135 million years old – that’s pretty ancient. 😉
The trail is lovely taking you first through an area of balanced rocks, desert varnish rocks, Roundleaf Buffalo Berry shrubs, beautiful multi-colored lichen on rocks (blues, yellows, greens..), a pygmy forest, views of the town of Escalante and Wide Hollow Reservoir, black volcanic boulders and of course tons of beautiful and ancient petrified wood.
One of the nature trail markers speaks of the “Land of Imagination” when you come to the largest single deposit of petrified wood along the trail.
The guide pamphlet says:
“Imagine yourself in a large low floodplain similar to the Mississippi Delta area but with less foliage. To the northwest you could see towering volcanoes such as Mount St. Helens. To the east would be a large mountain range similar to the Sierra Nevada. It is the ancestral Rockies. You would be surrounded by large conifer trees, some more than 200 feet high. Nearby would be cycads, the ancestors of palm trees and some ferns. One hundred fifty million years ago this region was near the equator, but our continent has since drifted north.”
And of course dinosaurs would have been roaming the land.
Simply amazing to be in these ancient areas and to see the petrified wood of the towering trees that once stood here. You can tell they were huge by the size of the stumps, trunks, and branches remaining…like nothing that exists in this area now.
I’d never seen petrified wood like this before with so much brilliancy in color. It was truly stunning and mystical.
At the end of the trail you come to “one of the most remarkable petrified wood specimens in the park.” It shows “the subtle color changes from the outside rings to the center, which only a few petrified wood specimens in this formation are sufficiently preserved to be recognized.”
So just how does the petrified wood form?
Here is a brief explanation of the evolution of petrified wood that Scott, the Escalante Rock Shop guy provided me with my beautiful little specimen:
“Over 135 million years ago, the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was closer to the equator and tropical. Dinosaurs roamed the area and the plant life mostly consisted of cycads, ferns, and conifers. The earth was geologically unstable. Floods and erosion would uproot trees and plants depositing them in flood plains and along sand bars. Later, volcanic ash covered the area.
In order for the trees to petrify, they had to be buried quickly with mud and silt to eliminate oxygen, which would cause them to deteriorate. Ground water rich in silicon dioxide and other chemicals would saturate the buried trees. The reds, browns, and yellows result primarily from compounds of iron, while manganese and other minerals account for the purples and dark blues.
Through a mineralization process on the cellular level, and by silicon dioxide acting as a cementing agent, the wood became petrified. This process takes millions of years!
This area lies within the Colorado Plateau, which has been uplifting for about 40 million years. These upheavals of the earth’s crust break the logs into irregular sections and exposes them to the forces of erosion. After being exposed the logs are further cracked and broken by the effects of freezing and thawing water that seeps into the cracks.”
I fell in love with all of these ancient spirits and was just in awe of the amazing colors and energy, as I stroked my hand over their surfaces.
We had gotten our first rain just about an hour before we headed out on this hike, which made the trail perfect, as there was just enough water that didn’t make it challenging to do the hike, but drenched the petrified wood bringing out the colors with wonderful vibrancy.
It sprinkled on and off while we hiked the rainbow wonderland and we were even greeted by a group of deer that surprised us, just as we had turned onto the Trail of Sleeping Rainbows….coincidence?
These deer frolicked right across our path and around us….I was so taken by their graceful leaps and could see why flying reindeer are part of Santa’s story as we know it. They literally looked like they were flying, as they barely touched the ground with each leap and then floated along their way.
It all happened too fast to capture any photos or video, so I just took it all in and took a few photos of a couple of them peeking back from in the distance after they flew through.
I so loved it.
And here and there you’d see piles of the petrified wood placed like cairns along the way from other hikers over time.
And upon completing the magickal trail, we headed to the Escalante Rock Shop, just below the park where I ended up finding the perfect small piece I was hoping to find.
I kept telling Dave that I wanted a rainbow piece of petrified wood to bring home and that is exactly what I discovered at the shop….and it was the only rainbow piece there, as the others were mono-colored mostly or had a couple of colors at most, or more in the browns.
Mine is delicately shaped like a long fern leaf, which I love too.
We only had five minutes to explore, as we needed to get back for Dave’s work, but it only took me about two minutes to survey everything and this piece was literally one of the first I saw.
We went to go pay for it and the guy gifted it to me for $1 because we didn’t have the right change.
We pulled out a twenty and a one, and because he had no change on hand, he said, “it’s your lucky day…just give me the one dollar bill and we’re good.”
That was very sweet of him and I was feeling the faeries and ancient ones shining upon me.
However, Dave found change in the car after we got back to it and before we drove away, he decided to bring it to him just because and to make sure of clearing any potential karma.
There are stories about the petrified wood here.
You are not allowed to collect or take any specimens from the trail. You can only purchase what is offered from the rock guy that he purchases through the park. Anasazi and Fremont Indians gathered petrified wood here to use for tools.
Some believe in an ancient curse on the area and whether this is true, or the power of guilt and belief have made it so, about a dozen times a year the park receives letters apologizing for taking the petrified wood and in the envelope is the returned piece, asking that their wrongs be made right, as they’ve had nothing but bad luck since taking it.
I took tons of photos of this amazing ancient garden of imagination…a place the dinosaurs once roamed, feeling the perfect piece would be at the rock shop and that knowing was actualized.