On our last day in the Painted Desert, we hiked down into the Black Forest Wilderness. I had heard about, and seen photos of the Onyx Bridge: a large petrified log that spans a wash far out in the wilderness. I had also heard that the bridge had collapsed, but the staff at the Painted Desert Inn Museum assured us that it was still intact. So, GPS in hand, we set off.
The hike, which according to the staff was only about a mile, turned out to be closer to three miles one way. We walked down the trail into the beginning of the wilderness where the trail turned into a path, and then the path became a track, and finally disappeared altogether at the edge of the Lithodendron Wash. We bushwacked across several s–curves in the huge wash and then began to search for the smaller side wash in which the Onyx Bridge was reputed to be still intact. By now my faith in the staff’s knowledge had begun to erode.
After a couple of false starts, we finally found the right course, and after scampering up through yet another side wash around huge petrified logs, we came to the bridge…collapsed as rumored. It was still a memorable experience. This large conifer, now millions of years old, it’s wood now replaced by a mineral matrix, had taken one more step towards its ultimate demise.
We spent about an hour exploring other parts of the Black Forest before beginning the long trek back to the museum and the parking lot. Once back, we went in to let them know we had returned safely, and to inform them that the bridge had indeed collapsed.
Our trip was at an end; we drove home, talking about the experiences we had enjoyed over the past several days. There is always a bit of melancholy for me after a long anticipated trip or event has come and gone, and this time was no different. I will return to the Petrified Forest, but it will never be quite the same as the first time.
Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm f2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f 22, 1/15th sec., ISO 100