We visited White Sands National Monument this past weekend. Wow... so, so pretty.
White Sands... aptly named because that's all it is... 275 square miles of white sand dunes in the middle of the desert in Southern New Mexico. It doesn't sound that amazing but when you see pictures and then actually see it in person, you know why it's a national monument and why people come from all over to see it. It is amazing. Beautiful, soft, white sand as far as your eye can see.
We learned this is the only place on earth with conditions just right to create giant gypsum sand dunes. For some reason - that makes it even cooler.
We planned our trip so we'd be there for sunset. The sunset was definitely one of the prettiest sunsets I've ever seen.
We spent the night in a nearby hotel (where we got almost ZERO sleep because Oliver cried most of the night. I felt like I should go around at breakfast and apologize to everyone.) We decided to visit White Sands again the next day and take advantage of the hotel's free sleds. It was fun, but much slower than sledding on snow so it was actually a little anticlimactic.
We also stopped by the visitor center and learned how animals and plant species have adapted to live in the white sand. It's funny how a little bit of knowledge can open your eyes and make you appreciate things so much more. Afterwards, Matt and I went around photographing fox paw prints and lots of plants because we were both so fascinated by them all. Haha. We're a good match at a place like this.
Botany Lesson: Plants have found three ways to survive in the ever changing sand dunes. (Some of the dunes move 30 feet a year).
(1) The yucca plant "stretches" as the dunes move over them - growing taller
when the dune passes the yucca can't support the weight and it collapses, dies, and re-sprouts at the base
(2) Others grow big root systems and pull water up through the sand. Since the sand is soluble, it hardens as the water passes it and forms mounds. After the sand dune moves on, the mounds remain and the plant continues to survive.
(3) and others grow super fast and then spread their seeds before they are buried.