Wednesday, October 28, 2009

White Sands National Monument

Well, it's about 3:00am and the wind is really whipping outside so of course I can't sleep! The forecast calls for 30 mph winds overnite, possibly getting up to 50 mph Wednesday (today!). So I decided to use my sleepless night to write a little in our blog.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was a perfect day to visit the White Sands National Monument. It's about 60 miles NE of Las Cruces on Hightway 70 and the weather was beautiful for walking around on sand dunes. This was our first day trip in this direction so the scenery was all new to us. We saw alot of the city of Las Cruces along the I know why it's the second largest city in the country!

We didn't realize how close the White Sands Missile Range is to Las Cruces...we drove right past it on our way to the dunes, so of course we had to stop and visit their museum. The WSMR is the largest military installation in the country and was originated for the research and development of guided even has a landing strip for the NASA shuttle. It's an Army base that hosts missile testing for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA, along with other government agencies and private organizations. The land that it sits on, 150 acres, was originally owned by a rancher and 90% of it was purchased by the military for the missile range back in the 1940s. The ranch still exists on the remaining land. Once we parked, we walked through the guard station with our driver's liscenses and Emma (they even let us take her into the museum!). It was a short walk to the Missile Park and Museum. We were able to take pictures of the Missile Park but only with the Organ Mountains in the background for security reasons.

After our detour, we continued our trip to the White Sands National Monument, which consists of 275 square miles of gypsum dune fields, and was about 30 miles further down Hwy 70. Ed has a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass which allows us free entrance into all National Parks guessed it...we got into the WSNM for free! Once inside, the sightseeing consists of a 16 mile round trip drive through the dunes, as well as stops at 4 trails that you can park the car and walk. The trail at the 1/2 way mark is the longest (about 4 1/2 miles total)...we had Emma with us and decided not to walk that one. We did walk the first trail along the drive, which was a 1 mile loop. Then we walked on a 1/2 mile boardwalk. At the 1/2 way point (8 miles), we parked a few times and walked up to the top of the was awesome! I felt like I was home looking at the landscape after a major snowstorm...only it was warm and the snow was fine sand! People are able to hike off the main strip, but they have to check in and out of the nature center, because it would be very easy to get lost in the dunes. We brought Emma to the top of one of the dunes and let her get off the leash, since we were the only people along that stretch...she loves the sand and definitely had her exercise for the day!

Emma and me The sand dunes

I think our next trip will be to the City of Rocks and the Gila Cliff Dwellers. We'll take the RV and stay at the City of Rocks State Park for a few nights and do our sight seeing from there. I have to watch the weather conditions for that trip as it's about 150 miles north of Las Cruces and we're getting into the snowy conditions in the higher elevations.

Getting sleepy now...maybe I can catch a few hours sleep before we're blown over from the winds!

Hugs and kisses to AJ, KB, LG, and LC!!!

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