Hike a Sea of Sand

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White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

Just a short drive outside of Alamogordo, this gypsum dune field is a flat-out great place to take pictures because the sunsets here are nothing short of amazing.  It seems like the colors here are constantly changing.  Trails are well marked, hence, walking out into the 275 square miles of the largest gypsum field in the world is easy.  The sand is great to stroll on with bare feet.  The gypsum does not retain heat like typical quartz sand does, thus, is comfortable to walk on in the heat of the day.  As a result of the smooth texture of the sands, kids (probably some adults too) love to surf down the dunes.

White Sands missile range surrounds the park.  It is the location of the Trinity site, where the first atomic weapon was detonated.  As a result, the park can be closed from time to time due to weapons testing that is occurring in the area.

If you happen to be in Alamogordo, stop in at Caliche's frozen custard.  Their signature dish is the green chile sundae.  We did not try it because we like the classics, but the other flavors did not disappoint.

Alkali Flats Hike

Wading out into the powdery flats of White Sands National Monument takes courage.  As you lose sight of the trailhead, a measure of panic may course through your system because everything here looks identical.  You are surrounded by miles of sand, a shifting sea of gypsum that sparkles starkly against a cloudless dome ceiling.  Will I find my way in this forever changing yet always remaining the same hike?  The only thing really keeping you found is the occasional trail marker poking up from the sand.  This lets you know you are still on the alkali flats hike.

Among the dunes, look up to see blinding white walls, rising up sharply to meet blue oblivion.  You are filled with a sudden urge to hike up this looming wall and find yourself quickly sinking and battling to the summit.  Gasping for air, you begin to notice the distant San Andres mountains.  You start to feel not lost at sea but marooned on an island surrounded by atomic desert.

Looking in every direction, the white is so immense.  The occasional plant is offensive to continuity because it interrupts the smooth dune surface, stealing its quiet perfection.  You are inside an hourglass, exploring the endless moving patterns sculpted by the elements.  These vary from undulating waves of smooth, fine grains to coarse beds of moist, stacked layers.  In conclusion, you are bound to get a little lost on this hike, if just for a moment, in the wonders of New Mexico's gypsum sands.

On our next camping adventure, we head to Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Parks click here.

Hike Tips:

For great road trip ideas, click here.

One Response

  1. Lois LaCoss
    | Reply

    Beautiful and fascinating

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