Friday, May 10, 2013

White Sand–Lots of it!

We debated whether we should take a day trip over to the White Sands National Monument from Carlsbad, or if we should move the RV over that that area of the state for a few days before we moved to Albuquerque.

The routes between Artesia and Alamogordo crossed the mountains, and involved some grades and curvy roads,

Driving down from the peak at Cloudcroft

so we decided to just take the car over on a day trip.  We were glad we did!

Beginning to see the white sand in the distance

On the descent from Cloudcroft into Alamogordo, Tom noticed that the rear driver-side brake had gotten a lot hotter than the others, so we stopped at a repair shop and had our picnic lunch while the mechanics checked out the brakes.  Ultimately they decided that they were still safe, but that we should look into a brake job pretty soon.

Feeling a little better about the car, we continued on to White Sands National Monument, in the White Sands Missile Range.

White Sands Visitor Center

We stopped in the Visitor Center to watch the introductory video, where we learned that the expanses of white sand are actually gypsum.  The sand starts out as crystals trapped in the Tularosa Basin.  The crystals are broken down by rain and wind, and eventually carried by the wind to the dunes.

Expanse of white sand, with the San Andres Mountains in the distance

Access to the dunes is by driving on the Dunes Drive, 16 miles round-trip, including a loop through the area of larger dunes.  After the first few miles on pavement, the road soon becomes covered by sand . . . and you can see where they plow the road to keep it clear.

They plow the sand like snow

The volunteer in the Visitor center told us to try “sledding” on the bigger dunes at the far end of the drive, so we drove all the way to the back.  There are several picnic areas along the loop,

Almost looks like ice & snow!

This doesn't look like it's going to end well!

and we saw groups of people climbing the dunes and sledding down. 

We were glad we didn’t spend the $ on the sleds in the gift shop because, although they seemed to work pretty well for little kids, teenagers and adults weren’t having much luck with them!







Having visited Sleeping Bear Dunes and Silver Lake Dunes in Michigan several times in the past, we were expecting the dunes here to be bigger than they are.  The highest dune at White Sands is 60 ft., whereas the dunes in Michigan are hundreds of feet tall!

Not big dunes, but they're steep!

Climbing the dunesWe found a place to park, and climbed the dune – they weren’t tall, but they were pretty steep!

On top of the dunes

We all made it to the top!

On top of white Sands



The kids decided that they would give sledding a try, so Bryce went down to the car to see what he could find to use.  He came back with our old bike cover,   Trying to sled down the dune








but it didn’t work too well!

Nicolas giving it a try!

At the topEven with the overcast sky, the sand was still pretty blinding to our eyes, so we didn’t stay on the dunes for too long.




We all made our way carefully down the steep dune, and back to the car to continue our drive through the park.

Chunks of hardened gypsum

Most of the sand is formed into smooth, rolling dunes, but occasionally a clump of gypsum will absorb enough water to form a rock-like chunk of gypsum,    Vegitation holding the gypsum in place

and if it stays in one place long enough, vegetation will begin to grow on top of it.  Looks almost like hair, doesn’t it!?!

Vegetation in the dunes


We completed the drive and, after a quick stop at McDonald’s for sundaes, we made our way back across the mountains to Roswell where we went to church and got some pizza for dinner.  It was 9:30 by the time we got back to the RV, which made for a REALLY long day, but it was a fun one!

That’s the end of our adventure in southern New Mexico, and now it’s time to move north to Albuquerque!


  1. Great Photos...even looking at them was blinding. Can't imagine how bright it would be if the sun was out!!!

  2. It loked like a wonderful day of exploring. Bryce should be protecting his eyes with sunglasses because even just the light reflection off the sand will cause eye damage. Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. His sunglasses broke on the way there - what timing! We've got to pick him up another pair!

  3. That sandy place looks interesting, but I'm anxious to read your reports from Albuquerque!


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