Thursday, April 14, 2022

White Sands National Park and Sacramento Mountains (A Catch -Up Post)

If you would like to see the pictures of our ride from Casa Grande, Arizona to Alamogordo, New Mexico click on the Older Posts button at the bottom of this post and it should bring you back one post to it. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

These first pictures are of the Sacramento Mountains which are just east of Alamogordo in Otero County. From north to south, the Sacramento Mountains extend for 85 miles, and from east to west they encompass 42 miles. These mountains were pretty much always in our view during our time here.  

I thought it was interesting how one area of the mountain

could look so different

depending what angle you are looking at it from.

Could this be a sleeping T-Rex?
When Tom saw this picture he asked if I realized I had taken a
picture of a sleeping T-Rex. I had not seen it until he pointed it out. 

Visiting the White Sands National Monument was the main reason we came this way. So on Tuesday morning we headed over to the visitor's center. After spending a few dollars in the gift shop we took the time to watch a short, 17 minute, movie about the park. We would recommend taking the time to do this. We then decided to come back later in the afternoon to take the ride into the park itself.

The visitor center complex is a national historic district.
Designed in Pueblo Revival  style.

As we headed back towards Alamogordo I spotted this cloud.
Considering it was to our east and that is where Roswell is
could it be a flying saucer?

Then coming over the mountains several more.
Could it be a "mother ship"?

We went to the Casa De Suenos in Tularosa for lunch. The food was good and the margarita not bad at all. Even one picture would have been nice but no there are none. After lunch we stopped at the Heart of the Desert and tried an interesting wine, a Pistachio Rose. One or two bottles may have left with us.

Top left: The Heart of the Desert
Bottom left: a metal roadrunner that has seen better days.
Top right: a Caboose, I do miss seeing them at the end of trains.
Bottom right: if you are on I-70 or US-54 this is the advertised.
World's Largest Pistachio.

As we headed back to the White Sands National Park
we were really glad this was not flashing.

I spotted this on the way to the Park in the morning and noticed
there was a road in by it. So on our way back in the afternoon
we took the time to drive in.

After driving by the dry bed we came to this and surprisingly several
RVer's boondocking. Personally, we would have to be honest and say
we did not see the attraction. Especially since, if you enlarge the
picture you will see the sign contains several "No's".
One thing we have learned as we live this lifestyle is everyone has
a different opinion as to where the perfect spot is. Thank goodness
we do not want to all be in the same spot it would get to crowded.

White Sands National Park

Like a mirage rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of  the Chihuahuan Desert, creating the world's largest gypsum dune field with a depth of about 30 feet, dunes as tall as 60 feet, and about 4.5 billion short tons of gypsum sand. . White Sands National Park preserves a major portion of this unique dune field, its shallow water supply, along with the plants and animals many of which only exist here in the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert. The ecosystem is remarkably diverse with over 800 species of animals calling it home. Everything from reptiles, birds, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates and fish can be found here. Some species have even evolved and adapted in color to be camouflaged in the white sand.

Located off Route 70 in New Mexico, the White Sands National Park is at an elevation of 4235 feet. Nestled in the Tularosa Basin between the Sacramento and San Andres Mountain ranges of southern New Mexico this Park is completely surrounded by the White Sand missile range which covers about 145,762 acres in the Chihuahuan desert.

White Sands National Park was originally designated White Sands National Monument on January 18, 1933 by President Herbert Hoover; it was redesignated as a National Park by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 20, 2019. So what's the difference? According to the National Park Service, "a National Park is intended to preserve at least on nationally significant resource, whereas a National Monument is usually larger and preserves a variety of nationally significant resources." 

The “sand” in these miles of shifting dunes is not composed of silica, like most inland sand. Interestingly, the sand at White Sands is almost pure gypsum. Gypsum is different from many other rocks because it is readily soluble. That means it will dissolve in water, just like sugar or salt. When rain falls on the mountains, the layers of gypsum start to dissolve, and the gypsum runs down the mountains as fast as the water can carry it. Since the Tularosa Basin and the dunes are fully enclosed, there is no outlet to water of any kind, so the gypsum stays in the monument.

Gypsum is actually a clear substance; the dunes appear white like snow because the gypsum grains are constantly banging into each other. The scratches then reflect the sun’s rays making them appear white.

Also, unlike silica sand, gypsum doesn’t absorb heat from the sun. So even on the hottest day of the year, the dunes are cool and comfortable to walk on, making White Sands a nice stop in the summer.

In addition to containing the world’s largest gypsum dune field, including gypsum hearth mounds found nowhere else on earth, the park is home to the globe’s largest collection of Ice-Age fossilized footprints and tells more than 10,000 years of human presence, all while providing memorable recreational opportunities.

White Sands, during its period as a national monument, has been used as a filming location for scenes in several westerns, including Four Faces West (1948), Hang 'Em High (1968), The Hired Hand (1971), My Name Is Nobody (1973), Bite the Bullett (1975), and Young Guns II (1990). King Solomon's Mines (1950), The First Star Wars (1977), Transformers (2007), Transformers 2 (2009), and The Book of Eli (2010) to name a few.

Above is just some interesting information about the park that I found online. Most of which was covered in the short film we watched in the morning. There is a lot more to learn about this park if you care to do some research.

Below are the pictures I took as we drove the 8 mile road in and then out of the park.

At this point of the ride it looked like we had turned into 
a winter wonderland.
The bottom right picture I took on the way back out.
Closer to sunset and a different angle and
the color change was interesting.

Definitely would have thought snow. Except it was 87 degrees.

The beginning of the ride is paved.
We are now on hard-packed gypsum.

There are several picnic areas towards the end of the ride
complete with grills. There are, also, several places for garbage 
 disposal and recycling along with bathroom facilities.

Looked like a family enjoying some sledding.

We are on our way back.

Do you see the face?

We then headed back home. It was a beautiful ride and we are glad we made this a stop on our route.  

Back at Mountain Meadows RV Park I spotted several Quail
on the other side of the fence behind us. I was able to get
this guy by standing very still and waiting with fingers crossed.

A short walk to the edge of the park and this is tonight's sunset.

The Sacramento Mountains in the sunset.

Tomorrow we will continue our trek north then east but for tonight we are enjoying the warm breeze sitting our on our patio as the daylight fades to dusk and then night. Then Tom decided he wanted to pack some things up and I had to finally give up my chair and go inside. It was a good day.

We are glad you stopped by!
If you have time to leave a comment we would enjoy hearing from you.


  1. All that white sand is amazing. I double those people know what an evaporation pond really is or they wouldn't be staying there!! It sure wouldn't be my choice!!

  2. Very beautiful catch up Deb! I don't know why we've never made it there but looks very interesting. I have to agree with Nancy, not where I'd want to be! LOL.

  3. Most people don't realize what a Retention Pond is. As long as the sign didn't say "No Camping" they set themselves up to stay for "Free". LOL!
    We loved the White Sands. Kathy enjoyed sledding down the dunes. I was too heavy.
    Tom would have liked the Missile Testing Range. We restricted to the Museum because of our Nationality.
    Safe Travels and Enjoy the Journey.

    It's about time.

  4. What a nice "winter wonderland" :-) I love the idea of sledding in the sand!

  5. Thanks for all the pictures. We have never been to White Sands. And yes....that was T-Rex! Elva

  6. Interesting post. Nice pictures too. Thanks for the ride along!