Today we went to White Sands National Monument. It was about 120 miles one way, so we stopped at a pecan store in Las Cruces to break up the trip a bit. We had tried to stop at another pecan store on our way to Tucson last Sunday, but it was closed so John was happy to have another chance to buy some nuts. Then we went to Wal-Mart to see if we could find something suitable for sledding on the dunes. We ended up buying a couple of inflatable tubes designed for swimming pools. At least if they don’t work, we can give them to Jacob!
We stopped first at the Visitor Center and were just in time to watch the 15-minute video.
It was interesting to hear how some of the plants, such as the soapbox yucca cactus, have adapted to the changing environment of the sand dunes. They simply grow fast enough to keep their leaves above the sand. Unfortunately, when the sand dune “moves on” and unburies those long, long roots that have developed, the cactus usually collapses because it has no support.
After getting our National Park Passport book stamped, we entered the park, following the 8-mile road which takes visitors to the center of the dunes. There are 275 square miles of sand dunes here and it is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.
We stopped at one of the picnic shelters near the end of the road for lunch. This was the view while we were eating:
Then we moved to another nearby parking area to try our luck at dune-sledding. Not such a success; apparently sand isn’t as slippery as snow!
We then spent the better part of an hour wandering around on the dunes, looking for critter tracks (lizards, mice and kangaroo rats) from the night before.
The animals are smarter than we are: they burrow down during the day! This place was kind of “other-worldly” – it reminded us a little of Turnagain Pass during the winter months. Especially where the sand had been plowed off the road and parking areas.
On the way out of the dunes area, we saw all these people having a good time.
This yucca - like a few people we've known through the years - wasn’t quite keeping up…
We got home around 5:30 and went first to shower – lots of sand on our legs and feet! Then we enjoyed a delicious 15-bean soup that John had put in the crock pot this morning. Nice quiet evening….