– Amarillo, Texas to Flagstaff, Arizona –

Man is it cold on winter trips. It’s a pain in the butt to put on a jacket every time you want to get out of the car. At least it wasn’t as windy today, which is something.

Everyone woke up this morning a few minutes before the alarm when little Ripley slipped out of her apparently unlocked cage and visited all of us. I was totally surprised to see her. I probably jumped six inches off the bed when she stuck her nose in my face. I pushed her back over to her cage before realizing we had to get up in about 10 minutes anyway. Maybe Ripley was just anticipating the alarm.

Clines Corners

Our official wake-up call came at 6am, and we all reluctantly got out of bed. It’s much harder to get up when it is cold outside. We didn’t have time to run, so everyone hustled through a La Quinta breakfast and a quick shower before we hit the road around 7:30.

Most of our plans for today were set for after lunch, so we spent most of the reading just cruising and reading our book. We’re reading The Da Vinci Code, and surprisingly enough, I’m the only one who’s read it or seen the movie before. Mom and Mark in particular are on the edge of their seats.

Looking up a wash in El Morro

If you’ve followed our travel blog before, you’ve probably noticed that we like to stop at Clines Corners when we come across I-40 through New Mexico. We made the traditional visit about 10am, which felt like 11 to us, since the time had changed at the Texas/New Mexico border. Some of us were already hungry, but Albuquerque was only an hour away, and since it was our best option for a decent lunch, we pushed on.

Once again, we repeated the steps of our Alaska trip (where we definitely stopped in Clines Corners on day two) and had the same Chipotle in Albuquerque. Either the distances really lend themselves to these particular stops, or we are just very serious creatures of habit.

A desert oasis in El Morro- water

West of Albuquerque, a bit south of I-40, New Mexico has two national monuments- El Morro and El Malpais. We haven’t visited either of them, and while we weren’t originally planning to visit them, we realized that we could drive down there pretty easily, and then come up to Petrified Forest from the under side, which is the nicer side.

El Malpais comes first, and we didn’t get to see much of it, although we did get a stamp in our passport book. The ranger at the visitor center really wanted us to take a particular hike in the park, but of course we didn’t have time. El Malpais is made up of crusty black volcanic lava flows and extinct volcanoes. The photos made the lava flows look interesting, but we didn’t manage to see any along the route we chose to traverse the park. We did drive past the volcano the ranger wanted us to hike, but we didn’t get any photos. It was too far from the road.

El Morro National Monument

Interestingly enough, the whole park allows dogs. The only place they discourage taking dogs is along the lava fields, but only because the rocks are sharp and will tear up a dog’s footpads. The ranger told Mark that if the dog wears boots, it’s no problem at all. I have a feeling we will be back, since El Morro is basically the same. Some spring we will bring little Ripley back some spring for a hike or three.

From El Malpais, it isn’t far to El Morro. These areas are checkered with American Indian reservations, and we’ve been reading about them in some of our other books by Tony Hillerman. Mark really seems to like coming across towns and roads that we’ve read about in our books.

Ripley on a rock

El Morro is a huge sandstone bluff that has served as a landmark and desert oasis for travelers for several hundred years. The promontory is also called “inscription rock” because of all the visitors that carved their names into the rockface when they visited the area. Petroglyphs from even earlier can also be found along the sides of the bluff. The water available in the oasis has been drawing visitors for a very long time.

We actually spent quite a bit of time in El Morro. There’s a little loop trail that leads you back to the bluff and along the sides of the wall to view the inscriptions. We even got to see the little oasis pool, which is something like 26 feet deep, though it certainly doesn’t look it.

Calligraphy on the cliffside in El Morro

Ripley and Sabre were allowed on the trails, although the rangers requested that we keep them off of the lava crust, which was visible in sections of the soil just off of the paved trail. Ripley spotted a bunny, which made it a bit more difficult to keep her under control, but we managed.

The inscriptions are interesting, and the promontory itself is lovely, especially in the afternoon sunshine. I was really glad we stopped here. While it’s nothing spectacular, it is a nice little place, and I have a feeling that hiking up to the pueblos and such with little Ripley will be quite a lot of fun. We will definitely be back.

El Morro, the best landmark for miles

Past El Morro, we crossed into Arizona. Arizona is a bit different from other states in that it does not participate in Daylight Saving Time, so the time in Arizona is always the same. Part of the year, it is on the same time as New Mexico, and the other part, it is on the same time as California. We were under the impression that winter was when it shared the Pacific Time Zone’s time, but we were wrong. We were expecting to gain another hour in Arizona, but we did not. That meant we were running quite a bit later than we intended. Since Petrified Forest closed at 5, we were in a bit of a rush to get there before they closed the gates.

The Rainbow Forest Visitor Center and Museum in Petrified Forest

We made it by 4:30, and we avoided being charged for park entry since we arrived so late. We were there for just long enough to visit the Rainbow Forest Museum and explore all of the petrified wood kept out behind the visitor center. It turns out that the dogs would’ve been allowed on that trail as well, though we were running so late we didn’t take the time to get them out. We were worried that we wouldn’t get to see it, let alone the dogs.

Petrified wood in the distance

Just outside of the national park there are two gift shops that sell petrified wood and other interesting rocks and the like. My parents had never been to the park before, so we took the time to run inside and take a look at just how expensive petrified wood really is. The shops are a little sketchy, to my eye. They park junky cars in front of the shops to make people think they have more customers than they do.

They didn’t carry anything we particularly needed, so after a potty break for our canine friends, we hopped back into the car and got back on the road to head to Flagstaff.

Up close and personal with petrified wood

We realized we weren’t going to make it to Flagstaff at a reasonable dinnertime, so we had to settle for fewer food options. Mark and I had Subway from a Love’s Truck Stop, and my parents ended up with fried chicken from the other restaurant at the gas station. It wasn’t terrible, but since Subway is one of my meals of last resort, I’m always a little disappointed with it, even when it isn’t bad. We made it to our hotel around 8, which was pretty late.

The badlands behind the visitor center in Petrified Forest

It looks like there’s a little snow in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow, so we will see what the weather is like in the morning. Our goal is to go to the Grand Canyon and then drive on into Las Vegas, but everything is of course weather-permitting. It’s still just rain, and I hope it stays that way. As long as it doesn’t really stick, we should be okay. Wish us luck.

– Trip Total : 1,103 miles

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