Wednesday – May 11, 2016
We sent a delightful day on Tuesday exploring the Petrified Forest National Park. Today we explored the Painted Desert, which is part of the Petrified Forest National Park. The Petrified Forest National Park lies within an area south of Interstate 40. The Painted Desert lies within an area north of Interstate 40.
The Painted Desert is marked by mounds of colorful clays, statuesque hoodoos, and rippling sand dunes. Mostly dry streambeds scratch its surface, but buried in the rock is a world-class store of fossils dating to the Age of the Dinosaurs.
The Painted Desert is home to a fascinating variety of living animals and plants, some unique and all supremely adapted to the high grass and shrub desert. It is also home to the Hopi and Navajo people.
The Painted Desert remains a relatively unstudied and little known area. It is treated as a stepchild of the Great Basin, one of the four great Northern American drylands. Botantists consider the Painted Desert an outlier of the Great Basin because of the plant life they hold in common. Plants however, are few and far between here. Vegetation maps, officially show the Painted Desert as "barren land" because greenery conceals less than five percent of the surface. Shrubs only large enough to shade a jackrabbit, and grasses, make up most of the ground cover.
The Painted Desert is a veritable outdoor museum of fossilized treasures. Great stores of petrified wood have made it famous, and in places the ground is littered with chips of these 225 million-year-old trees glistening in the sunlight.
Within the Painted Desert resides the Painted Desert Inn. Built of petrified wood and other native stone was the vision of Herbert David Lore. Lore registered the inn with the land office in 1924, fulfilling his responsibilities under the Homesteading Act.
For almost twelve years, Lore operated the "Stone Tree House" as a tourist attraction. The Stone Tree House was an oasis in the Painted Desert. Visitors could eat meals in the lunchroom, purchase American Indian arts and crafts, and enjoy a cool drink in the downstairs taproom. Six small rooms were available for two to four dollars per night.
Unfortunately, the inn was built on a seam of bentonite clay. As the clay expanded and retracted in response to changes in moisture, the foundation of the inn shifted, resulting in cracks forming in the walls, with resultant water damage.
Petrified Forest National Monument purchased the Painted Desert Inn in 1936. In the 1930s the Desert Inn was redesigned to a Pueblo Revival Style construction, featuring stuccoed masonry, thick walls, earth tones, flat roofs, and projecting roof beams. During the 1930s, the civilian conservation core (CCC) rebuilt the inn to its present design.
The Painted Desert Inn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
Tomorrow another adventure begins.