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Janice Describes Her Visit to the Deserts of the Southwest

The deserts of the southwestern United States have a special appeal to me. But then it seems that every place I visit has its own unique attraction. Flying is a must to reach some places, but I prefer to drive. This allows me to view the geological changes in the landscape from one area to the next. There are lots of different biomes just traveling across Texas, where I live. I never tire of seeing these. Since I have made several trips to Arizona I take a different route each time so that I can view different biomes or at least different parts of the same ones.

One attraction in Arizona that I always visit are the saguaro cactus. These giant plants are found only in the Sonoran Desert of extreme southeastern California, southern Arizona and adjoining northwestern Mexico. In the Saguaro National Park near Tucson, there are so many cacti that it looks like a forest. But instead of trees, the forest contains saguaro from 15 to 50 feet tall. The average height of the plant is about 30 feet. Their thick, fluted, columnar stem are about 18 to 24 inches in diameter, and most have several branches that look like arms curving upward. At night the silhouette of these plants looks like an army of giant people marching across the land.

Not too far away is a must to see site -- the Grand Canyon. It's name says it all. In fact no words or photographs can describe how awesome the Grand Canyon is. During my visit to this geological wonder, rain sent many tourist to cover, but I enjoyed it. Not only was it cooling on the hot summer day, but the rain provided a sight I hope to see again. Standing on the edge of the canyon I viewed drops descending from the clouds as they made their journey to the bottom of the canyon. It was spectacular.

Of course a trip through the Petrified Forest National Park was a must. This park is actually comprised of two parks: The Painted Desert and the Rainbow Forest. The name Painted Desert makes me think of flat, dry land but instead it is made of hills, mesas and buttes of beautiful colored rocks. The different chemicals making up the sediments forming the rocks produces a variety of colors, including red, orange, pink, blue, gray and lavender. It was like looking at giant multicolored layer cakes that had been sliced so the layers are exposed.

The Rainbow Forest unlike other forests doesn't have standing trees. Instead, it is made of unearthed petrified trees and tree parts. This is one of the world's largest and most colorful concentration of petrified wood. The same chemicals making up the rocks in the Painted Desert are found in the petrified wood, which is why it is called the Rainbow Forest.

I love visiting National Parks because they provide such an abundance of scientific information. Plus they offer fun as well as scientific books about the region. Of course there were pieces of petrified wood for sale since it is against the law to pick up pieces off the ground.