Even though I’m so over getting shocked in the RV and having static hair days, we are still enjoying our time in the dry desert southwest. We have been spending time exploring new (to us) territory in southern New Mexico.
In another blog I will write about some of the places we’ve been, but I wanted to make this entire blog on just one: White Sands National Park. It impressed me so much that I decided it should be on everyone’s bucket list!
Located about an hour north-east of Las Cruces, this is how it’s described on their website : “Like No Place Else on Earth – Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.”
This is another way I’d describe it: A giant sandbox to play in! I had such a fun day I can’t even describe. Taking pictures, doing a fairy shoot, just walking barefoot and laying on the sand.
We were lucky to be there on a perfect weather day. We stopped at the visitor center to begin with, which I highly recommend. There we watched a video on the geology and the history of the park. While we’ve seen many visitor center movies and they can be hit or miss, this one was a big hit. The cinematography was gorgeous and showed the dunes in all types of weather conditions and seasons. Truly beautiful.
Here is my CliffsNotes version on how they appeared: The rain on the surrounding mountains ran down into the valley basin along with the minerals from the mountains. With no where to drain, the water sat and evaporated. The remaining minerals formed selenite crystals, which through time and erosion broke down into the tiny sands of gypsum. Which are practically snow white when dry. Now the winds blow them about and the dunes are ever changing. They even have to “plow” the roads and you can no longer see the asphalt. Just white on white. And sparkly! Like someone sprinkled glitter on the entire park.
This place was fascinating to me because I knew of selenite crystals (from the store) and I knew of gypsum as a fertilizer (from my farmer’s-wife life) but I had never made the connection that they were one in the same. Surprising.
Way beyond the parking lots in the middle of the dunes, there remains Lake Lucero and the Alkali Flats. There is a 5 mile loop hiking trail that “gives you a view” of the flats, but I found no way the public could access the lake. The Park is next to White Sands Missile Range and whenever military tests are in progress, the drive into the dunes is closed. I found this portion of a sign quite interesting.
We didn’t take the 5 mile hike because it was a warm day and we did not have enough water – and I was concerned about my knee. Although, unlike other dunes we’ve climbed in, these were not extremely loose, and you could walk up a hill easily.
It would have been really cool to be able to drive around the outside of the dunes in the Jeep, but of course that wasn’t allowed. My curiosity always kicks in when things are off limits!
Just to play in the sand was enjoyable enough though, and I could have spent many more hours just sitting/standing/laying in it. Perhaps it’s the qualities of the selenite, because I felt quite euphoric being there.
People always ask where our favorite place has been so far. Which is an impossible question to answer, just as naming your favorite child is. But I always think about the places that felt good. Like the Aspen groves, or the Redwood forests, or the Pacific ocean, or now, sand dunes in the middle of the desert!
I’ll leave you with these thoughts – picture taken of a T-shirt for sale at the gift shop:
Peace & Love, Joy