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Failed Attempt

by Nick Coons
Feb 18, 2004

This last Sunday was supposed to be one of those long road trips where I'd be able to take wonderful snapshots around the state. Unfortunately, due to time, daylight, and such factors, it ended up being a fun experience with nothing tangible to show for it. Except, maybe, for one -- Possibly a better understanding of "The park closes at 5:00pm," which I still don't get.

We started out as usual, heading out of the valley. This in itself can easily take a day and always sets us back. I am convinced that in the way-too-near future Phoenix will grow so much that the only barrier separating it from Flagstaff will be Sunset Point. However, we went straight for Flagstaff this time, with only minor stops along the way. Our goal was to roam around the northeastern portion of the state and snap some nice shots of the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest.

All along I-40, the snowcapped San Francisco Peaks were easily seen in the rear-view mirror. As the day grew shorter, and we knew the light would fade, we chose the Petrified Forest. Upon arrival, promptly at 5:02pm, we read a sign, posted on a road barrier, which stated the highway through the forest closed at 5:00pm. I didn't understand the logic behind this at first. And I have to admit, I still don't.

An employee at one of the nearby museums mentioned that this was to stop people from taking specimens from the forest, which I can understand as a worthy goal. But I don't see how it helps. Yes, it's easier to get caught in the daytime, so thieves would be more likely to hang around at night to steal petrified wood. But knowing that the park closes at 5:00pm, a would-be thief simply enters at 4:00pm and waits for the sun to set. The road going through the forest is miles long, so it's not feasible that someone hiding after 5:00pm will be caught.

Personally, I would have no reason to enter at night -- My camera takes better pictures during the day. But at 5:00pm, my camera works just fine, as well as at 5:02pm. I would have liked the option to at least enter for half an hour to acquire some decent shots.

Disappointed at the amount that we didn't accomplish, we reluctantly prepared ourselves for the really long drive home, through Show Low, then Payson, and finally back to the valley. We did decide, however, that next time we want to head up to that area, that we leave the previous day and stay overnight in the area. Unless you begin your day at an awfully early hour, which should not be allowed on Sundays, it's very difficult to actually be out of the valley by noon.

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