Yesterday, we took a trip to White Sands National Monument. The sands are made of gypsum, not your usual silica. That’s why they’re white instead of tan. My daughter joked about how if it snowed there, no one would be able to tell the difference. Yes, we do sometimes get snow in the desert, but it rarely lasts the whole day at ground level. It can stick to the mountains though.
First, we went to the visitor’s center where we learned about the local geology and wildlife. Then we went out to the dunes and studied the fastest way to slide our butts down a steep sandy incline on a saucer sled.
Climbing up a twenty foot wall of sand made my heart pound. White Sands has an elevation of roughly 4000ft, which doesn’t sound like much until you try to do something like that. My first run down the hill was fast enough that I had to close my eyes to protect them from the sand that I was kicking up. I ended up about ten feet into the hard packed parking area. The other runs after that were less impressive.
Most of the time, I sat at the top of the dune with my toes buried in the cool sand and watched my daughter play with the other kids and run and slide around. It was like going to the beach, but without the ocean. They slid down the hill, dug holes and made sand castles. The sand is moist if you dig down far enough.
The weather was perfect, slightly cool, not windy, and a layer of clouds cut down on the usual glare. Don’t go there in the summer unless you enjoy baking and being sunburned from above and below.