Our weeklong trip to the Land of Enchantment culminated in two final days at White Sands National Monument in the Chihuahuan Desert of southern New Mexico. We had driven three and half hours from Santa Fe to visit a 275-square mile gypsum dunefield (the largest in the world) left behind by a lake that evaporated thousands of years ago. It proved to be a spectacular natural wonder. We were in awe of its stark beauty and our kids, of course, loved sledding down the powdery dunes.
Although gypsum is a common mineral, it is rare to find in sand form, as it easily dissolves in water and thus typically is carried out to sea by rivers. This makes these dunes even more of a geological miracle. Winds also play a big part in shifting and shaping their profile.
Visitors can hike through the dunes, observing native plants and looking for animal tracks; hundreds of species of plants, birds, animals and insects call White Sands home and show unique adaptations to its harsh desert climate. A nightly ranger-guided 3/4-mile stroll is a great introduction for families and coincides perfectly with the sunset hour.
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Editor’s Note: Photo by Tanvi Chheda.