05 March, 2020

White Sands National Park, New Mexico - A Travelogue

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This post is the first part of our #NewMexico Family Travelogue. Read my post about the Top 5 places to visit in New Mexico, before this post. 

White Sands National park is around 500 miles from Colorado Springs. So, we decided to start driving from Thursday afternoon and reach Albuquerque by night and relax for the night before visiting the park. 

On the way to Albuquerque, we stopped at Santa Fe for dinner. If you love South Indian food, don't miss eating at 'Paper Dosa' restaurant in Santa Fe. We all enjoyed a hearty meal with Dosa and uthappam. Even the interior and decor are simple and pleasing. 

Paper Dosa

We reached Albuquerque by 10 Pm and relaxed for the night. The next morning after a full breakfast, we started our drive to White Sands. The drive is around 3.5 hrs from Albuquerque. So, we had lunch near Alamogordo, NM and reached around 2PM to White sands national park.

White Sands National Monument

White Sands is the world's largest Gypsum dune field. With white everywhere, even our eyes strained a bit. The dunes were white with soft sand. Fortunately, it was cloudy on that day with no/ less breeze. So, we had a lot of fun sledding on the sand.

White Sands national park is located in a dessert in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico. Around 100 million years ago, the water evaporated here leaving behind the deposits of salt and gypsum. 

As per Wiki,

The Sacramento and San Andres Mountains, with the Tularosa Basin between them, took shape approximately 250 million years ago. Giant upheavals in the Earth's crust distorted the land along with the gypsum deposits, forcing them high into the air about 70 million years ago. Rainfall and melted water came from the mountains causing the gypsum to percolate out and the concentrated solutions were washed down the mountainsides. The gypsum solution accumulated in Lake Lucero, the lowest part of the Tularosa Basin. Water in the lake does not have any means of escaping except by evaporation, which leaves behind thin layers of crystallized gypsum, or selenite. Weathering then reduced these crystals to fine, sandy grains. Winds then carried the grains farther up the basin, and the grains piled in steep dunes that often reach as high as 15 m (50 ft). The winds carved more dunes and, while at the same time, carried small amounts of the gypsum grains by distances of up to 9 m (30 ft) a year.

This constant movement still occurs today, and with the added alkaline and the little amount of rainfall makes it difficult for plants to grow here leaving the desert as desolate as it appears today.

The Visitor Center has many exhibits about the sand formation. $25 is the entry fee for each vehicle. You can get water only at the visitor center and, there is no availability of food and water inside the park. There are many picnic areas inside, so we can pack food and eat. Restrooms are available at the Visitor Center. The native plants of Chihuahuan dessert at the Visitor center are interesting!
Dunes Drive

We took the map, bought a sand sled, wax cube and started our drive. Dunes scenic drive is an 8-mile loop that goes into the heart of the White sands. There is sand on the road as well. At the starting of the scenic drive, there is a boardwalk built to walk and watch the dunes. We took some photos there, learned about desert life from the information posted.

Sand on the way too

The Rangers told us that the place where the drive takes a loop is good for sledding. With sunglasses ON, we walked, climbed on the dunes and enjoyed the sledding. Time went quickly and I would say, Kids easily spend 2 to 3 hrs on dunes by sledding.

Huge dunes of soft sand for sledding

We went on a cloudy day, but I suggest not to forget Cap, sunscreen, and sunglasses when you visit Sand dunes. Bring more water!!! There is an option to buy sleds and return them to get a few dollars back at the Visitor Center gift shop. We also bought a wax cube. By rubbing the wax cube on the sled, it slides better. 

These Picnic areas are so stylish!

We specifically wore bright color clothes just to look bright on a white background on all our photos. We had such a memorable experience and Kids enjoyed it a lot.

Our next stop was to Carlsbad. We took accommodation at White's city near Carlsbad Caverns national park. This decision was really helpful as the hotel was just 15 mins away from the entrance of the cave. So, it was easy for us to reach Caves early the next morning. 

Carlsbad is around 3.5 hrs from White Sands national park. We came through a route crossing a curvy road and mountains through Cloudcroft. The drive was beautiful and scenic. My next post will cover our travelogue on Carlsbad and the remaining New Mexico trip.

I hope you like my travelogue!

Until Next time,

Accommodations in Santa Fe:

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