After traveling to 8650 feet above sea level to the town of Cloud Croft, we made the long decent to Alamogordo. The views on the way down were beautiful, but it was a bit scary with a rig as big as ours (at least I was nervous.) In Cloud Croft there was snow on the ground. As we crested the mountain and started down the other side you could look out over the Tularosa Basin. We could see the glistening white sand even though we were more than 30 miles away.
We decided to camp at Boot Hill RV Park. It was not the cheapest place, but it is very new and the people were so nice. They gave us sleds and wax to use to make our trip to the sand dunes more fun and told us to use their showers when we got back so we wouldn’t get sand in ours (which we did.) They were large very clean family showers.
We quickly unhooked and drove a little over 20 miles to White Sands National Monument. We stopped at the visitor center to watch a very informative documentary on how the dunes were formed. At one time this area was covered by sea water. At the bottom of the sea were gypsum(a type of salt) deposits from the sea water. When the sea dried up the earth’s crust pulled apart and certain parts of the land were pushed up to form the mountains. Other parts dropped down to create a flat area (Tularosa Basin.) Gypsum dissolves in water. When it rains in the mountains, the gypsum dissolves and is carried to the lowest point in the basin. All the hot weather dries up the water and the gypsum appears as a soft crystal. It is so soft you can scratch it with your fingernail. Wind and ice break the crystals into smaller pieces until they are grains of sand. The wind blows the sand into big piles.
It is amazing how plants and animals have adapted to live here. Several species of animals have evolved white colorations in order to be camouflaged. Other animals come out at night and spend most of their days in burrows. Dessert plants have a hard time living here because of the always shifting sand. Yuccas grow elongated stems to keep their leaves above the sand. Cottonwood tree trunks are sometimes buried and all you can see is there branches peeking out of the sand.
Well now that we know how the dunes are formed and who lives here it is time for some fun! We took off our shoes, waxed our sleds and had a great time plummeting down the dunes. The sand was cold, but the sun was warm!