Our Vantage Points
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Of Washington
Wood becoming rock....  This has always baffled me.  The Petrified Forest in Arizona, now a national park, was the first place I saw it as a kid.  Since then, I've learned that petrified wood, sometimes known as silicified wood (ahem), is found in many places where the conditions have been just right for a long time.  I don't really understand the process of petrification, but it involves mineral elements (e.g.  silicates, sulfates, pyrites, etc.) dissolved in water, generally warm water, so that they integrate with the wood cells.  They say it takes a long long time, for it to happen...  more than 10 million years! And the stuff has to be buried the whole time.  Typically, some kind of volcanic event causes the burial.  If the wood is exposed, it will completely decay long before silicification can even begin.  Some of us already know how fast wood can decay.  Perhaps some day Harry Truman's lodge under Spirit Lake will be discovered, completely petrified.

If you want a little more information about silicification of wood, go to one of these interesting websites (later):
http://www.mashell.com/~estrauss/pwoodfx.html
http://www.intersurf.com/~chalcedony/Petwood.html


In the early 1930's, during highway construction 30 miles east of Ellensburg, Washington, a burial site of petrified wood was discovered.  It was under a covering of lava.


From this barren knoll where a forest thrived eons ago, we can see today's poplars on the bluff above the Wanapum Reservoir of the Columbia River just three miles to the east.  It's the town site of Vantage.  In the 1930's this 7,470 acre area became known as Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park.

Today, next to this barren knoll, there is a tree shaded interpretive center where a self-guided nature trail begins.  Along the trail are about two dozen half-buried specimens of petrified logs.  Each is protected from vandals by a heavy steel mesh cover.  Photography of the specimens is somewhat hampered by the covers, but some specimens are positioned in a way that allows the camera to peek through the mesh, providing the possibility of a close-up view.
Each specimen is labeled with the species as identified by microscopic visual analysis.  Douglas Fir, Walnut, Ash, Elm and Ginkgo are among those displayed.

Down at Vantage there is a much more commodious Museum.  Unfortunately, when we visited, buildings at both places were closed for the season except for weekends.  However, a few interesting petrified logs had been placed around the museum grounds.
This border is a kaleidoscopic pattern derived from the petrified specimen pictured at the top of this page.
Once again it appeared that we were "aced out."  The week-day schedule for this museum had expired for the season.  It was Wednesday and the doors were locked.  This is the bane of free-wheeling tourists like us who don't wish to have their travel movements artificially dictated by the schedules of campgrounds, historic sites, museums and special events.  Usually things work out OK even without the dubious "value" of the main-stream experience.

Indeed! Once again things worked out. . . .    A small sign near the entrance of the museum pointed to the "Trail to Petroglyphs."  Great!  I was ready for a hike of a mile or two.  But just around the corner of the building, there they were: an amazing collection of magnificent petroglyphs!
Petroglyphs such as these, evoke wonder and speculation.  We see images of familiar items, of bows and arrows, animals, and humans.  Isn't it obvious that these "writings" tell of the basic needs and desires of humans even thousands of years ago who roamed these hills, rivers and canyons? But beyond these more obvious symbols, there's much more.  Perhaps the rays surrounding human heads speak of God-Man relationships or the spiritual connections that man has always sensed with his creator.  Even though we may not recognize some of the symbols, we can know that they represent some of the more profound thoughts these ancient people had.  It is safe to assume then that much of it displays their spiritual contemplation.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of this: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made . . . ." (Romans 1:20)

These stones are some of the smaller ones retrieved from the banks of the Columbia River before the Wanapum Reservoir, covered them.  The photo on the left, below, shows the reservoir just 3 miles south of the original site of the petroglyphs.  The photo on the right is from the plaque at today's petroglyph display.  It shows the site of origin where more than 300 images were located before the reservoir was created.
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