White Sands

November 19, 2012

Last morning in Socorro. We were up before 8 am, packed up and had breakfast. We paid our hosts for the week and then headed out. We had decided to take the long way back to Albuquerque by going south to Las Cruces and then east to the White Sands National Monument. It took a couple of hours to get to Las Cruces and then another hour to White Sands.

Our apartment in Socorro

Our apartment in Socorro

On US Highway 70 just before White Sands there was a Border Control inspection station. We pulled up and the inspector said “You’re both US citizens?” And we said “No, we’re Canadians.” Which took them a bit by surprise. So we had to dig out our passports to show them.

Rocket model

Rocket model

White Sands had a very pretty visitor centre, but we just stopped in to buy some cold drinks before we headed into the park. White Sands National Monument is amazing. The sand dunes are white because they are made of gypsum, and they are the whitest sand dunes you could possibly imagine. On our way to the picnic area we stopped at the information signs along the road which explained different aspects of the dunes. Lunch was our usual meal of rye crisps and sliced meat.

In the gypsum desert

In the gypsum desert

We ended up spending quite a bit of time at the park. The weather was warm and sunny and walking on the dunes was fun. Some sections were hard-packed and others were soft. The overall texture was much like normal sand dunes, but with the gypsum we couldn’t boot-ski down them. Kids were using plastic saucers to slide down some of the steeper dunes – wasn’t this Monday? Weren’t they supposed to be in school? But anyway they were having a great time.

Gypsum cliff

Gypsum cliff

To find some pristine gypsum we started out on the Alkali Flat trail, at the far end of the road. The views over the dunes were incredible – it was like walking across Greenland without being cold. We walked along the trail for a while, following the marker posts, but we didn’t want to walk the whole five-mile loop so after a while we turned around and retraced our steps back to the car.

Windblown tracks in gypsum

Windblown tracks in gypsum

It was farther to Albuquerque than we had thought, and it took us four hours to get there. We didn’t quite know how to get to the hotel, but we knew it was right by the airport. So we drove through the airport terminal and out again and sure enough there it was. We checked in and then went out for dinner. There was a restaurant just across the parking lot called Village Inn, so we just went there. Not the best restaurant in the world, but it filled us up and the service was the fastest we’d ever seen.

November 18: Mountain Birding

November 20: Sandia Crest

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