Feb 21, 2014

Natural Wonder- White Sands National Monument, a white heaven!



I have seen black sand in Hawaii, pink sand in Utah, normal sand in Pacific coast and also Indian coast then I saw white sand in New Mexico. Well, not on any ocean or lakeside beach but, the wave like gypsum sand dunes in the middle of New Mexico! I had seen tons pictures of this landform prior to my visit but, when I was standing there on one of the highest dunes looking 360 deg around me none of those pictures including the pictures I have posted here make any justice to the beauty of this natural wonder!

Sunset at White Sands National Monument New Mexico
Fiery sunset over cool white dunes

Well, eye blinding afternoons, magical evenings and heavenly sunsets at the largest gypsum dunes in the world! Located within 13-miles from the nearest town Alamogordo in New Mexico at an elevation of 4235ft the dunes emerge from Tularosa basin surrounded by the San Andreas and Sacramento mountain ranges. 

White Sands National Monument New Mexico
My footsteps and my tiny car
How the white sand and why only here? In simple- The mountains surrounding Tularose basin have layers of shale and limestone. The gypsum in the limestone dissolves in the rain water flowing into the Tularose basin. This basin doesn't have any river flowing out of it making the water evaporate leaving behind the gypsum crystals in the basin. Wind breaks the crystals into tiny grains of sand to create beautiful wave like every shifting dunes. Gypsum crystals do not heat up under sun so much and one could walk on the sand even in the summer.

The saltation process- basically the moving sand with wind, creates beautiful patterns of ripples over the dunes which makes every photograph clicked a masterpiece. The desert plants emerging out of the different types of dunes are another feast for photographers. Taking pictures of my own footprints is one of my must-do compositions! And that is my little rented car for the trip. 

White Sands National Monument New Mexico
The monument can be enjoyed by car or by foot. the 16-miles Dunes Drive is extremely scenic that takes you to the heart of the monument where the dunes are high. The monument has five hiking trails of which I did only one- the most beautiful Alkali Flat Trail! It is a loop trail starts at the end of the dunes drive and goes across the dune field up to the mountains. 

Climbing up the high dunes and sledging down on the other side was fun. The kids enjoy it the most! The ripple patterns are numerous because the winds were strong. There were not much hikers around. I met 5 hikers and 3 photographers during a whole day trip. Many visitors just look around from the car itself and spend time near the picnic areas only. I did little bit of off-trail hiking too until sunset. As the sun started sinking towards the mountains the heat diminished drastically and the eye-blinding dunes turned into a magical landscape.

I was hoping to see Pavla Blanca, the Ghost of White Sands which is believed to be visiting the monument just after the sunset! Well, they are eddies of white dust shining in the fading sunlight. But, the Native Americans of New Mexico believe that it is a ghost of a Spanish explorer's fiance. The explorer was attacked and wounded by the Apache warriors, he died while escaping and was buried under the white sands. His fiance who was out in search of him was never seen again. Her ghost haunts the white sands and she comes during twilight with the sweeping breeze in her white wedding gown!

Well, after I watched a fiery sunset the monument staff didn't allow me to stay there for long to look for Pavla Blanca. I was the last photographer to be pushed out with the blaring siren behind my car. Wonder why? The national monument is surrounded by military installations and so visitors not allowed inside the monument after sunset. When missile testings are scheduled the monument will have unexpected closures. The debris of testings sometimes fall inside the monument premises. (From Wiki)- It seems the application to declare the monument as a World Heritage Site was declined because of the surrounding military operations!!

White Sands National Monument New Mexico
Alkali Flat trail

The park has an entrance fee and ask for information at the visitor center. The visitor center building itself is interesting with its Spanish pueblo-adobe architecture. Though the park officials and brochures stress on "don't hike alone" I had no choice! What they say is true! The dunes look almost same in all directions if you get lost :) It is better to take extra water and energy bars with you. Well, safety first!

It is not so difficult place, even if it were- going through any difficulty is worth to see these magical dunes! A white heaven on earth!

---

Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts and constructive feedback. If you have enjoyed this article then connect with Google+, Twitter, Facebook or subscribe through email for more exciting updates!

Related articles-
Landscape Gallery from Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Goblin Valley in Utah
Goosenecks on San Juan river, Utah
American South-West: A road trip
State Parks of Utah

This post is linked to Skywatch Friday.

If you want pictures please ask me :)
---
Creative Commons License
Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

33 comments:

  1. this is extra ordinary. i always enjoyed your red rocks posting, but this white sand dunes is very special too. hope someday i can find my way here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Those dunes are really stunning! And they really are white! You've captured that area beautifully. Now I want to go!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Linnea! Yes, they are very white :) Yes, everyone has to see it at least once!

      Delete
  3. It looks like a dreamland to me!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beautiful!! I've been once, quite a while ago, and would really like a return visit. Like you said, sunsets on the gypsum dunes are really magical!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Yes, this place definitely gets many return visitors!

      Delete
  5. What amazing photos and so incredible and surprising to be found nowhere near water. The first shot is absolutely breath taking.

    ReplyDelete
  6. That is an interesting landscape. Looks gorgeous. The first picture is spectacular.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wonderful shots, the light and the colours are amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Beautiful photographs. White Sands is on my bucket list.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Gorgeous photos - that's something I'd love to see.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Would love to come here some day. That looks amazing. White sands... STILL on my list. XD

    ReplyDelete
  11. Amazing scenery and skies. Very dramatic and beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Magnificent photos… how fortunate you are to travel as you do, and how fortunate are we to come along for the ride through your photos and descriptions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Laura. Glad you loved the pics and description here!

      Delete
  13. I love the white of the sand and the shadows they make and also love the foot prints in the sand. Have a great weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Margaret! Glad you like the post!

      Delete
  14. Like seeing a fantasy land. Thanks for sharing those fantastic white sands.
    Visit u back here :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lina! You are always welcome to my blog! Join me virtually on my journeys around the world!

      Delete
  15. I really envy your courage of exploring extra-ordinary landscapes alone! I wonder what happens if something happens to you without anybody in the vicinity! But i am so thankful for the knowledge you share to us. If you want an additional sand color in your memory sand collection, visit the Sharjah Dessert in Dubai or UAE. Their sand is red-orange and you will see belly dancers in the dessert when the sun sets.

    ReplyDelete

I would appreciate to have your precious thoughts, suggestions and kind encouraging words in comments. Please do not include self-promotional links.I am encountering some problems because of these links and hence I may not publish them.