Monday, January 31, 2011

White Sands National Monument

Welcome to White Sands National Monument! In the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico is a patch of land which is covered in large dunes of gypsum sand. To have that much gypsum sand is really cool, literally and figuratively!

It's literally cool because unlike the quartz-based sand which most people know about, gypsum does not efficiently turn the sun's energy into heat, so you can walk barefoot in the sand in the middle of summer without toasting your toes.

It's figuratively cool because seeing this much gypsum sand is very rare. Gypsum is water soluble, so most gypsum tends to get washed away by rains. However, here in the Tularoa Basin, there are no natural drainage paths, and so here the gypsum stays.

White Sands National Monument is located inside White Sands Missile Range, where the first atom bomb was tested at the Trinity site! They say that the sand glows at night. (No they don't, I'm just kidding about glowing sand!)

The dunes had a type of beauty which only dunes do. The sand was firm and fine. The dunes were tall. And that combination made it pretty fun to slide down! I stopped at the ranger station and picked up a rental sledding disk. It wasn't as fun as snow sledding, but I could do it in my shorts. :-)

When the rains do come, the waters pool up. The pools soak up the gypsum, but the solution has nowhere to go. So as the gypsum-saturated water dries, a type of crystallized gypsum called selenite gets formed.

Look a that beautiful selenite! Well, OK, maybe "beautiful" is a bit of a strong word, but it was still kind of neat. The selenite was a little bit rougher on my naked feet, but still better than a trek across hot pavement!

The plant life was austere, and beautiful too in a rugged kind of way!

After a fun morning of hitting the slopes of the dunes, I was hungry! Not too far away is a little town in New Mexico called Hatch. Hatch is heaven for chili pepper lovers, because they grow the best in the world! They are known throughout the world for their tasty, spicy peppers, which they celebrate every Labor Day with the Hatch Chili Festival. I just had to try some! I found this funky restaurant called the Pepper Pot for lunch.

Oh my goodness! This was the tastiest red sauce that I ever had on an enchilada! This was drink-it-straight-from-the-pot good! This was I'm-glad-I-don't-live-here-because-I-would-weigh-a-ton-from-eating-it-all-day-everyday good! This was dab-a-little-behind-your-ear-as-perfume good! This was give-me-red-sauce-instead-of-blood-transfusion good! I guess you could say that I liked it. I'll see you next time, if I can manage to leave this table... :-)