Digital Dimdima
-By Rashmi Menon
Independence Day
Lake Tahoe
Hola Amigos!
Gila Monsters
The Petrified Forest

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The Petrified Forest

Buenos Dias. This fortnight, how would you like to embark on an exciting adventure? Let's travel back in time to an era when dinosaurs roamed the earth and man was still a primate.
Welcome to the Triassic Park in Northern Arizona, where time worked its magic to turn trees into stone!
About 250 million years ago, during the Triassic era, the Colorado Plateau in northeastern Arizona was a vast floodplain. Dinosaurs and prehistoric reptiles roamed freely among the lush green foliage. Eventually the vagaries of nature worked their magic and these huge trees fell victim to relentless floods. Most trees died and were decomposed. Some lucky logs got encased in layers of silt and volcanic ash. These logs escaped decomposition. Gradually, as floodwater seeped into the crevices of these logs, the wood tissues got encased with alluvial silt. The sand particles in the silt crystallized to form quartz and the logs were petrified into stone.
For a long time, these petrified trees and fossilized animal remains were buried under deep layers of flood and volcanic deposits. Some 60 million years ago, geological movements inside the earth's crust exposed these fossils. The fossils bear traces of extinct species of trees including araucarioxylon arizonicum, woodworthis and schilderia. They reveal signs of prehistoric animals like the staurikosaurs (a small meat eating dinosaur). The Park also traces the growth of human civilization in the surrounding areas. Ancient Indian tribes like the Zuni and Hopi have left behind their marks through rock paintings and carvings known as petroglyphs.
Since the mid 1800's adventurers, explorers and sightseers have plundered the wealth of this forest. Eventually, after palaeontologists (scientists who study fossils) and archaeologists (scientists who study ancient civilizations) made numerous entreaties, the US government recognized the worth of these deposits. In 1906, President Roosevelt reserved several areas of this region as a protected National Monument.
Today, people from all over the world visit this awesome forest. Most tourists prefer to hike across this unique desert. Some of them expect to see tall trees that have turned statue-like into stone. Instead they are disappointed to find log fragments strewn over the arid desert land. This disappointment vanishes, however, once the tourists begin to appreciate the colorful beauty of the petrified logs and rock formations.
The layered rock formations are called Tepees. Tepee formations are multi hued and contain red, orange, pink, gray, lavender, white and blue layers. Nature and geological stress have cracked open many of the petrified logs and their crevices reveal beautiful formations of clear quartz, agate, purple amethyst and jasper. Bounty hunters in the past carried away the best samples as souvenirs. Today tourists are strictly forbidden to take any samples from the forest. They are cautioned to "take only pictures and leave behind nothing…not even footprints!"
That's it for this fortnight. I'll see you soon…Hasta Pronto!
Notes:
Buenos Dias = Spanish for "Good Day"
Hasta Pronto = Spanish for "See you soon"
Zuni = (Red) Indian tribe
Hopi = (Red) Indian tribe

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