This week, I was in New Mexico again. But this time I was down south in Las Cruces. For those of you not familiar with the area, Las Cruces is the first sizable town in New Mexico when traveling west on I-10 from El Paso. It is home to the New Mexico State Aggies. Myself and a few other coworkers decided to take in a little of the local attractions while in town. We first visited a farmers market. To much disappointment, the market did not have many participants and therefore made for an outing similar to that of a visit to the local flea market, but with New Mexican fleas. I was not impressed and not very enthusiastic about trying something else.
Those local to the area endorsed a visit to the White Sands National Monument just over an hour away. The monument is located adjacent to the military's missile test facility. We were also advised that the highway leading to the monument is closed twice a week for a few hours for testing. My interest was definitely piqued by now with the chance at witnessing a missile test, even if from afar. So after work on Tuesday, our band of six headed for the White Sands. Unfortunately, we did not see any activity at the missile test range, but we were stopped by border patrol agents ensuring that all in our party were American citizens. The illusion of security is omnipresent. We made it just in time for the 7 o'clock sunset ranger guided tour.
The experience was surreal. At one point, we were driving along the highway in the middle of your typical New Mexican landscape. There was brown openness covered in brush and dotted with the occasional power line. You can see the Organ Mountains in the distance, famous for their unusual profile that resembles a pipe organ. All of a sudden you begin to see snow drifts! No they aren't snow drifts, but they are so white. What else could be that white? Believe it or not gypsum sand is that white. Yes, it is the same gypsum that is used in drywall or gypsum board as it is sometimes called. It is super fine and highly alkaline. The sands are the remnants of a prehistoric lake bed. Needless to say, I was impressed. The dunes are perfect for jumping. The sand compacts well due to its small particle size and partial solubility. So you are able to run right up to the edge and jump off. The sand on the leeward side is soft and comforts your fall. We had so much fun that myself and one other individual went back last night. We hiked further into the dunes. The further you go the more desolate the landscape becomes. Signs of live are few and far between. It feels like another planet. The contours in the ground caused by wind and rain, the sand's contrast against the intensely blue sky, and the lack of vegetation is alien to most. If you get the chance to visit. I highly recommend it. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised, but be sure to bring plenty of water and maybe a sled.