Photo Essay: White Sands National Monument

by Christy on

I had no idea that a bunch of white sand could be so interesting. We very nearly skipped the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico after deducing from the name that it was essentially just a bunch of boring old sand piled into some boring old dunes.

Ha! Shows how little we know. Despite being more or less correct about the landscape, we had a ridiculous amount of fun at the dunes.

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

The sand is a rare form (gypsum), which means it’s extremely soft and cool to the touch.  Unlike the rough scratchy kind (that’ll burn your toes if the sun makes an appearance), the gypsum sand dunes were perfect for frolicking.

Christy Dancing at White SandsWhite Sands Footprints

White Sands National Monument

Kali channeled his inner track star, leaping from the top of dunes and sliding his way to the bottom:

Kali Jumping at White Sands National Monument

Kali Jumping at White Sands National Monument

Kali Jumping at White Sands National Monument

I, on the other hand, opted for the slightly less dignified “how much sand can I get in my pants from rolling?” approach:

Christy Rolling at White Sands National Monument

Verdict: quite a lot.

We also tried sliding down on trashbags, but that turned out to be about as successful as when we tried to use them to slide down snowy hills as kids (in other words, not successful in the slightest).

We gave it our best shot nonetheless, and were busy perfecting our technique in the dark when a ranger found us, told us the park was closing, and asked us to skeedadle.  He seemed bemused by our sandy trashbags, but at least he had the courtesy to not forget about us (ooooh, snap, Carlsbad Caverns!).

Sunset at White Sands National Monument

Luckily we had timed our visit to coincide with sundown, and it ended up being one of the most gorgeous sunsets we’ve seen.  The sky blossomed with almost every color imaginable, morphing from hues of blues, purples, and pinks to vibrant shades of red and orange.

Sunset at White Sands National Monument

Sunset at White Sands National Monument

Who knew sand could be so much fun?!

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Acceleratedstalltwitter: acceleratedstal April 5, 2011 at

Your photo essay has redesigned my notions of desert – thnx
Acceleratedstall recently posted: Extended Inebriation

Reply

Christy April 5, 2011 at

I’m glad! It definitely did the same for us. :)

Reply

Dalene - Hecktic Travels April 5, 2011 at

Really wicked photos – Christy, I like your technique with the shoulder roll. Why no video? :)
Dalene – Hecktic Travels recently posted: I am a Pirate!

Reply

Christy April 5, 2011 at

Oddly enough, we didn’t even consider taking video of our shenanigans. ;)

Reply

jill- Jack and JIll Traveltwitter: jacknjilltravel April 5, 2011 at

Oh gosh, it’s so beautiful. Yah, I second Dalene on the no video question — especially the part about trying to scoot down the dunes on trash bags. It could’ve been the next viral Youtube sensation!
jill- Jack and JIll Travel recently posted: Carless- Jobless- and Homeless

Reply

Christy April 5, 2011 at

I have always secretly longed to be in a viral youtube clip! But given how dark it was when we tried to “sled” down the dunes, it wouldn’t have been much of a video — just pitch black with some random shrieks and giggles. :P

Reply

Claire April 5, 2011 at

I’d never heard of it until recently but I want to go there now – looks so cool! Awesome photos.
Claire recently posted: Postcard- From London with love…

Reply

Christy April 5, 2011 at

Thanks, Claire! It was such a beautiful place.

Reply

Camels & Chocolatetwitter: LunaticAtLarge April 5, 2011 at

I WANT TO GO HERE…NOW.

This place looks awesome. And your pictures, as always, have me looking up on Google Maps how soon I can get down that way!
Camels & Chocolate recently posted: Learning to Love Powder at Keystone

Reply

Christy April 5, 2011 at

Aww, thanks Kristin! Looks like a 20 hour drive from San Francisco! :P

Reply

Lauren April 6, 2011 at

Wow, those pictures have inspired me and it’s definitely now on my to-do list! :)
Lauren recently posted: I Just Booked a One-Way Ticket Out of England…

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

Awesome! It’s definitely a great place to visit. :)

Reply

The Dropout April 6, 2011 at

Absolutely stunning photographs.
The Dropout recently posted: Banh Cuon – A Chopstick Challenge Worth Winning

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

Thank you!

Reply

Akilatwitter: theroadforks April 6, 2011 at

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! LOVE these pictures! I so want to go to New Mexico.

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

This was our first time in New Mexico and we were quite surprised by the state. It has such a different feel than anywhere else we’ve been so far – it’s really quite neat.

Reply

Bluegreen Kirk April 6, 2011 at

Very nice photo essay looks like you had a great time on the sands. really love the shot of the footprints in the sand.

Reply

Christy April 6, 2011 at

That’s one of our favorites as well – we spent way too much time placing our feet just right to get the shot. :)

Reply

Brianatwitter: _TallyHo_ April 6, 2011 at

I’m so glad you guys had a great time there, we loved it too! :) You captured all the really great artistic pictures that we tried (somewhat unsuccessfully) to get. Thanks for sharing them! :)

Tally Ho!

Reply

Christy April 6, 2011 at

Thanks, Briana – we took a million and one photos, so that probably had something do do with it. ;)

Reply

Melissann April 6, 2011 at

These really are fantastic pictures, and it looks like you two had a lot of fun! Also, sorry I missed you Monday, but thanks for the birthday message. :)

Reply

Christy April 6, 2011 at

Of course, I hope you had a great birthday, Mel!

Reply

Michael Figueiredotwitter: struxtravel April 6, 2011 at

Wow! These are spectacular photos! I had a roommate in college who grew up in New Mexico and told me about White Sands. I have always wanted to go myself.
Michael Figueiredo recently posted: Gondolas- The “New” Mass-Transit Option

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

Thanks, Michael!

Reply

Sabrinatwitter: countryskipper April 6, 2011 at

Haha, we really seem to be travelling to the same places :) Marco and I were there in October last year: http://countryskipper.com/2010/11/14/white-sands-national-monument-in-new-mexico/. Loved it!! It’s so pretty and just walking in the soft, white sand was amazing. White Sands is a little out of way, but totally worth the trip. It was funny though, because I expected to see water after every set of dunes, didn’t you? I guess I have been conditioned to think sand = sea/ocean :)
Sabrina recently posted: Beautiful Skiing Weekend in New Mexico- Ski Santa Fe

Reply

Christy April 6, 2011 at

We do seem to be following each others’ paths, Sabrina…. or, probably more accurately, we keep following yours! :P We had the same feeling about the water; we’re so used to the huge sand dunes on the Oregon coast that it was so incredibly bizarre to not be anywhere near the ocean. I swear there was a slight oceany smell, though!

Reply

Sabrinatwitter: countryskipper April 8, 2011 at

Haha! I felt the same… sort of. Maybe we associate sand smell with ocean smell :) I’ve lived in Texas for a while now and do a lot of trips in the surrounding area. Looks like you’re in Utah now from what I can see on your website. It’s all gonna be new for me from here on out as haven’t ventured that far up :)
Sabrina recently posted: More Santa Fe

Reply

Christy April 8, 2011 at

Yep, we’re in Moab! Which is driving distance from two national parks (Arches and Canyonlands) so we’re fervently hoping the government doesn’t get shut down – if that happens, all national parks close indefinitely. We would be so bummed if that happened!

Reply

Jennifer April 6, 2011 at

Wow! It looks like photos of snow-covered hills. So fabulous and fun!
Jennifer recently posted: Six Unexpected Highlights of our Family Vacation in the Riviera Maya- Mexico

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

It really was a lot like snow… except it wasn’t cold! Perfect for me, actually; snow is fun to play in, but I hate losing all feeling in my extremities. Perhaps that’s why I liked White Sands so much?

Reply

Cathy Sweeneytwitter: TravelingWithS April 6, 2011 at

Gorgeous! I can’t say more — the photos speak for themselves!
Cathy Sweeney recently posted: A French Connection on the LES

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

Thanks for the compliment, Cathy. We had a blast taking all the photos.

Reply

Andrea April 6, 2011 at

Incredible photos! This looks like so much fun…I used to love visiting the Indiana sand dunes with my cousins when I was a kid.
Andrea recently posted: W is for Wet- A Week in Torres del Paine National Park

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

I didn’t know there were sand dunes in Indiana! I guess I never really figured there were many outside of the coastal areas, but I’m realizing I was wrong. :)

Reply

Caz Makepeace April 7, 2011 at

Gorgeous photos. I love stumbling upon places like this. Reminds me of discovering sand dunes at Mui Nei Vietnam. I never miss out on seeing sand dunes now as I know how much fun they can be.

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

I’m with you, Caz – now whenever we see sand dunes we’re going to jump on the opportunity to explore them.

Reply

Ayngelina April 7, 2011 at

WOW! These photos are absolutely gorgeous!
Ayngelina recently posted: Nazca’s got nothing on Chile

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

Aww, thanks. :)

Reply

Scott - Quirky Travel Guytwitter: quirkytravelguy April 7, 2011 at

Love it. We saw kids there with sleds!
Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted: Pictures from World Pillow Fight Day

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

I think the Visitor Center was selling sleds – I wish we had considered that beforehand and found something more suitable!

Reply

Reneetwitter: aviewtoathrill April 7, 2011 at

Isn’t it true that some of the best things in life is the simplest? It looks like you guys had a great time and that sunset! Golly gee….thanks for sharing this Christy….it’s another gem to add to my list.
Renee recently posted: TRAVEL PHOTO THURSDAY

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

So true, Renee. We thought we might get bored there, but it was the complete opposite. :)

Reply

Brandon April 7, 2011 at

I lived in New Mexico for the better part of a decade and there weren’t too many places I enjoyed more than white sands. Thanks for a beautiful reminder of a place I will likely always call home.
Brandon recently posted: Mysticism in an Indian Bazaar

Reply

Christy April 7, 2011 at

Thanks for the comment, Brandon. I’m happy we were able to provide a little reminder of home. :)

Reply

Nina April 8, 2011 at

Great, great set of shots. We’ve just re-routed our NM trip so we get a chance to go here. Very excited to see it! Nina
Nina recently posted: The Golden Draw of the Davis Mountains- TX

Reply

Christy April 8, 2011 at

That’s awesome! I think you guys will love it. Sunset was a great time to visit, but be forewarned that there really aren’t a lot of options for RV parking in that area. We ended up driving an hour or so to Las Cruces that evening and parking overnight in the Walmart there. I think there was a campground in the area, but it wasn’t much closer.
Christy recently posted: Photo of the Week- Southwestern Mountain Range

Reply

The NVR Guystwitter: NVRguys April 9, 2011 at

Oh… it looks fun. Then you get home and you’ve got sand in your ass and your thinking, “we have got to start making better decisions.” O_o

Great shots BTW. I only see one set of footprints in that photo. Was God carrying you? :)
The NVR Guys recently posted: Travelogue – avoiding “Memory” in Prague

Reply

Christy April 9, 2011 at

lol, so true – anything that results in sand in the ass automatically falls under the category of “questionable decisions”.

Reply

Christina April 19, 2011 at

Had never heard of White Sands before. Looks amazing. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos!

Reply

Christy April 20, 2011 at

Hi Christina, thank you so much for the comment! We’d never heard of White Sands before this, either, so it was a wonderful discovery for us. :)

Reply

Ted Nelsontwitter: travelingted April 23, 2011 at

I have heard cool things about this place and have seen great photos, but these photos are the best. That is hilarious that the ranger caught you guys goofing off. That is what outdoor areas are for though. Having a great time, which you obviously did.
Ted Nelson recently posted: The white pelican migration at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge

Reply

Christy April 23, 2011 at

Aww, thanks Ted! It really was a beautiful (and fun!) place. :)

Reply

Brooktwitter: newtravelimage May 18, 2011 at

Gorgeous pics guys – looks like you are having a great time. Safe travels!
Brook recently posted: Sinking Ships- a Tsunami and the Million Rupiah Pigs- Indonesia

Reply

Christy May 18, 2011 at

Thanks, Brook! :)

Reply

Laureltwitter: ExpatGermany May 27, 2011 at

WOW! Fantastic photos!
Laurel recently posted: Plansee Photo

Reply

Christy May 28, 2011 at

Glad you liked them, Laurel! :-)

Reply

NLM October 5, 2011 at

These photos are amazing. I’ve been to White Sands and had the same wonderful experience that you did. I even brought some gypsum home to put in my little zen garden on my desk! Next time, though, I’m staying for sunset!

Nancy
NLM recently posted: Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem

Reply

Christy October 6, 2011 at

What a brilliant idea to use some of the sand for a little desk garden! The sand was so soft and cool to the touch, which is nice because otherwise I imagine it would be way too hot to walk on otherwise.

Reply

Nanette December 13, 2011 at

Your pictures are so captivating! I can’t wait to visit this place.
Nanette recently posted: Reminiscing Florida’s Forgotten Coast

Reply

Renee King June 14, 2012 at

Looks like you guys had a lot of fun, Christy. I agree, I wouldn’t have thought that sand could be interesting outside of a beach….but you never know until you try. lol
Renee King recently posted: 12 fun cultural differences that I discovered during my trip to South America

Reply

62 Comments. Join the conversation!

Enable CommentLuv (add link to your most recent blog post after your comment)

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: