Yellowstone Jewels

September 10-13, 2009 Yellowstone National Park, WY

The force and spectacle of gushing geysers impress, but the jewel-toned hot springs of Yellowstone awed me more.

Sometimes they bubble or boil:

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Sometimes they don't:

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Sometimes they steam:

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Sometimes they are crystal clear:

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Sometimes they seem bottomless:

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Sometimes they're two- or tri-toned:

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Sometimes they run off in neon rivulets:

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Sometimes their vapor hangs:

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Sometimes they're small:

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Sometimes they're named Artist Paintpots:

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Sometimes they're multi-textured:

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And sometimes they're just awesome:

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-P

Yellowstone Jewels

September 10-13, 2009 Yellowstone National Park, WY

The force and spectacle of gushing geysers impress, but the jewel-toned hot springs of Yellowstone awed me more.

Sometimes they bubble or boil:

L1020687

Sometimes they don't:

L1020697

Sometimes they steam:

L1020717

Sometimes they are crystal clear:

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Sometimes they seem bottomless:

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Sometimes they're two- or tri-toned:

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Sometimes they run off in neon rivulets:

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Sometimes their vapor hangs:

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Sometimes they're small:

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Sometimes they're named Artist Paintpots:

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Sometimes they're multi-textured:

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And sometimes they're just awesome:

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-P

Craters and Taters

August 26 - September 1, 2009 Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID

No lunar travel required.

A 360 view from the peak of Inferno Cone:

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A lot of Craters of the Moon National Monument is lava rubble. Most of the volcanic debris is charcoal in colour, but some areas are rusty or a range of pinks, purples and oranges.

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"Spatter cones" formed as volcanic eruption petered out and spattered lava around the vent openings.

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Dwarf buckwheat dots the black expanse of Devil's Orchard - a dazzling contrast.

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The entrance to a lava tube cave.

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An 800 foot 'trail' zigzags through a lava tube cave. "Skylights" (collapses in the ceiling) illuminate the cave, but flashlights are highly recommended. The Indian Tunnel Cave Trail is not for cautious folk. Trail description: "If you are willing to scramble over (large rock piles) and (suck in your stomach to) climb through a small opening, you can exit this cave ... (through a barely big enough vent)."

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The wall of the exit vent:

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We stayed 18 miles away in Arco, ID. Arco is wee, weird and quiet, best known (actually, hardly known) as the first town to be lit by atomic power, but we like it best for the smoked baked potatoes at Mountain View RV Park. We also enjoyed the campground's free breakfast, but happily payed a little extra for the sweet potato pancakes with pecans. Yum! The coffee is weak, but I think the mini-golf makes up for that. :)

Also, Arco has a distinct landmark in Number Hill (I'll find my photo...). Local high school graduates have scaled this almost-mountain every year and painted their graduation year large enough to see for miles around.

Craters of the Moon National Monument is less a destination than a side attraction, but you won't see another place like it.

-P

Craters and Taters

August 26 - September 1, 2009 Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID

No lunar travel required.

A 360 view from the peak of Inferno Cone:

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A lot of Craters of the Moon National Monument is lava rubble. Most of the volcanic debris is charcoal in colour, but some areas are rusty or a range of pinks, purples and oranges.

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"Spatter cones" formed as volcanic eruption petered out and spattered lava around the vent openings.

L1020430

Dwarf buckwheat dots the black expanse of Devil's Orchard - a dazzling contrast.

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The entrance to a lava tube cave.

L1020474

An 800 foot 'trail' zigzags through a lava tube cave. "Skylights" (collapses in the ceiling) illuminate the cave, but flashlights are highly recommended. The Indian Tunnel Cave Trail is not for cautious folk. Trail description: "If you are willing to scramble over (large rock piles) and (suck in your stomach to) climb through a small opening, you can exit this cave ... (through a barely big enough vent)."

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The wall of the exit vent:

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We stayed 18 miles away in Arco, ID. Arco is wee, weird and quiet, best known (actually, hardly known) as the first town to be lit by atomic power, but we like it best for the smoked baked potatoes at Mountain View RV Park. We also enjoyed the campground's free breakfast, but happily payed a little extra for the sweet potato pancakes with pecans. Yum! The coffee is weak, but I think the mini-golf makes up for that. :)

Also, Arco has a distinct landmark in Number Hill (I'll find my photo...). Local high school graduates have scaled this almost-mountain every year and painted their graduation year large enough to see for miles around.

Craters of the Moon National Monument is less a destination than a side attraction, but you won't see another place like it.

-P

Kolob Canyon, Zion NP

August 20, 2009 Kolob Canyon is an adjunct to Zion National Park more than 30 miles from the main park. In our opinion, it's the prettier picture, even when forest fires cloud the dark pink canyon walls.

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A 1 mile hike to Timber Creek Canyon and awesome panoramas:

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A couple confident creatures entertained us with their poses along the trail.

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A collared lizard:

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When in Zion, Kolob Canyon is a must see.

Peace

-P

Kolob Canyon, Zion NP

August 20, 2009 Kolob Canyon is an adjunct to Zion National Park more than 30 miles from the main park. In our opinion, it's the prettier picture, even when forest fires cloud the dark pink canyon walls.

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A 1 mile hike to Timber Creek Canyon and awesome panoramas:

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A couple confident creatures entertained us with their poses along the trail.

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A collared lizard:

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When in Zion, Kolob Canyon is a must see.

Peace

-P

Recent Utah Hikes

Capital Reef NP - Cassity Arch Hike This is a wonderful hike in the area Butch Cassity and his men hid from the law. The views along this trail are breathtaking. It is a strenuous hike.

Capital Reef NP - Capital Gorge Hike

This is an easy hike along the floor of the canyon where the Mormon pilgrims carved there names into the walls of the canyon in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Escalante SP - Petrefied Forrest Hike

This is a moderately strenuous hike that leaves the campground and ascends to a great view of the town of Escalante and many large petrified tree trunks.

Escalante National Monument - Devil's Garden Hike

This is an easy hike around the hoodoos and formations. See the upcoming photo gallery for images from this magical place.

Bryce NP - Queens Garden Navajo Loop Hike

Sorry for the poor quality of this Google Earth image. There must have been a fire when the Satellite took these photos since smoke covers the entire Bryce area on Google. But this hike is considered the "world's greatest three mile hike" and we would have to agree. After a steep decent into the canyon floor you have wonderful views of Bryce from below. The steep ascent out of the canyon makes this a moderately strenuous hike. Well worth the effort. -L

Escalante Sights and Eats

August 5-9, 2009 We stayed at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park on the edge of Wide Hollow Reservoir and at the base of a red and white mesa.

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We had an extremely private site (Site B a.k.a. Site 2), aside from the almost constant parade of wildlife including Steller's Jays, hummingbirds, whiptail lizards, squirrels, chipmunks, bats, and ...

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... jackrabbits.

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Petrified Forest Trail is a moderate 1-mile loop hike that leaves the campground and climbs 200 feet to the top of the mesa. We added on the Trail of Sleeping Rainbows, a strenuous 3/4 mile extension with the highest concentrations of petrified wood.

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And we finish off with a dining recommendation: Escalante Outfitters for the organic Vagabond Beer (amber) and vegetable pizza. We also filled our fridge with the Farm Market's offerings across the road.

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-P

A Bridge and a Buckle

August 4, 2009 A  steep 2 mile round-trip hike passes scorched rock, a sequence of natural bridges and juniper trees twisted into freakish forms on the way to Hickman Bridge.

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Up close, the siltstone and sandstone grains flow in yellow, pinks and oranges.

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Next, we explored some of Hole-in-the-Rock Road through Strike Valley, between mesas and red and white buttes specked with trees and the Waterpocket Fold - a giant buckle in the Earth's surface. Over millions of years ancient seas, tidal flats and deserts deposited layers of sediment then "regional mountain-building bent or flexed rock layers into a huge fold." It's an odd landscape that stretches over a hundred miles. Of course Wordpress photos don't do the view justice.

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Just off Hole-in-the-Rock Road, away from the Waterpocket Fold, Burr Trail scales Muley Twist via back to back switchbacks. Most RVs are restricted and wet weather can make the road impassible even for 4WDs. Though we enjoy these exciting climbs in our Jeep, I noticed after the fact that we said next to nothing during the climb, and I remember holding my breath more than once, and I might have suppressed a squeal in the path of an oncoming RV...

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Anyway, the crest rewarded us with extraordinary views of the Henry Mountains, Waterpocket Fold, Red Circle Cliffs and Long Canyon.

-P

Cassidy Arch, Capitol Reef

August 2, 2009 We woke to this view each morning from Thousand Lakes RV Park:

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Picnic packed and maps in hand, we set out for the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive and a hike.

A view along the way:

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We climbed 1,150 feet and 3 1/2 miles to Cassidy Arch, just in time to meet dark clouds at the peak.We made it back to the Jeep just in time for the first sprinkle.

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The arch was named after Butch Cassidy. According to legend, Cassidy had a hideout in the area.

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The hike deserved it's "Strenuous" rating. See the Jeep ... way ... down ... there?

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But it was more than worth it. :)

Another highlight of the day was dinner at Cafe Diablo. Cafe Diablo is perhaps best known for its pastry chefs and delectable deserts, but boasts an eclectic dinner menu. We skipped the rattlesnake cakes, but ordered four deserts - two to take home. :)

-P

Goblins

August 1, 2009 Goblin Valley State Park, UT

An ancient sea deposited sediments here 170 million years ago. Since then wind and rain have sculpted the sandstone into odd goblin-like formations.

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They're not all goblins. Some are mushrooms. Doesn't Lloyd look like a little Smurf here?

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And I think I saw toy soldiers and a few naughty forms.

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Visitors can wander through the valley. Part of the San Rafael Swell in the background:

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"San Rafael Swell is a wonderfully unique kidney shaped geographical anticline on the Colorado Plateau in central Utah. The "Swell" is about 50 miles in length and 30 miles in width. Only one paved road crosses through the approximately 600,000 ..."  Impressive.

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Some of the San Rafael desert:

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Only the hardiest of animals can live here: scorpions, midget faded rattlesnakes, pronghorns and kangaroo rats.

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Few people visit this park, but we highly recommend a stop if you're driving from Moab through Hanksville or to Capitol Reef National Park.

-P

Canyonlands NP drives and hikes

Upheaval Dome Hike - Canyonlands NP Geologist disagree whether the Upheaval Dome was caused by a salt dome or a meteor. The field geologist we met on the trail gave some pretty convincing evidence for a meteor. We will concede to his superior knowledge.

Needles Drive and Slickrock Hike

The drive to Needles after you leave Hwy 191 is impressive. A lush valley surrounded on both sides by buttes and spires. We found out later that a plateau erodes into separate buttes that erode into spires (needles). The 22 miles drive is worth every mile. After visiting the park visitor center we drove to the end and hiked Slickrock Trail (not recommended if it is raining). -L

Canyonlands National Park Gallery

Vrew from Grand View Trail Photo Gallery for Canyonlands National Park

The park has north and south entrances almost 100 miles apart. The north district is called Island in the Sky and the southern district is called The Needles. Staying in Moab we were able to easily access both entrances. There are numerous 4x4 trails the access the park from all directions. The gallery is from several day trips into the park. The variety of landscapes and the wonderful morning and evening light transform hour by hour. Hiking trails lead you along the rim for better views. -L

Three New Photo Galleries

20090621-grandcanyon-_DSC1410 The following gallery is from our flight over and float trip down in the Grand Canyon.

New Gallery: Grand Canyon from Above and Below, AZ

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Dead Horse Point is a local State Park just north of Canyonlands National Park, UT. The light was poor and the sky was hazy, but the canyons below were stunning.

New Gallery: Dead Horse Point, UT

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The Tower Arch Trail is a 3.4 mile round trip hike to a lovely arch we hiked to yesterday and enjoyed a picnic lunch beside the arch.

New Gallery: Tower Arch Trail, UT

Canyonlands Drive and Rim Hike

canyonlands_500x260.shkl We drove the Canyonlands National Park road to the Grand View and then hiked to Grand View Point.

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The elevation chart above shows the hike to the point on the far right. The views from this point are 360 degrees with over 300 degrees of canyon floor before you. Photo gallery coming soon. -L

Blanding, Natural Bridges & Abajo Mtns

July 3-7, 2009 We were in Blanding for July 4th and though we didn't partake in the festivities, we took in most of the show from our campsite: a long and impressive fireworks display, especially for a small town (pop. ~3300), and some rowdy tunes from the rockin' band and loud crowd.

A 9-mile loop circles Natural Bridges Natural Monument park. Water and time have cut two canyons and three large bridges out of sandstone.

Canyon view:

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Short hikes are required to view the bridges. A steep hike including a ladder descends to a viewpoint overlooking Sipapu Bridge, the second largest natural bridge in the world. You may remember the word "sipapu" from prior posts, a Hopi word that means a gateway for spirits or "the place of emergence".

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A nice find along the trail - the last of the prickly pear cactus blooms:

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A 1.2 mile return trip hike of switchbacks, stairs and slickrock swings by Owachoma Bridge.

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Since Natural Bridges National Monument can be toured in a day, we had more time to explore the Blanding area. The owner of Blue Mountain RV Park suggested the Abajo Mountain Loop Trail. A single-lane dirt road navigates Abajo Mountains, part of the Colorado Plateau, for 43 miles meant for high clearance vehicles. We were told "abajo" means blue in Spanish, but others say "low". Whatever it means, we enjoyed a peaceful, albeit bumpy, ride through the mountains.

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If you want a dining recommendation, The Peace Tree Juice Cafe is the cool place to refresh. The Blanding location features local art for sale and also art from recycled material like metal. If you find yourself in Blanding, Monticello or Moab, you can find The Peace Tree. We know firsthand that Katie and Lisa make delicious paninis, breakfast burritos, smoothies, and americanos.

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-P

Canyon de Chelly, AZ

June 29, 2009 - July 3, 2009 Just outside of Chinle, AZ, where the livestock roam free (and not everyone's happy about that because "tourists don't know and they hit them all the time"), ...

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... a magnificent labrynth slashes the land.

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The South Rim of Canyon de Chelly, a 37 mile round trip, offers several outlooks at elevations of 5,500 to 7,000 feet above the canyon floor. The North Rim, with fewer lookoffs, runs 34 miles round trip.

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About 50 Navajo people live in the canyon. They farm corn, alfalfa and peach crops around their traditional log hogan homes or sell art and crafts like painted replicas of pictographs, carved replicas of petroglyphs, and jewelry to visitors who venture down into the canyon by hiking trails or guided Navajo Jeep tours.

We hiked 500 feet down into the canyon (2.5 mile round trip) on a steep, zigzag trail following three horseback riders then crossed Chinley Wash...

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... to the White House ruins. Ancestral Puebloen people built and occupied the dwelling about a 1,000 years ago. Petroglyphs are easy to spot all around. White House is the only self-directed hike permitted.

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A little (non-venimous) corn snake came out to inspect us.

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One of the most impressive sights in the canyon, perhaps, is Spider Rock, an 800 foot sandstone spire where Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon meet.

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We stayed at privately owned Spider Rock Campground, which turned out to be as tranquil as it was rustic. We dry camped for five days, woke to the lilt navajo flute music every morning, lolled under the awning every sight-see free moment, inhaled the soft sage and juniper scented breeze, watched Howard (the owner) and a friend build a hogan, and also borrowed Howard's dog, Boy, whenever we could, and for a 3.5 mile hike along Cherry Canyon that begins and ends at the campground. Boy was such a sweetheart we didn't even mind that he slowed to half-time in every single shady spot as we braked behind him in the searing sun.

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We highly recommend a stay at Spider Rock Campground if you want space and quiet, or maybe a night in a cool, dark hogan.

Tip: You can find sweets, refreshing iced drinks, and a seat under an umbrella at Changing Woman Cafe near the Visitor Centre.

Peace

-P

Painted Desert - Blue Mesa

June 7-14, 2009 Though Blue Mesa trail is only a 1 mile loop, we fought gale force winds to see the sights.

See the hat in the pic below? It's rolling around the badlands somewhere ... . I wore a hat with a neck strap, but it was hardly worth choking for.

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The view, however, was more than worth the windburn.

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Sculpted grey, blue, purple and green bandings in mudstone and sandstone layers:

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This land was dominated and shaped by a massive river system in the Triassic Period.

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More scenic wonders to come ... .

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Cheers!

-P

Petrified Forest - No Logging Allowed

June 7-14, 2009 Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

About 200,000,000 years ago a forest was washed into a river system then quickly buried under massive amounts of sediments. Cut off from oxygen, decay slowed to centuries. The wood absorbed minerals, including silica from volcanic ash, that crystallized into purple amethyst, yellow citrine, and clear and smoky quartz over thousands of years.

The petrified logs tend to break into disks or flat ended logs.

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Bejeweled insides:

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Temptation proves too much for some. About a tonne of petrified wood walks off in the pockets of visitors every month.

Clay mortar secured the petrified walls of the Agate House, an eight room pueblo.

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Erosion exposes more logs.

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Much of the petrified bark has chipped from the "wood" below:

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Red, purple, yellow, black and white are the most prominent colours, though thick veins of sparkling crystals can also be found.

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The only trees are dead trees, 225,000,000 years dead trees.

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The solid quartz gains colour from the impurities like carbon, iron and manganese - remarkable gems sprinkled on a sallow landscape.

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-P