26 September 2005

White Sands National Monument

Friday, September 23rd (holy crap I can’t believe it’s already the end of September), Bill and I drove out to White Sands National Monument http://www.nps.gov/whsa/home.htm. Hi’iaka had a blast in the powdery white sand. This place is amazing. The white sand is gypsum and only exists at 6 places on earth. Gypsum dissolves in water and therefore usually doesn’t survive on the surface of the earth; White Sands National Monument is the largest deposit of white gypsum sand in the world. It’s incredible to drive through this park in an AC truck, the sand looks like snow. There is even a part of the road that is covered in compacted sand and looks like snow and ice, like it should be slippery. Then you get out of the truck into 95-degree heat and remember that you’re in the desert. It was so bright that I couldn’t take my sunglasses off, I tried once and almost burnt the retinas out of my eyeballs, it was almost painful, it was SO bright. The total size of the white sand dunes (not just the monument) is 275 square miles, that’s a lot of white sand. The sand is much softer than I would have expected it to be, it’s not really abrasive, it’s far more like powder than actual sand, but larger grained than powder. The dunes aren’t stationary, they move up to 10-13 feet a year. The plants have adapted to this ‘rapid growth and movement’. Some of the plants will grow fast enough to keep their leaves above the dune, then when the dune move on the roots will hold some sand in place and build towers. It’s an incredible place; there is some wild life that has adapted to this area. Lizards that would normally be gray in color have turned white over the decades of evolution. Same with snakes, bugs, and birds. It’s truly amazing the way nature adapts and endures.


PS - my internal clock is having a hard time believing that it's already Fall...it's 95 freaking degrees here....that's NOT Fall weather!! Bill keeps telling me it's almost time to decorate for Halloween...I just look at him and say, it's 95 freaking degrees out...it's NOT Fall.