Yesterday we visited White Sands National Monument and if you'd like to see some truly amazing photographic images you should google it. If you prefer really mediocre shots, well, then you've come to the right place!
White Sands is the largest gypsum sand dune field in the world. The gypsum sand that gives it the "white as snow" appearance comes from the surrounding mountains. Gypsum is a relatively soft mineral and it dissolves easily. Streams carry it down the mountain where it ends up in Lake Lucero. Evaporation then creates selenite crystals which are softer than a human fingernail. The strong winds characteristic of this area then erode the crystals into smaller and finer particles which are then carried on the wind to the dune field. That's all a fine geology lesson, but the real charm of White Sands for us was in the opportunity to go dune sledding.
Climbing to the top of the dunes is hard work, but unlike Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, these dunes are shorter. It makes for a shorter ride, but nonetheless thrilling. We were also blessed in that the wind did not really kick up until we had gotten a good 90 minutes or so of fun. Joel got a GoPro camera for Christmas so he shot some fun video for us, which I will attempt to post soon.
After the girls earned their Junior Ranger badges we took part in a Sunset Stroll, which is an educational ranger-led walk. The sun was dropping which creates way better light for shooting the dunes so I tried, but I realized I would have needed several days of hunting for the perfect location and time. Here's what I did get: