TGSWRT: Day Seven & Eight - Arizona


We left Santa Fe yesterday morning and headed south on I-25. On through Albuquerque (no signs of hot dogs, nor jumping frogs, though) and down to Socorro, only breifly stopping at the horrifying shopping experience that is Wall-Mart for supplies, subways and petro... oh sorry, I mean gas. At Socorro we took Highway 60 west towards our geeky goal - the Very Large Array. We'd noted on the map that on our route, next to small town called Magdelena, there was a Ghost Town and, picturing abandoned wooden frontier buildings we headed off the trail to find it. Sadly we were disappointed to find reinforced concrete foundations and brick walls so we soon left and carried on, heading west.

What can you say about the VLA apart from awesome. These huge radio dishes arranged in a Y formation on a vast empty plateau, all pointing at something interesting (or not) in remote space. If you're in the area I can only recommend it highly - there's a lovely little visitor centre and an unsupervised walking tour that gets you up nice and close to one of the dishes. We stayed a couple of hours and could've stayed longer, but now time wasn't our friend as our planned overnight stay - Lyman Lake State Park was still 90 miles away and the sun was beginning to get low in the sky and driving west into a setting sun on straight roads isn't ideal. We did drive through Cibola National Forest which was beautiful - the lime green grasses, covered in pom pom bushes and perfect fir trees made the whole thing look like a hornby model set - and some delighful tiny towns (including Pie Town!) that had seen better days. As the sun set on the incredibly straight Highway 60, we crossed into our forth state - Arizona.

We got to Lyman Lake after dark and found a RV spot and settled down for the night; another 370 odd miles covered and hopefully for a while our last long drive.

We (I say we, I mean I) awoke at 10:30 which was a blessing in itself. Lyman Lake was pretty and deserted. We had breakfast, took a stroll round a short hike to see some petroglyphs and got on the road at about lunchtime. We headed up to St. Johns, grabbed some subs and gas and took Highway 180 up to the Petrified Forest National Park. The Petrified Forest is a geologists wet dream - a huge desert landscape surrounded by multicoloured strataficated rock formations (lending it's well deserved name The Painted Desert) who's ground is littered with thousands of fossilised trees. The landscape is epic and awe inspiring - this is the land of Koyaanisqatsi and it's vastness and scale is impossible to take in.

We're now in the (nicely free) Cottonwood campgrounds at the foot of the Canyon de Chelly national monument - tomorrow will see us take that in and then up to the home of the John Ford western - Monument Valley.