Have You Found the Bridge?
The best part of the trail was the fact there was no trail.
In my opinion Petrified Forest National Park is a gem. It is the perfect way to spend a half day or a full day. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't have the same gut punch as Half Dome or Mount Rainer, but it will the first views of the painted desert will take your breath away.
The Onyx Bridge
There are a handful of short trails (0-2 miles) to roam around the blue mesas or petrified forests. And one can combine a series of small trails along the 28 mile route that cuts through the park to make a pretty fantastic day.
But there are also a handful of trails that will take one off the beaten path. The Onyx Bridge Trail is two miles out to a petrified log that makes a bridge over one of the many washes in the painted desert. The best part of the trail was the fact that there was no trail. There was a trail for about a quarter mile that lead to the valley of the desert where a wash could be followed to the bridge.
My intent was to make this a trail run, but that didn't quite pan out. The wash wasn't exactly easy to follow and even though I was following a GPS Map, it was still difficult to see where I was going. So I ended up doing a lot of wandering. I was haphazardly following people to try and find this bridge and I eventually followed a group up a wash and onto the blue mesas. When I didn't see the bridge it took I met a group of Canadiens who also were about as lost as I was. Mind you, we could see the trailhead in the distance so I new I was going to make it back, we just couldn't find the stinkin' bridge.
Google Maps saved the day though! I had just enough service to Google the landmark and switch to a terrain map to find the location. Upon arrival every one was slightly disappointed in the final destination, and we picked up a couple from Montana along the way, but we made it. I know that we all would have been more disappointed had we not found it.
So we spent about an hour talking about everything from Burning Man (which was given an excellent recommendation) to swapping our nation's leaders (the Canadiens did not approve of our suggestion). We spent time talking about mountains and trains and everything in between.
It further fueled my belief that every trail connects. And to be able to wonder in the desert (even if it added and extra mile or two to the trek) is beyond relaxing.
So get out there and Find Your Park in 2018.
The trailhead is at the Painted Desert Inn
Following the wash
Flora of the desert
Petrified Wood EVERYWHERE!
From a previous trip in the Blue Mesa-
From a previous trip in the Crystal Forest-