I knew of White Sands National Monument vaguely – the trivia of the one-time shuttle landing there stuck in my head. So when we were plotting a tentative itinerary from Denver to Texas and knew we were going through New Mexico, we decided to make the Tularosa Basin/White Sands area part of the route.
There was some consternation about where to stay to access the National Monument, but after pondering Las Cruces and several other nearby towns we finally settled on Alamogordo.
Both of these ended up being fantastic decisions. White Sands is not just a “hike through and don’t touch” type national park (not that there’s anything wrong with those). Not only can you climb just about any dune you want, you can buy a flying saucer sled in the gift shop and sled them!
So we spent a few hours on both of our days in the Tularosa Basin area sledding some truly bizarre gypsum sands and, thanks to a near-miss thunderstorm, taking some amazing photos (all of the b/w ones featured in this article particularly). We even squeezed in our first barbecue of the trip, although we nearly froze to death doing so (cold nights come quickly in the desert).
Because we were in Alamogordo, we also visited the New Mexico Space Museum which was pretty neat – the free outdoor exhibit with the rockets and engines particularly.
Small piece of trivia: The German Luftwaffe trains pilots at Holloman Air Force Base, located just between Alamogordo and the National Monument. We discovered this after we saw a kebab stand and several German moving (umzüge) companies. (PS: What do you call 2000 Germans in the middle of New Mexico? If anyone figures out a good punch line to this, let me know.)
Big piece of trivia: the Tularosa Basin does not drain to anywhere – and, no coincidence, some kind of government project to study brackish water is located there.