When I travel the desert southwest, my road trips always combine three of my favorites interests: nature, art and history. I just completed a two-week trip to New Mexico and back, 3665 miles and plenty of stops along the way.
My last stop, before arriving in New Mexico, was in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. It was the middle of a hot desert day that discouraged any sort of hiking. But I kept jumping out of the car and took a lot of pictures. I love the colors of the place and realized I still need to do a Collagescape to capture that petrified wood palette of reds and browns.
As you wind through the park and head back to the Interstate, one of the last stops is the historic Painted Desert Inn. Now I always appreciate a good national park lodge, and this one, well it’s a real gem. The Painted Desert Inn is small and modest. It is not one of the bigger lodges that get all the attention like Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel or the Timberline Lodge up on Mount Hood. As beautiful as those grand lodges are, this might be one of the best.
The Painted Desert Inn is too small by today’s standards to operate as a national park lodge. And this is what makes it special. It functions now as an extra visitor center, but more importantly as a thoughtfully restored and well-maintained example of unspoiled, 1930’s Pueblo Revival Architecture. It also stands as a fine monument to the good work done by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the Depression.
The inn is situated on a bed of clay that has resulted in an unstable foundation requiring a constant series of maintenance to the building. The last time I visited, the inn was more of a construction site. Currently it’s there, as close as possible to it’s 1930‘s condition, for visitors to enjoy just a quick stop off of I-40. Keep an eye on those colors, they might be appearing in some of my art in the near future.