Posted by: Juniper Road | March 20, 2013

White Sands and a Missile Park

We day-tripped from our base in Las Cruces to White Sands National Monument, about an hour away. The route took us through a beautiful pass in the Organ Mountains, and then across a long stretch of empty, flat desert, and finally through one of the many Border Patrol Inspection Stations that dot the highways all across southern Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and southern California. Cleared by the agents, we were within sight of White Sands National Monument and headed right in.

The sand at White Sands is actually gypsum particles from the nearby mountains and eroded by wind and sometimes water to very fine particles. Blown around for thousands of years (or more) they’ve reached the basin floor and formed huge dunes. The dunes do an awful lot of moving themselves – some move as much as 35 feet a year, shifting and reforming in the high winds that often buffet the area. The gypsum is firm and very fine grained, almost soft, and a very pure white. And the whole place is open for hiking and playing around – even for Juniper! So that’s what we did – we followed “Dune Drive” several miles out to a deserted area and hiked in. Within minutes, the car is hidden by a giant dune and all we can see are white sands stretching for miles to a ring of mountains.

There are some hardy plants that survive here – mostly yucca (the state flower of New Mexico!) and either stretch their roots deep enough to survive or manage to hold enough of the shifting sand in place. But really, there is just white sand in rolling dune after dune. Juniper loved it. We hiked up and around, jumped off, and climbed back up until we were all thirsty and ready for some shade. It’s a really neat place and one we hope to return to for a backpacking trip in the future – when we can camp far out among the dunes.

On our way home, we stopped at the nearby Army base — the White Sands Missile Range. The base has a missile park and museum that are open to the public, after a short screening process. What other time will we be able to see a missile park? With a gorgeous mountain backdrop, the outdoor missile park is a bit surreal. The museum is packed full of history – from the Cold War and underground shelters to early missiles and the atomic bomb testing that took place elsewhere on the base. There’s even an authentic Darth Vader mask (a thank you gift from the film crew after some sound effects were recorded on site.) You could spend a whole day there learning about the scientific advancements in weaponry – impressive and sobering at the same time.

With the sun going down, we boogied back over the range to our home base, once again surprised by the unexpected places we get to explore.



  1. All I can do right now is smile:)😊

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