Long before anyone thought of making wine in Napa Valley, this natural wonder was one of the area's greatest attractions..
More than three million years ago, nearby Mount St. Helena erupted, burning the forest with a thick layer of lava and ash. Gradually, the wood fibers of the trees began to decompose and were replaced, cell by cell, with silicates from the ash, thus turning the trees to stone. That is, quite literally, the history of the petrified forest, which according to legend, was discovered in 1870 by a retired Swedish seaman out looking for his cow.
Quiet, peaceful, educational, nice scenery. My husband and I recently visited the Napa and Bay areas. We headed up to the petrified forest since we prefer nature to wine. The forest was easy to find, and parking was easy as well. After browsing through the decent-sized gift shop, we paid our admission to the forest. (Hint: If you go to their web site, you can print a coupon out for 15% off admission.) Outside, a short .4 mile trail wound around in a circle through the forest, ending up back where we started outside the gift shop. The trail was well-signed, enabling you to learn about the petrification process and to identify which trees were which. There was no one else near us while we were on the trail. It was very quiet and peaceful. We came from southern Arizona and it was nice to see some green! There were also some beautiful birds flitting around, and we saw a gecko as well. Since it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves, we took our time on the trail. After finishing, we felt like relaxing and enjoying the scenery, so we sat on the patio for awhile, and the local cat came by and befriended my husband. The forest was just the refuge we were seeking from the crowds and traffic in Napa Valley. I highly recommend it, and bring your camera!
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