A visit to White Sands has been on my radar for quite a while and
today we managed to check it off the list.
Not to say that we won't be back - we sure would like to come back for early \
morning or late afternoon photography.
After taking the Doods for a walk, Kate and I hit the road around noontime
for the 1 hr drive to the White Sands Visitor Center.
The White Sands Dune Field is the largest Gypsum Dune Field in the world.
Gypsum is the material used in Sheetrock and plaster for its light white color.
The gypsum is leached out of the surrounding mountains by rainfall, it flows down
into the valley which is surrounded by mountains and shaped like a bowl.
It is here that the water evaporates, and the crystalized gypsum flakes (called selenite) are picked up
by the prevailing winds and deposited on the west side of the dune field.
As the wind continues to move the dunes - as much as 30' per year,
the gypsum is ground down to an almost talc like consistency.
After watching a film about the park, its flora, and fauna, we then headed up
the Dune Road towards the interior of the park.
The white color of the sands gives the park an "Other-Worldly" appearance at times.
We stopped at numerous locations and climbed the dunes for unique vantage points.
Due to the fine consistency of the grains, and the water soluble nature of the gypsum,
the dunes were somewhat firm and easy to walk upon.
A view of our truck from one point to give some perspective.
One of the intersting facts about the park is about how the plants and animals have evolved
to survive within this unique ecosystem.
The plants need to adapt to the constant movement of the dunes.
The Yucca will grow on the surface and as the dune increases in depth, it must
continue to grow to keep its head above the surface.
Sometimes the dune will stop growing and recede.
Below a Yucca seed pod is extended above the plant.
What often happens, as in the plant below, the Yucca continues to grow taller and taller to remain
above the dune, then the dune moves on, the sand recedes,
and the plant cannot hold itself upright and falls back upon itself.
Its all a part of life on the dunes.
Soon it was time to head back to Las Cruces for our final night,
and my Sunday Night Broncos Game.
We really enjoyed our visit here and look forward to an encore one day.
Tomorrow we put the bus back in motion westbound towards the setting sun.
Our destination is the Tucson Arizona area where we will basically remain
thru New Years.
Next stop - Catalina State Park.