Friday, July 10, 2015

White Sands National Monument

I can't recall what led me in the direction of White Sands National Monument, perhaps it was just on my way to Las Cruces, New Mexico. In Las Cruces I had plans for a free shower (thanks Planet Fitness membership) and getting a new phone (mine wasn't working since I dropped it at Big Bend). I arrived at 5pm and had a quick run through the park which is basically a drive down a long road. I saw a camping sign and went back to the visitor center just in time to get a $3 site for the night! That makes a happy me :). One unique thing about this campsite, if you find any blue plastic items in the sand, DON'T TOUCH! Next door is the White Sands Missile Range. While they've pretty much cleared everything from the monument area, they said you could find some blue plastic explosive pieces, but just leave it alone. In fact the morning before I arrived, the nearby highway was shutdown a couple hours while they did some practice runs. There's a stretch of road in the park that warns you not to stop your car. A little different :).

I had to hike out into the dunes about a mile and in a low spot among some dunes was my site. Fully secluded, it would be like I had the park to myself. I set up my tent quick as I could to try and still catch a ranger sunset walk.

We talked about the yucca, this being the soap tree yucca because the roots are used as soap. It's the only specific yucca name I remember :). There are lots of yucca varieties! The plant is fully utilized. The flowers and fruit are edible. The spikey leaves at the bottom of the flower are super strong and very pointy/sharp. You can peel off the tip and it is Mother Nature's needle and thread (already threaded). It's pretty impossible to break apart the fibrous threads with human hands/strength. It lives it's life to flower once and then it dies. All in the name of procreation.

We had a lizard join the group, got a little friendly and ran up one guy's leg (on the outside of his jeans), up his back and ultimately to his shoulder. It was crazy. The ranger said he'd never seen anything like it. 

That bush in the background, it's not a bush, but a cottonwood tree. It's been buried by the moving sands. 

A stink bug. You see them everywhere, especially the black against the white sand. They are the garbage men of the desert. They will eat anything. Watch out if they put their head down and butt up. They're about to spray stink :). For this reason, they don't have many predators either.

It was getting close to sunset and I had a mile hike to my campsite. I made it in time to settle in :).

Lots of stink bug prints around my flip flops in the morning.

I somehow woke up in time for sunrise, before the sun made it over the mountains in fact. It kind of blends in but you can see my tent and campsite in the middle of the grass clumps.

I guess I was pacing a lot while I waited for the sun. It was pretty cool too, below 60 I bet.

And here's the sun, kissing the dunes. The white sand is gypsum. It's different from regular sand that I generally think of. It didn't get you a nice shade of tan after walking in it or handling it. It's cool. Even in the middle of the day with the triple digit air temps, the sand is cool to the touch. And lastly, what I think is the coolest, it wicks moisture upwards. Dig anywhere an inch or two and you get wet sand. In the valley of the dunes or the top of the highest dune...wet sand :). So cool.

Time to pack up and move out!

So long White Sands. I will return one day. I think this would be a very fun day with kids. You can get sleds/saucers from the visitor center and go anywhere you want on the dunes. Looked like fun :).

I spotted this white, very camouflaged lizard on my hike out (center at edge of grass).

I did see lots footprints in the sand in the morning....and not human footprints. The ones with longer dashes and dots on the side are from the lizards.

There are the humans :). I've left my mark (until the wind blows).

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