It was a typical hot Arizona summer day, triple digits and no shade. Not exactly the best time of year to visit the Petrified Forest National Park. We like to think we are smart, but reality is we are probably not as smart as we think we are, as evidenced by us being at the Petrified Forest National Park on a hot summer day.
We were smart enough to get there right when the park gates opened, at 7am. 80 degrees in the morning feels delightful when you know it’s going to be 110 in the afternoon. We entered on the north end with plans to drive through the entire park, seeing the sights and doing the little hikes, then exiting at the south end. That’s where we met the visitor center girl.
The visitor center was slow, which made us happy. We were hoping for quick verification, before posting the blog, that what we saw and took pics of was a collared lizard.
As we approached the visitor center girl, she greeted us politely with a nice smile. She was a young thing with no real distinguishing characteristics other than her smile. Kind of a plain Jane, brown hair, brown eyes, average height, average weight. She was polite and all business as she looked at the picture on my iPhone and confirmed that indeed it was a collared lizard.
And then Amelia started to chat her up…Amelia’s genuine enthusiasm for the beauty of the desert quickly eroded her all business façade. She started talking about going on family hikes with her three kids. That was the first surprise, three kids?
The visitor center girl became more and more animated and then launched into how she enjoys the solitude of being alone in the desert. “First, you must have plenty of water in your backpack and food. I also carry a fold up Army shovel because I love digging for relics and fossils outside of the park.” “Really?” said Amelia. “Oh yes, I find some amazing things. But you must be very careful because there are lots of nuts and creeps out here. I never leave my pocketknife in my backpack, because when I’m digging I always take my backpack off. Instead I keep it on a necklace and it hangs between my breasts. That way if I get abducted I can free myself and if need be attack the abductors.”
PSSSSS, all three of us turn our heads towards the unmistakable loud sound of the air adjustable suspension of a kneeling bus. A moment later a large group of elderly folks, mostly women, come hobbling into the visitor center.
The façade was back up, the animation gone and so were we…