White Sands, Alamogordo - New Mexico
Date Walked: 17th February 2009
Distance: 4.8 miles (7.8 km)
Actual Ascent: 131ft (40m)
Time Taken: 2.5 hour
This was, without exception the most memorable walk I have ever undertaken, for a number of reasons. Not only the history of the site (home of the first ever nuclear test) but the incredible effort that was needed to walk across pure white gypsum sand (with the consistency of a child's play pit sand) that pulled your legs down into it like an ogre from a childhood nightmare. It may only be a little over 4 miles but it is incredibly draining and rewarding in equal measure and the stark beauty of a sea of white sand cannot be overstated.
As it is desert I arrived early (as usual) casting long shadows along the side of the entrance road.
I began the day with a short walk around the edge of the area weighing up the layout and getting my bearings
I then rejoined the road that takes you 8 miles into the centre of the dunes before it comes to an abrupt end and the trail-head for the walk I was seeking begins, what little life exists wears a strange white cloak and is somehow surreal in appearance
Once you start into the dune field you quickly realise that walking up 15 metre soft sand dunes is more difficult than it may first appear.
Down hill is easier, but not much. The sand seems to eat into your boots and it seems that waterproof does not equal sand proof
On occasion green plants peek out of the dunes leaving you in awe of their determination
Between the dunes are occasional oases where plants remain and the firm ground does not shift on the desert wind
Even in the dunes some grasses survive
As the sun gets higher, the walking gets harder and the gallons of water I'm carrying are suddenly less of a burden
The way is marked by orange topped posts that poke out of the sand at 1/2 mile intervals as can be seen beside the footprints in this shot
So. I've made it the 2.2. miles across the dunes to the alkali flats....now its just the 2.2 miles back with the sun high in the sky.
Time to empty the boots again I think
the dunes are beautiful and seem to go on forever in a constant sea of white
the occasional drop down to the firm floor between the dunes is welcome........until you have to climb back up the other side
soon there are signs of more grasses and I am nearing the end of a difficult but memorable hike
back at the car park a tin hut is provided for shade should you want to picnic in the area......gritty sandwiches I think
back in the truck and away down the sand blown road leading out of the dunes
this was a truly memorable, wonderful hike and will remain a treasured memory for many years to come.