Hiking among petrified logs

Petrified wood is created by precipitation of the mineral quartz from groundwater that flows through the wood after it is buried in sediment. Quartz replaces the wood, often preserving its fine cellular texture. The variety of colors of petrified wood results from impurities within the quartz crystals.

Perhaps the most famous is petrified wood from northern Arizona, extracted from the Chinle Formation of Late Triassic age (220 million years ago). Wood from the Chinle Formation represents conifer trees and is noted for vibrant red and yellow colors.

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Large Petrified Pine cut and polished from Arizona, with Director Tiffany Santos. Stuhl Museum is at New Mexico State university in Las Cruces.

All five badlands lie along an east–west line stretching from Cuba, about 60 miles from Albuquerque. Within each unmarked scenic area, hiking difficulty can range from easy to moderate to strenuous, depending on the path you choose to cut.

The sites have no established trails, and no significant sources of potable water or food in the immediate vicinity.

We drove about 30 miles west of Cuba, to what’s called the checkerboard area, named because BLM land lies intermittent between private land. There are five hiking areas, and we did just one on this trip: Ceja Pelon number 4 on the map.

The last part is rough and you need a 4-wheel drive.

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Ceja Pelon is number 4. Cuba is the black arrow on the right. https://www.newmexico.org/nmmagazine/articles/post/badlands-hiking-83869/#.Vq-xqH0rLnA


We hiked up a dry wash (streambed) towards the sandstone mesa, but were eventually stopped by the cliffs and could not quite reach the top.

Below are some pics of me and my step-daughter Kim, from Kansas, and the petrified wood.

I’d been told you can carry out up to 25 lbs of petrified wood, and our packs did get heavier as the afternoon rolled along.

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Gray Nomad in the wash with a hard sandstone bottom here.




Kim resting on a very old branch – petrified (the branch, not Kim).




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More broken logs, all petrified. Maybe from one tree.



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Part of a tree trunk with outer bark on top.








The gray nomad unable to lift petrified log.






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Top piece is outer section of a trunk or large branch (bark is on the back side and can’t be seen). Bottom left is a white piece showing the bark. Black is small piece of black wood. Right piece is an attractive rich maroon or burgundy color – quite rare in this area.


One of the best specimens I have is this whole branch, about 9 inches long. About busted my back to carry this out from a previous trip to the Ceja Pelon.











How old are the petrified woods? The formation where we found the petrified logs is the Paleocene Nacimiento Formation whose age is 65-61 million years. The Paleocene era began right after the mighty CT asteroid crash that wiped out the dinosaurs.

It was sobering to touch these pieces of wood that were living as trees over 60 million years ago. Our lives are so short and gone so swiftly.

BLOG TOPICS: I write content (in-depth) blogs about a curious mix of topics: Science and Energy, Inspiration and Hope, and Health and Hiking.

The Gray Nomad ….. Read and reflect on deep time, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you Lord make me dwell in safety and confident trust.
[Book of Psalms, chapter 3].

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Karen Larre
Karen Larre
4 years ago

Thank you for giving me a view of the great outdoors in this hike (as well as an education about petrified wood)!

Dale Womacks
Dale Womacks
4 years ago

Amazing pictures! Best wishes to you and all of yours!

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