Tuesday, July 14, 2009

275 Square Miles Of Brilliance

In New Mexico, on Route 70 between Las Cruces and Alamogordo on the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert in the Tularosa Basin, you'll find the White Sands National Monument. From the the National Parks Service brochure...

Rising from the heart of this 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 and created the largest gypsum dune field in the world.

The gypsum that forms the white sand was deposited at the bottom of a shallow seas covering this area 250 million years ago. Eventually turned into stone, these gypsum-bearing marine deposits were uplifted into a giant dome 70 million years ago when the Rocky Mountains formed. 10 million years ago the center of this dome started to collapse, creating the Tularosa Basin. The remaining sides of the original dome form the San Andres and Sacramento mountain ranges that now ring the Tularosa Basin.

We got to White Sands just before sunset, so we didn't have a whole lot of time to take pictures. This one I got when we first drove in; a man walking the dunes with his camera in hand (if you enlarge it, it looks even better!). The place was absolutely stunning. Crisp, white sand for as far as your eye can see. When we drove further into the dunes, the road was plowed just like snow. There were families walking the dunes together, couples sitting with coolers enjoying the sunset and kids "sand surfing" with sleds and little wave boards.

I have always wanted to visit this place but we rarely take this route. We were just through here, but it was at night and we couldn't have stopped anyway since we were under a hot load that just had to be where it was going.

I thought the sand was going to be difficult to get through, deep and hot like the sand in South Padre Island. I was marveling at how easily everyone seemed to be getting to the top of the dunes. When I got out and walked on it myself, only the top layer of sand was loose; the base, hard and easy to walk on.

The sun went down quickly and were were only able to get a few shots, but it's definitely a place I'll be going back to. Not that there's anything to do there, but as they say on the park web site, "Take only pictures, leave only footprints."

I leave you with mine:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1 YEAR AGO: Four Standards, One Newbie
2 YEARS AGO: Semantics
3 YEARS AGO: 36 Hours Of Hell On Earth
4 YEARS AGO: 11:11:11


Angela said...

Oh yay! I love White Sands. I used to live in Alamogordo and never spent as much time as I'd liked to have at White Sands. I did go there on my wedding day.

Did you guys take the truck in or were you in a car? I passed through there recently and wanted so badly to stop!

Awesome pictures by the way.

Rassles said...

That is crazy awesome. White sands and all that. Awesome.