White Sands National Monument

8:53 PM

Last Saturday, Spencer and I stayed in bed until around 8 am, checked the weather in Alamogordo and saw that the weather forecast for the day had cleared up. We had been debating the night before whether we should risk a trip, because of it's chance of rain. The change made our decision easy, and we headed out after breakfast.

After a beautiful but long three hours, we pulled in to White Sands National Monument. We handed over the $3 per person to get through the gate and drove the 8 miles in to the heart of the park. Upon stepping out of the car, I was immediately blinded. The forecast rang true, showcasing an unbridled sun. White Sands National Park boasts of 275 square miles of white gypsum sand, which, like snow, reflects light. Because of the 360 degree light sources, squinting and looking down did not help. Thoughtful Spencer suggested we buy me some sunglasses at their gift shop and generously drove us the 8 miles back to the entrance and shop, bought me glasses, and drove us back. We lathered our pale skin with SPF, dawned our effects, and headed for the ivory dunes.

The dessert was brilliant. Because gypsum sand is water soluble, these desserts are a rarity. This valley is in just the right place, that there are no rivers to carry the sand out to the ocean. Any water gets trapped in the basin and sinks in to the earth or pools up in lakes.
Only a few species of fast growing plants survive in the dunes. They also claim porcupine, fox and other critter footprints can be spotted in the morning sand. We spotted a few "bleached earless lizards" whilst we were hiking, and Spencer managed to catch one, after some scurrying around in the sand. They are much faster than the horny toads he had become accustomed to, and their camouflage superior. 
Although we drove there in pants, we ended up changing in to shorts. It was not a particularly hot day, but hiking in the reflecting sun did not take long to heat our bodies. Despite applying sunscreen twice, the double-duty exposure burnt our outsides.
After our short hike, we drove in to town for dinner, before heading back for the legendary white sand sunset. The white sand is difficult to photograph, tricking any camera's exposure in to wanting to tint the ground; supposedly, pictures during early or evening hours turn out better. I was excited to test this out, although the challenge in the daytime had been fun. You can see the difference in the sand's color, comparing the camera's automatic settings with the ones I manually adjusted.
The sunset did not disappoint. It was beautiful and worth staying for, albeit we did not get home until after 10pm. That is too late for us. Definitely a place worth seeing; just make sure to avoid going in the summer.

The visitor center sells sleds to use on the dunes. Random family sledding.

I can't recall if I've played with moon sand before, but that is what this sand reminded me of.

The sky was wondrous.

These bugs must somehow thrive, because we saw loads of them as we were settling in to take sunset pictures.

Sooo, I got this sweet new tripod that I love and had to take a picture of. Mostly because it was the only thing to focus on in the miles of white.
Setting up to capture the sunset.
One of the gazillion sunset pictures taken.
Pink hue.


Other pictures:

I love rainy days.
Our lovely cheesy apartment complex. Because, you know...we are by the ocean.
We have spotted dozens of fat, fuzzy caterpillars since we have gotten home from camping. 'Tis the season!

How do you not fall in love with this face? And those eyes...

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