Sunday, November 17, 2013

Favorite White Sands Views

For those of you who've been following my blog for a while, you know that I love the Southwest. I love the food, the vistas, the climate (well, not necessarily the heat, but the dryness - the heat is never so bad when there's little perceptible humidity), the activities, the culture - and on and on.

It's been quite a while since I've been back "home" in the Southwest (my grandparents lived there nearly their whole lives, and my mom and uncles were born and raised there). And while it was a solemn occasion that called me back, we did have a couple good days to explore and remember our former home (we'd been stationed in the area during our Air Force years).

After a delicious dinner on Saturday night and a good night's sleep, we had a "free" day on Sunday. We ended up going to the Alamogordo, NM area, where White Sands National Monument is located.

Anyway, I'd like to share some of my favorite views from southern New Mexico - for this post, they'll be from White Sands National Monument.

Here we are, having just arrived at the visitor center. It had been about an hour and a half drive from the El Paso area. Luckily, we'd taken an iPad with us, so Liv had some entertainment on the drive there and back. It was a "chilly" day in the area; it had been in the 50s when we first arrived, hence the jacket.

She was really excited because the last time she'd been here, she was just about 1.5 years old. She didn't remember it, other than what she's seen in the photos I took that day. 

I'm adding this photo, because, well . . . just look at how cool the adobe building looks. Right? Plus, adobe buildings are always comfortably cool in the summer and comfortably warm in the chilly months.

When we first entered the Visitor Center, we'd overheard a dad (who was there with his son about Liv's age) ask the Park Ranger about getting a Junior Park Ranger booklet. I immediately began listening in.

Apparently, at many National Parks/Monuments, kids can get booklets that teach them about the park/monument they're visiting. Once completing the activities in the packet, they get to become a "Junior Park Ranger" at that particular park/monument, even being able to take a junior park ranger oath, getting either a patch or badge, and a certificate.

The White Sands booklet has different activities for different age levels. Liv's age range (5-7 years old, if I remember correctly) was designated by a lizard icon. She was responsible for completing each activity with the lizard icon next to it.

In the booklet, she was able to describe what she was expecting to see (desert plants, white sand, maybe some desert fauna), what mineral the sand crystals were made of (gypsum). She also got to complete a "scavenger hunt" list, where she got to check items off when she saw each item listed (like a yucca plant, a cottonwood tree, an interdune area, creature tracks, and so on), as well as having a spot to write a poem  about something she saw at White Sands, and sketch something she found while hiking. Pretty cool, huh?!

Here she is at the beginning (before we left the visitor center to experience the dunes), answering some questions about how the white sand dunes were formed, as well as answering some questions about local flora.

Here she is, filling out more of her booklet. I think this was the part where she had space to sketch something she found interesting (some buzzing bees pollinating a flowering plant - their buzzing was unexpectedly loud!).

Yep, it's definitely sand and not snow. She kept saying, "It looks so snowy!" Though, because of the various factors (the sun's rays bouncing off the whiteness, for one), she learned that the sand underneath the dry top layer was cool and somewhat damp.

She's observing a "pedestal." The plants at the top of the sand send their roots way, way down to get water, and to keep anchored (so they don't blow away or get "run over" by shifting dunes). The water gets soaked upward toward the plants, wetting the surrounding sand. Well, the wet sand surrounding the roots eventually hardens and forms these "pedestals" when the wind moves the surrounding dry sand around. Voila - after time, a pedestal has formed. Nature's cool, isn't she?

 She's trying to slide down the sand dune. When I was young and my grandparents lived in El Paso, we'd head up to White Sands with my cousins and some aunts and uncles, and we'd sled down the dunes with those disc sleds (then we'd have a picnic afterward - they had a designated picnic area that we hadn't visited on this trip). It was a blast.

I hadn't thought to get one of those sledding discs for Liv on our way to the dunes.

 She is posing with a couple yucca plants and the blue, blue New Mexico sky.

It's sun squint! The white sand is really reflective! And they were facing the sun so I didn't have to aim my camera phone directly into the sun.

And here she is with her Junior Ranger Certificate! She was really proud of having earned it. She was able to get a stamp on it indicating the date she earned it. (I have to go get a frame for it so I can hang it up somewhere.)

Since I have so many photos - and a lot to say about them - I'll split my favorite views and the accompanying commentary into a couple different posts. I'll try to get some of the remaining White Sands/Alamogordo pics, as well as some mountain and/or miscellaneous views in an additional post or two in the next couple days.


Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

I love those junior ranger programs. You got great pics. I love the one of Liv sliding on the dune.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

What pretty pics. I love the one of Liv sliding down the dune.

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