|Welcome to White Sands National Monument. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
This winter has been relatively snow-free for much of the United States. For those of you who missed the white stuff this year, but didn’t miss the cold, head to White Sands National Monument. Located near Alamogordo, New Mexico, the white gypsum sand dunes around White Sands National Monument comprise more than 275 square miles.
|The drive through White Sands National Monument may include blowing and drifting white stuff,
but no salt or sand trucks are necessary. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
It seems impossible to the Midwestern eye that this place could be warm, yet temperatures at this park in southern New Mexico were well into the 70s on the day we visited.
|The sheer scale of the park is breathtaking. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
White Sands National Monument is the largest white gypsum dune field in the world. And these dunes don’t stay put. In fact, the real movers and shakers advance more than 30 feet per year.
The magnitude of the park may have you wondering, how did all this gypsum get here?
|Platforms allow visitors to view the park without damaging any of the flowers and plants
growing in the loose sand. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Experts say the dunes originate from an “ephemeral lake” with a high mineral content, located in the western portion of the park. As water from the lake evaporates, gypsum deposits are left behind. The wind then carries this sand throughout the park to form the other-worldly place you see today.
|Peanut butter and gypsum sandwiches never really caught on. So, these space age-looking picnic tables allow you to enjoy your lunch without getting pelted by sand. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
|Children and adults alike enjoy sledding on the sand at White Sands National Monument,
in designated areas only, of course! Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Your $3 pass to the park is good for seven days, which should give you ample time to get your wintry fix, for those of you who missed it. Though a snowball fight and snowman making seem out of the question.
When I was sharing my enthusiasm for White Sands National Monument with one man, he remarked with a wrinkled nose that the place “smelled like a litter box.” In truth, White Sands National Monument did have a damp sand smell when I was there. Whether it changes throughout the year, I don’t know, but it certainly isn’t reason enough to keep this Rollerbag Goddess away.
|Mom and Me, playing in the sand. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
|Like a day at the beach. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
|Footprints at White Sands National Monument. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
When you visit White Sands National Monument, remember that this fine gypsum takes ages to form, and is a precious and limited resource (in spite of its seemingly infinite bounds when you’re there.) So, be a conscientious traveler, and avoid the temptation to fill your pockets. Also, please take great care to protect the plants that grow on these delicate dunes.
|Wildflowers and plants grow up through the sand dunes at White Sands National Monument.
Be careful not to disturb them. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
And, most importantly, don’t forget to take your turn sledding down the hill!
What national treasures would you recommend?
Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at rollerbaggoddess.blogspot.com.