January 3 – January 4, 2017.
To visit White Sands we stayed at the Oliver Lee campground ten miles south of Alamogordo, NM. The campground itself is interesting. It is at the base of Dog Canyon, where water flows year round. There is 4,000 year old evidence of visits by Native Americans. And the canyon was used as a base by raiding Apache parties until the 1870â€™s. We walked a short bit of the trail that leads up the canyon.
The next day we went to the White Sands National Monument. The story here started over 300 million years ago, when Pangea was the Earthâ€™s only continent. This area was under the Permean Sea. When the sea receded, layers of gypsum were left behind. Over time the land rose, mountains pushed up, and water from rain and snow dissolved the gypsum. The gypsum drained down to shallow Lake Lucerno, where it formed into soft, yellow selenite crystals. The weather eventually breaks these crystals down into white sand. The prevailing southwest winds blow the sand into a unique snow-white, 275 square mile desert. The desert itself is only 7 to 10 thousand years old, so the first human visitors here may have seen some of the huge dunes forming.
The dunes are in constant motion. The plants here must survive one of two ways: grow and reproduce quickly, or grow tall enough to reach sunlight when the dune rises around you. And the animals? In the short time this desert has existed, natural selection has favored mice, lizards, and some 30 species of moths who are whiter than their kin outside the desert.
**** All pics are click to enlarge.