Petrified
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You know how some places just have feelings attached to them? Like, emotions associated with the actual physical location. Like whatever transpires in a place influences its aura.

To start with, there is no camping except for back-country camping inside the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Too much theft of the jewel-like fossilized trees. But there's a "Free" campground right outside.

Don't stay there. It's an evil place. The energy is just bad. All the cars in the parking lot had been there a long time. They're 1950s and 1960s models, all. Every one of them has dusty windows and flat tires. What happened to the owners? The only person in the store, a middle aged Hispanic or Native American cashier, looked and spoke like a dead woman. The store was full of taxidermies and insects in amber, as well as unidentifiable rusty tools and other 'frontier antiques.' The campground was full of giant petrified logs being used to mark parking and hideous fake wooden teepees with strange pseudo-Indian images on the outside and big spiders and scorpions living inside. Both seemed vaguely sacrilegious.

We couldn't decide what to do. We had been on the road with our kids about two weeks at that point, and until then had had plenty of pleasant camping experiences. Stephen and I both lost our confidence. Jack wanted to go back to Holbrook, 20 miles away. Larry was just scared. For the first and only time on the trip, we were all fighting and having meltdowns.

There was a foul stench in the air emanating from an open ditch and the wind was howling, with strong gusts over 40 mph. The strange woman in the shop had flatly assured us it would die down at dusk. She lied. The only shelter from the wind was behind a big concrete sign up on a little rise. But both Stephen and I immediately had a bad feeling, like something or someone had been buried there.

Just as the sun began to set two RVs pulled into the campground. Their lights were gleaming inside and the occupants seemed content. We made a decision. We'd stay and just sleep in the car since the wind was blowing too hard to put up the tent on what bare, hard desert ground remained. I tried to cook dinner in the dark on a picnic table, but the food just wouldn't cook. The noodles for the stroganoff started to turn to glop. The stench from the ditch whipped on the wind over our dining area, causing us to lose our appetites. Jack and Larry saved the day, or at least the dinner, by rigging the tarp around the picnic table with duct tape while I struggled with the camp stove and Stephen rearranged the car for us to sleep in. Eventually the food was warm and edible. We ate in the dark. I tried to do dishes, and then we climbed into the car to sleep.

And that's when the place really started to get to us. Larry couldn't settle down. Jack felt weepy and began to openly cry. Stephen, sleeping in the driver's seat, and I tried to keep spirits up by telling funny camping stories from when we were younger and made a similar trip, before they were born. But eventually we lost the battle. It was a long, long night.

Around two in the morning, Stephen woke up. Talking about it to me later, he describes hearing a low moaning on the furious wind.

Eventually the dawn came. We felt petrified ourselves. We had a quick breakfast of coffee, chorizo, potatoes and eggs, and then repacked the car and left. I went in to complain to the zombie-cashier but she wasn't there, and there didn't seem to be any evidence she ever was.

It had to have been the place because as soon as we left and went into the park, we were all happy again. It's just a bad karma place. There's something actually wrong with it. As we pulled out I remember looking at those RVs again, wondering if they had a similar experience as us.

Their tires were flat, their windows dusty.

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