After a warm yet restful night in Las Cruces, we got up early, packed up camp, had a nice breakfast of yogurt, fruit and cheese, then headed up the road to explore more of New Mexico. I wanted to visit the White Sands National Monument that is near Alamogordo, and also the UFO Museum in Roswell.
Our first stop was about an hour north, White Sands National Monument. This is in the White Sands National Park, but also right smack dab in the middle of a very large military missile training area. In fact, when we arrived at White Sands around 9:15, we were told by the guard that we couldn't get in to the park until 10:30 as they were doing testing. We decided to wait. I mean, when will we ever get back there? Never any guarantees. We hung around in the gift shop there, and sat outside on picnic tables writing postcards for awhile, and then all of a sudden, it was 10:30 and the gates opened!
The White Sands are located in the Tularosa Basin in New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand engulf over 275 square miles of this desert, the largest gypsum dune field in the world. They, as you can see from the pictures, are brilliant and white, and ever changing. The relentless sand, driven by strong winds, covers everything in its path. They were originally formed millions of years ago. With no outlet to the sea, water that flowed from rains and rivers into the Tularosa Basin sunk into the ground, and would rise when filled with water again, then evaporate leaving deposits that then dissolved gypsum on the surface. These cycles repeated themselves, creating what we see today.
There are but a few plants that are able to grow and sustain themselves, as well as a few living animals. The bleached earless lizard is one of these animals that can actually keep above ground during the day, but kit foxes, rodents, rabbits, coyotes and even porcupines (what?!) burrow underground during the day and emerge at night.