The Blossoming of a New Found Love…the Forest Service

28 October 2012 in Memories, Trails/Hiking, Traveling


We had always heard you could camp on Forest Service land for free, but we had never really taken advantage of it. Most of the National Parks with forests at stretching beyond their borders are surrounded by Forest Service land. Meaning if you want to stay in a place like Bryce Canyon or the Grand Canyon, but they’re all booked up—and they usually are well in advance—you can stay just outside the park for free on one of the many Forest Service roads.

Depending on your destination it might be helpful to get a map from the specific Forest you’re planning to enter, but in many cases once you see that entrance sign designating that you’re now within a National Forest just look for the first dirt road off of the main highway and then the first disturbed area that’s empty. By disturbed I mean it looks like someone has camped there before. Most with have tire tracks and one or multiple rock fire pits.

Escalante Petrified Forest State ParkOur goal for this weekend was Kodachrome State Park and the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. So we awoke early and hit the road on a three hour drive north, northeast, north, northwest. There was a more direct route, which took less time, but it’s a pretty rough road and we’re still in monsoon season so no sense in risking it.

On our way to the Petrified Forest we swung into the BLM office to check road conditions. We were hoping to camp on BLM land in a nice little spot atop a hill with scenic views of Bryce and the surrounding area. We had previously discovered this spot and had plans to camp there, but for a second time our plans fell through. The nice lady at the Visitors Center gave me an updated weather report that was not promising for the clay road road that would lead us their. So she pointed out a few other areas on Forest Service land near Bryce.

Proceeding northeast we arrived at the Petrified Forest and entered. We parked and began a short hike to the top of a hill where it was promised we’d see a bunch of petrified wood. About halfway up a small group came down and informed us there was none to be seen. This seemed strange because the trail was an interpretive trail with a pamphlet listing what could be seen at each point of interest. There were two listed as having petrified wood and so we continued on. Another couple who had been following us turned back.

Arriving at the stop marked #10 by a post and identified as a large bed of petrified wood in the pamphlet we were disappointed to see absolutely no signs of any petrified wood. Walking off the trail before the post we saw nothing and we baffled. But we decided to proceed through the rest of the trail anyways and not four feet after the post there were many huge chunks of petrified wood. Apparently who ever had posted the sign was a little off and unfortunately the group that had informed us of the absence and the couple behind us who had turned back probably missed these beautiful area because of it.

For those who have never seen petrified wood it is quite striking. Basically, under the right conditions each cell in a piece of wood will slowly be replaced by minerals until there is nothing left of the original tree, but the minerals retain its shape and texture. Depending on the minerals what remains can be very, very colorful with bright reds, oranges, yellows, and rich maroons and purples. You can see the trees original rings and sometime even the texture and shape of the bark.

As we walked on it was everywhere. On both sides of the trail, stretching way back there were chunks, logs and even the remnants of whole trees in segments, but a straight line. The pamphlet mentioned the last stop on the trail was one of the parks best specimen and so we continued on. Eventually the trail met an eroded rim on the hill and as we followed it the trail got smaller and smaller until it all but disappeared. Turning back we were again confused, but soon found our way and the very large truck of petrified wood. It was a few feet in diameter and in near perfect condition. The rings were visible, the bark was intact, and it was very colorful. A true testament of time and chance.

I Heart the ForestLeaving the park we made our way back past Bryce Canyon and down into Forest Service land. We passed a reservoir and proceeded deeper into a rich, dense forest. The air was fresh and cool. Even though we weren’t far from home the elevation and the forest provided a completely different experience to the desert floor and it’s mostly vacant expanse. After a diner of tacos and a nice, long walk we settled down by the campfire. It’s been a while since we’ve had one and hadn’t realized how much we missed the simple pleasantries of flickering flame and the aroma of the light smoke. We stayed up sipping drinks and alternating between the light show at our feet and the one above our heads before retiring to our tent for a pleasant and deep sleep in the crisp, cool and silent air.

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28 October 2012 Memories, Trails/Hiking, Traveling

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