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White Sands National Monument

After leaving the Gila NF, we tried unsuccessfully to find our way into the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. This is a huge NM in three separate pieces clustered around Las Cruces. We were seeking access to the portion that is immediately southwest of Hatch, NM.

Information subsequently obtained from the BLM indicates that there actually are access roads into the monument, but I could not locate any of them, as none are on my roadmap. In fact, even though the BLM says there are numerous access roads, their map doesn’t show any, either, nor does it give any directions for finding them. And there's not a sign to be seen on the highway, either. Is this another tissue of lies foisted onto the American Public by the national government? And why would they do such a thing? Alien burial ground? Nuclear wasteland? Oh wait. They don't hide those; they build picnic sites over them. 

Ultimately, I blame my Associate Navigator for my failure to find my way into the monument. I’m really beginning to question his competence. However, since I signed him up for the job without his consent, I guess I am getting my just deserts. I should have known he was lying about his qualifications.

After we gave up on Organ Mtns/Desert Peaks, we headed for White Sands Nat’l Monument, which hangs off the White Sands Missile Range like a half-forgotten appendage. We wanted to camp there…my son and I stayed there many years ago (like 30), so I thought we could. However, we were informed at the gate that there was a ‘test’ of some sort the next day, so no one could stay in the monument that night. I assume the military was planning to bomb it into oblivion, in which case these photos are among the last surviving records of what it used to look like. There were several miles of road through the monument on which we were not allowed to stop (a ‘safety zone’) so I had to shoot a bunch of pix from my moving vehicle.  This made us very unpopular with the other tourists, as it necessitated moving at a slow pace. It also resulted in a lot of useless photos of my exterior rear view mirror.

In case you are wondering, the sand in White Sands is truly white. Apparently it comprises the largest collection of gypsum dunes in the world (or possibly some other impressive area such as the western hemisphere…I forget). Anyway, the gypsum dunes are plopped down on top of other, normal desert soil sort of like whipped topping on a pie, so it’s quite interesting to drive along on the brownish soil and suddenly see these snow-white dunes looming over the road.

The Soaptree Yucca were in bloom at the monument

This is called the 'inter-dunal' area, where there are many patches of regular desert amongst the dunes, and more plant growth on the dunes themselves.

As you continue down the road, you reach the 'heart of the dunes', which is all dune with less vegetation.

The sand was soft, like beach sand, and it looked a lot like snow in the areas without vegetation.

The dunes are always moving because the wind blows the gypsum around. 

The sand actually did sparkle like crystalline snow. Although this is a poor photo, you can kinda see sparkles here and there.