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05

Mar

white sands

we pulled into the roadrunner rv park in alamagordo new mexico yesterday at around 3pm. here’s the good news: hot showers!!! can I get and amen? the water was hot and the soap never smelled so good. here’s the even better news, wi-fi access. we had a chance to delete about 200 spam emails and deal with some business. then we hooked up with my parents and were able to web cam. it was cool and the first time I’ve tried something like that. the world is becoming more and more connected. once wireless access and compression barriers are broken, there will be very few limits. I think there are very few limits now actually, I just think access is being spoon fed to everyone at the moment.

this morning was cold, cold, COLD… I think this was the coldest morning so far. “welcome to the new mexico desert” was what the RV park attendant told me. we decided this would be a good morning to eat breakfast out. ? so we headed out and found a denny’s… twenty-four hour goodness… except they were closed for “maintenance” and the truck was in a really tight parking lot. fun, fun, the adventure never ends. so I pulled a dukes of hazard style hairpin turn and got out of the parking lot. lucky for us the waffle shoppe was open right next door. mmm… mmm… the place was hoppin’. I think in these small desert towns there is probably only one or two places to eat breakfast, so it’s kinda like a church gathering, everybody bumps into everybody else. lot’s of “hey slim” and “hola jose” comments going on. we were clearly out-of-towners. quick glances and whispers. news travels fast in a small town. and I think they noticed the moving truck, probably trying to figure what was going on. so I had a Belgian waffle, two eggs and hash browns with a relished cup of coffee. nancy had a vegetarian omelet with toast, hash browns and a glass of water, of course. I do have to mention when I ordered the waitress looked at me and said “you don’t want any meat???”, with a certain disbelief. hahaha. so breakfast was good and we headed out for white sands.

my shadow at white sands

white sands was very white, as promised. the terrain changed very rapidly as we entered. all around alamagordo and just outside the entrance gate, it’s the usual desert scrub brush and cacti. soon after entering the gate you start to see very high mounds of white sand with different kinds of vegetation thickly clinging to it. the further you make it into the park the more the vegetation thins out until only the most rugged survive. the landscape turns into an undulating sea of pure white sand dunes piled as high as thirty to fifty feet or more. in the depressions between dunes small eco systems of vegetation develop. some shallow pools of water also surface in these areas feeding the local system. my first hike out into the dunes was a big adjustment. I was immediately blinded by the sun reflecting off the white surface. it was disorienting actually. I had to stop and close my eyes to stop the pain. I also noticed how dry my throat was after only one quarter mile of hiking. but the seductive beauty of the dunes were not to be denied. it was the largest expanse of open dunes I had ever seen. somehow the rugged desolation and pure white expanse was liberating. the external emptiness forces you back inwards. I see why many religious texts have stories of enlightenment in the desert. I thought my feet would be burned by the hot sand, but once I tested it out, it was actually quite cool, even downright cold at times. i think it’s partly due to the white color of the sand reflecting the heat instead of absorbing it, and partly the cool water hidden below the surface in the depressions. the nights get sub-zero here and the sand and water are slow to change states. it’s an interesting juxtaposition. at the heart of the sands we took a long hike out into the interior. we used a snow peak mountain off in the distance as a navigation point back. once crossing a few mounds it becomes extremely disorienting. everything looks exactly the same. I see how it could be extremely dangerous getting lost here. we spent about two hours out in the sands before we made it back. we both downed water liberally and felt much better for it.

nancy at white sands

we headed out of the park around 3pm and headed for our overnight destination, Aguirre Springs campground about an hour or two south. the campground is located at a much higher elevation in the mountains. the mountains separate the city of Las Cruses from the white sands area. I didn’t mention it before, but the white sands national monument is actually located in the middle of the white sands missile test range. basically it’s a huge expanse of land with natural mountain barriers on all sides that contains a large military base and open expanse of land for missile testing and fighter pilot training, etc. there was another big boarder patrol check point here. we went through one of these in Arizona as well. it’s scary stuff. sniffing attack dogs, agents with lots of guns, large signs with “threat level high”, etc, etc. they ask lots of questions and see how nervous you are in response. I’m not sure this was all just border patrol related, I’m sure homeland security was at work as well. anyone coming close to a big military complex must make the military nervous these days. well, I don’t want to go off, but if we avoided this disastrous course of action our country has pursued over the past years things might not have to be like this. we also need to address immigration issues as a nation. taking harsh border control measures and xenophobic actions are only going to make things worse for us in the end.

back to Aguirre springs now. as we climbed up the narrow road to the campground we saw only snow covered peaks with our destination at the base. oh boy! another cold night? the terrain was beautiful, large rock boulders and cacti with trees and various other shrub plants. the mountains were towering in the background covered in snow, a beautiful place. at three dollars per night, it’s a bargain. to my surprise the temperature was ware and there was almost no wind. from the high elevation you could see the wide open country below starting from the white sands missile testing facilities stretching out to the vague outlines of white dunes in the far distance. as night fell you could see the glow of city lights in alamagordo far off in the distance. tomorrow we leave for the Guadalupe mountains national park in texas.

 One Response 

  1. Hi DavidGreat photos!! My ftirovae was the first one the blue sky and clouds with the sand dune just make for a very interesting shot!!!I like photography myself but still not so good at it. Most of mine tend to be from Tibet rallies here in NYC so each year they seem to improve. Just hard to do with constant changing lighting and always on the move to the next rally point HA HA but they do improve as I learn new tricks!!Dave

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