One of the absolute highlights of our trip has been our visit to White Sands National Monument. We didn’t quite know what to expect when we arrived, and hadn’t heard too much beforehand. All we knew was to expect dunes and sledding – at a National Monument?
You can bring in your own sleds, of course, but they also have sleds for purchase in the gift shop. Since we were hoping to avoid all snow on the trip, we didn’t pack a sled! But the gift shop had both new and used sleds available for purchase (you could sell them back after you were done, for a partial refund).
White Sands is not made up of sand as we normally think of it. The sand here comes from gypsum crystals. Gypsum isn’t usually found in this form, because of its water solubility. However, since there is no outlet to the ocean in the nearby area, all water runoff from the nearby mountains collects here.
The road is still gypsum – just packed down hard from driving!
The land became a National Monument in 1933, created by President Hoover. It was tentatively put on the list of World Heritage Sites, but removed after lack of support and negative public reaction. This would seem strange, since World Heritage Sites draw tourism. But White Sands National Monument is surrounded by military land – White Sands Missile Range and the Holloman Air Force Base. Having the influence of the UNESCO committee on the National Monument could potentially lead to international interference to stop nearby military operations. So, in 2008, it was removed from that list.
Yes, we have an America suit onboard! Cory thought this would be a fun place to wear it, and it certainly made for good pictures! Other tourists were stopping to snap pictures of him as he sped down the slopes. We attracted a lot of attention that day!
There’s a lot to do in White Sands – hiking, camping, and some great ranger-led talks and walks. But the most fun? SLEDDING!! We also had a great time snapping some silly photos, and enjoying the beauty of the land.
A few tips for new sledders:
– Wax it up! The sand scratches at the disc, and the wax will help your speed.
– Choose steep slopes – you can actually get some good speed going!
We had such a great time at White Sands. I would love to go back and participate in a Full Moon hike, or camp under the stars.
Have you ever been to White Sands National Monument? Or have you even heard about it?
Check out some more pictures:
UPDATE!! Check out this video we put together of our sledding adventures!
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