White Sands National Monument

About 40 miles outside of Las Cruces, NM lies White Sands National Monument.  Covering 275 square miles, dunes flow over the Tularosa Basin, giving the area an alien vista. Around the Monument is the White Sands Missile Testing Range.  This is important to know, because when testing is being done nearby, they close off most of the Monument until testing is over.  We found this out after we had arrived.

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In the visitor center, there is a small museum and video, telling you about the area and its history.  There is also a gift shop and a place to rent sleds for dune sledding.  Because they were about to start their missile testing, we were only able to make it as far as the first nature trail before being informed that the rest of the park wouldn’t be available until after 1:30pm.

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Since we had two hours to kill before we could even seen the rest of the park, we headed into nearby Alamogordo, where we saw signs for Old Apple Barn.  It sounded interesting and we had the time, so why not?

Up route 82 from Alamogordo to Mountain Park, you enter into Lincoln National Forest.  And when I say up, I mean up.  The town is at an elevation of over 6,000 feet.

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They advertise their fudge and cider, but neglect to mention the hundreds of other knickknacks and doodads available for sale.  From jewelry to toys to home and garden items, there’s something for everyone.  We also got some fudge and cherry cider to take back with us.  Yum.

But it was time to head back to White Sands by that time, so we made our way back down the mountains and into the park.  This time, we made it back to the sand driving area.  The paved road ends and you’re driving on packed gypsum and sand.

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Mom spent the whole time saying “Wow!” and “So cool!”  It reminded her, visually, of growing up in Minnesota and the snow drifts they’d get in the winter.

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There were several groups out, carrying their sleds up the dunes to sled back down, but with temperatures in the mid to high 90’s, it was a bit too hot for me.  Besides, the views were too impressive to ignore.

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Prices are very reasonable. For those 16 and older, it is $5 and anyone under 16 is free.  It is a really neat trip, but make sure to check and see if missile testing is going to be going on nearby.

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