Chase the Blue Dot

New Mexico: White Sands National Monument

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White Sands National Monument has been on my photography bucket list for a while now. We looked at the distance (1 hour, 40 minutes from our RV park) and decided that it would be good to visit on a weekday, instead of the weekend. Turns out we were right. There were already people waiting for the Visitor Center to open at 9 a.m. when we arrived, but it wasn’t too packed.

I got our National Park Passport date stamped, and we headed out to Dunes Drive. We decided to head for the end of the 8 mile drive, assuming others would stop at the pulloffs closer to the Visitor Center. Of course, we didn’t follow our own advice.  🙂

Note that it is important to follow the safety rules when visiting White Sands. And make sure you bring your sunscreen AND your sunglasses, year round. The white sand is blinding, and you don’t want to sunburn your eyes. As someone who *has* sunburned their eyes before, it’s not fun. It’s why I have polarized sunglasses that wrap around.

Interdune Boardwalk

Our first stop was the Interdune Boardwalk, which is less than a half-mile roundtrip walk on an elevated boardwalk. This keeps this fragile area from harm. Some of the images from this area:

The dunefield looking towards the west from the boardwalk.
The dunefield looking towards the west from the boardwalk.
About halfway down the boardwalk, this narrow valley was over to the northeast of the boardwalk.
About halfway down the boardwalk, this narrow valley was over to the northeast of the boardwalk.

There’s a nice shaded gazebo with seating for ranger led talks along the boardwalk, but it’s available for a quick rest out of the heat.

Shaded gazebo on the boardwalk.
Shaded gazebo on the boardwalk.

Once we finished at the boardwalk, we headed to the end of the loop, looking for dunes with minimal (or no) footprints. We found a couple of likely spots driving around, so we headed back to those once we made our circuit. The end of the 8 mile drive is a loop with several pulloffs.

Turnoff for Roadrunner Picnic Area

As you might guess, the picnic areas themselves are full of footprints all over the dunes. But as you turn to go down to the Roadrunner picnic area, there’s a small pulloff area with some pit toilets. We stopped there because we could see some dunes with minimal footprints. Time to explore!

Looking up the dune at a soapweed yucca flower, the New Mexico state flower.
Looking up the dune at a soapweed yucca flower, the New Mexico state flower.
Footprints in the sand.
Footprints in the sand.
A soapweed yucca flower.
A soapweed yucca flower.

After this stop, we headed back to the gift shop and visitor center for a short break to cool down. Even though we brought some water, it wasn’t nearly enough, so we purchased more.

Dune Life Nature Trail

After our break, we headed to the Dune Life Nature Trail. This is a one mile self-guided hike, but we really didn’t spend much time hiking. Several compositions caught my eye.

Looking way into the distance at the mountains.
Looking way into the distance at the mountains.
One of the dunes on the trail. I didn't even attempt to climb it.
One of the dunes on the trail. I didn’t even attempt to climb it.
Some yucca flowers in the foreground with foliage in the background.
Some yucca flowers in the foreground with foliage in the background.

While I was busy capturing images, Bob was capturing video:

Bob capturing video of the dunes.
Bob capturing video of the dunes.

Unfortunately, even though we had prepared, I was still getting overheated. To avoid heat exhaustion or heat sickness, we decided that we were done for the day. We’ll definitely be going back during a cooler month. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of seeing the dunes, now that I’ve been once.

 

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