Monday, April 28, 2014

White Sands National Monument

(El Paso, TX) Hi 75 Lo 58 – It was still windy today, but not nearly as windy as it’s been the last three days. All this wind is supposed to be out of this area by tomorrow, thank goodness.

Today we took a road trip north to White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, about 95 miles from here. On the way we enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we paralleled this mountain range east of Alamagordo. (Click on photos to enlarge them.)

We didn’t leave until about 10:30 this morning, so by the time we got to Alamagordo we were ready for some lunch. We wanted to try some southwestern cuisine, so we stopped at a small local place called Eddie’s Burritos. We were intrigued by a type of meat listed on the menu board called barbacoa. We asked what it was and we were told it’s “beef cheek.” That’s right, the inside of a cow’s cheek. Ewww! But the burritos we had (with normal chicken and beef) were excellent.

After lunch we continued on our trip, heading west on U.S. 70. Just west of Alamagordo is Holloman AFB, so we took a short detour to check it out. Then we went another 10 miles or so and the white sands appeared on the horizon.

We arrived at the White Sands National Monument Visitors Center, a pretty pueblo style building.

We saw a 17-minute video about White Sands and looked at the few exhibits they had. We learned that the sand is not quartz like regular desert sand, but it made of gypsum. How this beautiful area of pure white sand in the middle of a scrubby, vegetation-filled desert came to be is too complicated for me to describe here, but if you’d like to know more about it you can click here.

We got back in the car and drove into the park for the eight-mile loop that starts out on the edges of the dunes area. (Admission is $3.00 per person, free if you have a National Parks Access or Golden Age pass.)

The road was paved for the first couple of miles…

… then the pavement ended and the road consisted of a wide plowed path.

There is quite a bit of vegetation in the sand until you get to the inner dunes, but it makes for some very pretty scenery.

Eventually we got to the ever shifting inner dunes, where there was very little vegetation, just lots of pure white sand.

We couldn’t resist pulling over to “play” in the sand. It’s very soft and powdery, which kind of surprised us.


We have to include a couple of “we were there” photos. Smile

It was an awesome experience to see this very unusual natural phenomenon. It was so cool to see all that sparkling white in the middle of the brown, scrubby desert.

White Sands National Monument is actually on the property of the White Sands Missile Range, which covers a huge portion of southwestern New Mexico. The controlled access portion of the range is on NM Hwy 213, which offers a shorter route back to El Paso. We have military ID cards, so we decided to take that route back.

The base is in the shadow of this impressive looking mountain range.

Fortunately we didn’t have to go through those mountains as the road curved and we ran parallel to them, and through the main gate of the base.

I’ll bet you won’t see this sign on the driver license exam. Tank crossing.

We had one more treat before we got home. There’s a loop road around El Paso (375 Loop), and a 10-mile portion of it connects U.S. 54 with I-10 on the north side of town. I’ve been warned not to take this road while towing our RV, and I now know why. It’s called the Trans-Mountain Highway, and it goes through the Franklin Mountain range, which are the mountains we see out our back window. It’s a thrill ride of steep ascents and descents.

There are some spectacular views of the valley below.

We had no reason to take this road, except is was fun! Smile

We got back home around 6pm, ready to relax from our active and very fun day. We have nothing planned for tomorrow, so it may be a down day for us.

To update you on our slide issue, we’re leaving Wednesday for Tucson and we’ll be staying at the Davis-Monthan AFB Famcamp. I made an appointment for Thursday morning at an RV service place right outside the base. We’ll leave everything hitched up Wednesday night and leave early Thursday morning for the repair shop. Hopefully they’ll do a good job of troubleshooting the problem and fix it properly. We’re crossing our fingers!

See you tomorrow.


Jim and Sandie said...

We really enjoyed White Sands also. Just really one of those amazing places. Good luck with the slide issue on Thursday.

Paul and Marti Dahl said...

We stayed one night at Holloman AFB. They only had dry camping sites available, they don't have any restrictions on length of stay so many of the active duty folks live there year round in RVs.

Sandra Merrikin said...

One of our favourite spots to visit. Great place for photography!

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

Thanks for the flashback:))

Donna W. said...

your idea of fun and mine take a different road. I hate driving in the mountains. only time I have ever felt comfortable was when I drove my mach I. it held road so good and so manueverable. I actually get sick to my stomach when we are pulling the rv thru mountains. I'll tell you the story of me and the mountains in Chattanooga sometime. The sand is beautiful. guess it is lighter than normal sand because of the gypsum?
hope the slide problem turns out to be minor

Phyllis said...

I was wondering about the winds.

Bob and Jo said...

We need to get to white sands and the trinity site someday. Good luck with your slide repair.