Our final day trip in this area of New Mexico was to White Sands National Monument. And when they say White Sands, they mean WHITE sands. We were glad is was a somewhat cloudy day. On a fully sunny day, these dunes would be so white they would hurt your eyes. And why are they white? They are the sand of gypsum, the stuff your very white drywall is made of. And why don’t we see lots of white gypsum sand dunes in other places? Well, gypsum is water soluble and easily washed away. But here there is very little rainfall and there is no drainage out of the valley.
We found these dunes to be a spectacular sight. Kids were out of school in the area and many were there sliding down the dunes in their snow saucers. As we hiked a bit through the dunes, we found it easiest to walk barefoot – another good reason that the sun wasn’t fully beating down that day.
We walked a cute little nature trail presented from the view of one of the animals of this environment – the kit fox which only weigh five pounds on average, or only about a third of the weight of our fat cat (she won’t like it that we said that). Many of the animals have adapted to this environment by turning white so as to blend in against the backdrop of the dunes.
We also stopped in this area at a pistachio farm. It used to be that most pistachios sold in the US came from Iran (and they really grow the jumbo ones). But since the mid-1980s, pistachios from Iran bound for the US have either been embargoed or subject to prohibitive anti-dumping duties, all benefiting the New Mexico and California growers. Our stop was at the farm that also has “the world’s largest pistachio nut”. And as we were browsing the gift shop, there came a loud boom and very definite shaking of the building. Yes, this whole area is right on the boundary of the missile range. We were frightened by it, but the locals seem to take it all in stride.