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The Painted Desert

A Land of Dragons and Castles

(the painted desert)

Named in 1540 by Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, the Painted Desert has earned its named sake. The beautiful colors, a mix of red rock, limestone, siltstone, mudstone, and shale , create a variegated canvas of reds, browns, grays, and lavenders. The eroded rocky mesas are known as “badlands” and are often capped by volcanic flows, now long petrified. The rocky desert itself is bordered by the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon on one side, and the Petrified National Forest on another.

The Painted Desert mesa

Now that the history is out of the way, you can imagine my delight when we had a load with a delivery route that took us right up through the Painted Desert on the western edge, north out of Flagstaff on Highway 89. This is a part of the country I've always wanted to see. Check mark another off my bucket list!

The Painted Desert National Park

We spent the afternoon mesmerized by the myriad of colors and shapes formed by the water- and wind- worn rocks. Looking closely we were able to make out ancient sleeping dragons in the hills their bony spinal ridge in stark contrast to the crisp blue sky, petrified castles now long abandoned majestically resting on top of the mesas, and we even saw the toes of a few petrified giants sticking out from the colorful woven dirt and silt blankets under which they slumbered. And the ships, enormous steamliners abandoned on the ancient ocean floor, appearing as elongated mountains rising sharply to tower as ghost ships, covered in rust and silt, to keep vigil over the mesas of these badlands.

To say we had an enjoyable day on our drive through this magical wonderland would be an understatement. Even the pictures do little to capture the otherworldly beauty in which we found ourselves surrounded. If you ever have the opportunity to travel through, or even stop and explore, The Painted Desert, you'll find no shortage of turn outs, pull offs, historical markers, and even boat, horse, and walking tours to satisfy the explorer within.

The Painted Desert redrock

The Painted Desert mesas

~sierra sugar