Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Mexico's Natural Wonder

Thumbs up for White Sands!

Close-up of the gypsum sand

A mere hour from our Las Cruces digs lies the White Sands National Monument, which preserves the world's largest white sands dune field.   We explored the Monument last weekend and found the dunes of the remote Chihuahuan Desert to be a stunning marvel like nothing we've ever seen.  With the exception of a few footprints, the  expansion of white gypsum sand was untouched, unsullied... immaculate.

Drive leading to the dunes

I can't wait to go back!

Wondering where all of the exquisite white sand comes from?  Would you believe mountains?  Bordering the miles upon miles of pristine white sand piles are the spectacular San Andres and Sacramento Mountains.  These striped mountain ranges are composed of gypsum-filled, limestone layers, which are the source of the glistening, gypsum dunes.  During precipitation, the highly-soluble, gypsum rock cascades down the mountainsides to the isolated Tularosa Basin where it collects in a seasonal body of water called Lake Lucero.  When the rainy season concludes and Lucero evaporates, the gypsum forms soft, delicate crystals.  These crystals are torn into tiny grains of sand and blown by wind to what has now accumulated to 275 square miles of continually moving and growing dunes.

A sign providing a geology and history lesson

See the Alkali Trail marker in the distance?

Beyond the aesthetic appeal and fascinating origin of the divine alabaster dunes, the Monument offers plenty of things to do including sledding, stargazing, scenic driving, picnicking, biking and morning, moonlight and sunset trail trekking.  Although this next activity isn't listed on the park brochure or government website, I have determined that the stretches of sparkling white sand make an ideal setting for shooting music videos.  So, Taylor Swift, keep that in mind for your next single.  With your mad musical talents and this sensational desert set, MTV's award for Best Female Video could be yours again for the second year in a row.  And Taylor, don't worry about crazy Kanye.  Thanks to heightened security,  he'll never again be the cause of teardrops on your guitar.  He'll be just another picture to burn.   

We survived the 5-mile desert trail.

A beautiful, summer morning in the mid 80's

In case you couldn't tell, we've jumped on the white sands band wagon and maybe even convinced you and Taylor to do the same.  In fact, we're already planning our next trip to the Monument.  Since we purchased an annual pass to all federal recreation areas, there's no reason why not to return for another glimpse at the glorious, gypsum dunes.  We're especially tickled about our impending visit because we'll get to experience the dunes at dark under a full moon.  We're more than certain that like our first trip, our next nighttime date with the dunes will not disappoint!

Thanks to evolution, this lizard blends in with the white surroundings.

The white hills resembled giant pillars of sugar.