San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Sunday, November 29, 2009


This was my second visit to breathtaking White Sands National Monument. For a different photographic experience from that of my original visit, I arrived in late afternoon to take advantage of the soft light and long afternoon shadows.

This national treasure is located at the Northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert in the Tularosa Basin. It is ringed by White Sands Missile Range on the North, East and South, and the San Andres Mountains on the West.
The glistening, brilliant-white dunes in White Sands NM are made of gypsum, not silica, have a powdered sugar texture, and the monument is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. The dunes move constantly and form four distinct types, more easily discernible from the air: Dome (low mounds), Barchan (crescent-shaped), Transverse (long ridges formed by joined Barchan dunes), and Parabolic (inverted Barchans, anchored by plants).
At the end of Dunes Drive is the Heart of the Dunes that includes a nature center, boardwalk, picnic shelters with sails (!) and an amphitheater.
Self-portrait. I like this picture -- makes me look skinny!!!!

Yes, the roads need to be plowed occasionally -- these dunes creep, grow, and advance constantly. They appear soft and gentle, but the environment is harsh, and plants and animals struggle to survive. And adapt.
Soaptree Yucca has adapted by keeping its leaves above the sand with an elongated stem. Some plants anchor parts of a dune with their roots and keep growing on a sand pedestal even after the dune has moved on.
Can you tell I love this place?