Route 66 Petrified Forest National Park

As you drive through Petrified Forest national park in Arizona, you’ll reach a highway overpass which separates the painted desert section of the park from the petrified forest area. To the north of this overpass is an unexpected displays on the side of the road which celebrates old Route 66. The old Route 66 used to travel right through Petrified Forest national park, and this small display is a recognition of this part of the park’s past.

There are several parts to the display. The first one you come across is a bench with the back side displaying the bumper and tail lights of an older car:

route 66 car bench bumper

The front side of the cement bench has the Route 66 logo / sign etched into the sitting area:

route 66 car bench

Probably the most prominent part of the display (which seems to catch most people’s eyes as they drive by) is an old, rusted-out car.

route 66 car

route 66 old car

While the bench and the old car are what most people seem to focus on when visiting this display, for me the most interesting part of it was the long, abandoned line of telephone poles. Looking at them shows exactly where Route 66 once ran (if you click on the photo to enlarge it and look closely at some of the distant poles, you can see some still have the glass conductors used for the lines on them)

route 66 telephone poles

This is what the informational sign at the display says:

You are standing near old Route 66. The line of the roadbed and the telephone poles in front of you mark the path of the famous “Main Street of America” as it passed through Petrified Forest National Park. From Chicago to Los Angeles, this heavily traveled highway was not only a road, it stood as a symbol of opportunity, adventure, and exploration to travelers.

A trip from Middle America to the Pacific Coast could take about a week — no interstate speeds here! For many, the journey was not just across miles, it was across cultures and lifestyles — from the most mundane to the exotic. Of course, getting to your destination was important, but the trip itself was a kind of reward. From the neon signs of one-of-a-kind motels to burger and chicken fried steaks of the multitudes of restaurants, from the filling stations that served as miniature oases to gaudy tourist traps, these more than 2,200 miles of open road were magical.

While it’s the unexpected beauty of Petrified Forest national park which makes it one of my favorite parks, I think it’s well worthwhile making this quick stop to learn a little about the history of the park as it relates to those traveling across the US.

Petrified Forest National Park Art

One of the things that I love most about National Parks is the way they inspire all of us. It’s especially interesting to see how the National Parks stimulate artists creative juices and the artistic works that come from this. Mary C Nasser is one of the many artists that find creativity and inspirations in National Parks:

All of my art is inspired by nature: specifically, landscapes and geology. My love of geology began with my first artist-in-residence award at Mammoth Cave National Park in 2005. There I studied the interconnectedness between surface and subterranean landscapes: exploring the relationships between developments underground and the evolution of the landscape that takes place on the surface.

In 2006, I was awarded another artist residency, this time at Wildacres Retreat in North Carolina along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was during this particular residency that I began incorporating maps into my mixed-media paintings and adding geologic drawings, too. I studied the geology of the Great Smoky Mountains and mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

In 2007, I spent time 2 weeks living as resident artist at Petrified Forest National Park, examining desert landscapes, where the combination of aridity and erosion exposed the earth’s composition, structure, and layers, the relationships between them, and the deep time they represent.

Here are two wonderful mix media pieces which were inspired by Petrified Forest National Park:

Blue Mesa Petrified Forest National park inspired art
Blue Mesa: Mixed Media and Acrylic on Canvas

Plateau Petrified Forest National Park inspired artwork
Plateau: Mixed Media and Encaustic on Canvas

You can see more of Mary’s work on her website at Mary C Nasser, follow her on twitter or like her on Facebook. You can also keep up on Mary’s latest projects on her blog.

Agate House Petrified Forest National Park

When you live in an area that has limited building materials, you use those materials that are around. That is exactly what the Pueblo Indians did when they built Agate House out of petrified wood blocks. Located on top of a small hill within the Rainbow Forest at Petrified Forest National Park, the original house was eight rooms with the petrified wood blocks laid in a clay mortar. Agate House was partially reconstructed in the 1930s.

To get to Agate House, you can take the Agate House Trail which has its trail head across the street from the Rainbow Forest Museum parking lot and down about 100 feet on the main road. The trail is approximately 1 mile long. You used to be able to drive closer, but the road has been closed and is now sprouting weeds and other vegetation. There is a shade shelter about half way along Agate House Trail, but otherwise there isn’t much sun protection.

While there are only a few rooms still left at Agate House, it’s an amazing structure to walk around:

Agate House at Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified wood house at Petrified Forest National Park

It’s especially fun to look at the amazing colors in the petrified wood that was used to build Agate House:

Petrified wood used in building Agate House at Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified wood used to build Agate House at Petrified Forest National Park