Wednesday, November 30, 2011

White Sands New Mexico

White Sands is a dazzling place. The gypsum sands there are highly reflective so you will definitely want to bring your sunglasses and a hat. We were up early to try and get into park before the sun took all the magic out of the dunes and turned it into mother natures version of the "easy bake oven." (Ok, so "I" was up early and my brother was a good sport about keeping up with whatever crazy times I decided to set.) We managed to get there not long after they opened the gates so it all worked out ok. Truth be told, though, given how I was feeling, jello legs and all, I probably would not have fared any better on my own. Quite possibly even worse!

We took the main roads straight to the back area of the park where the larger dunes are and immediately struck out on foot to get into the heart of it all. It was nippy in the shade of the dunes, but in the sun things were already heating up nicely.  

Be forewarned about the conditions: you will get sand in your shoes. And your shorts. On your skin and in your hair. Pretty much everywhere. Walking up the dunes reminded me a bit of trudging through powder snow, which I have only experienced a few times, and never on such a scale. It was tricky. To hike upwards along the dunes you have manage your footsteps in a way that doesn't completely waste your efforts and still provide you with at least a little forward motion. If you adopt a standard hiking style you will dig deep postholes at close intervals all the way to the top. If you side-step along the edges of the sand ridges (my favored method) you will not dig quite as deep with each step, but it's still not easy. 

We had to trudge for a half an hour or so to find some locations where there were relatively few footprints left by others. Managed a few nice images. All in all it was hard work, but there were some very cool views for our efforts. 

Within a few short hours of our arrival it got downright warm, bordering on hot. So we made our way out and stopped by the gift shop. Lots of great stuff in there, and the prices were reasonable enough. 

Next stop, some petroglyphs as we make our way northward.

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