White Sands, NM

Ju and I did an interesting thing today. We went to White Sands, New Mexico.

Not having a map, I typed in our destination in Google Maps: White Sands, New Mexico.

Simple enough, right?

Not so. At one point on the road (which should take between 1 and a half and 2 hours from Hueco Tanks), we saw a sign that said “Road Dead Ends at White Sands Missile Range”. I figured the park would be before the missile range.

Wrong! At the end of state highway 213, there is indeed only the White Sands Missile Range. Ju and I felt like dumbasses pulling in. In fact, we turned around twice—once when we realized we were at the wrong place, and once when Ju insisted it made more sense to ask what to do than to turn around and drive back an hour.

So we moseyed on in and explained the problem to the police officer at the entrance (who had definitely seen us turn around not once but TWICE).

This man knew that turning around to get to the White Sands National Monument would take us around two hours. So he called a police escort to take us across the military base and to highway 70, where we had about twenty miles left to get to the national park.

Here, according to google maps, is what we thought we should do.

white sands google maps

You can see how we left from Hueco (letter A) and went straight up to White Sands Missile Range (letter B), where we were then entirely blocked from going to highway 70, which leads up to the national park. The NM policeman drove us across those couple of miles of protected military land, and avoided us doing a two-hour or more detour.

We felt so stupid and so grateful at the same time. I think the New Mexico police made a good impression on Ju.

Eventually we ended up at White Sands National Monument, which was definitely a world-class sight.

The visitors center, built by the WPA during the Great Depression, is in adobe style and has lots of great information about the ecosystem of the dune, which is only about 10,000 years old.

Once you proceed into the park (you pay $3 per person), there’s a 16-mile scenic drive and a couple of hikes, one of one hour and one of three hours. We stopped at the 1-hour hike to walk around the dune.

This video is about two minutes long and shows part of the drive, before the road disappears beneath a thin coating of sand.

Looking back at the car from one of the dune walks

Looking back at the car from the dune walk

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The walk took almost an hour and followed a little imaginary fox around the dune. Predators any larger than foxes can’t survive on the dune.

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The sand is actually gypsum-based and is super fine.

A yucca plant

Yucca plants try to keep growing as the dune does, and when the dune moves on, they’ve grown so much that they just collapse.

These plants manage to hold on to a bunch of sand even as the dune itself moves on.

These plants manage to hold on to a bunch of sand even as the dune itself moves on.

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Me next to an extra tall yucca plant

Me next to an extra tall yucca plant

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