Thursday, 27 March 2008

A place like no place on earth...

When I was a child I used to dream that heaven would be full of beautiful white sand dunes, summers days and perfect blue skies. A place that glows, that is serene and totally quiet, peaceful. As I sat on top of the white sand dunes here at 'White Sands' in New Mexico I almost felt as though I'd found heaven. White Sands is one of the most inspiring places I have ever been. I sat alone on top of a sand dune and watched the sun set behind the mountains here. Dan was away on a ranger led 'sunset stroll', and the kids were quietly playing at the bottom of the dunes. As the sun set the sand turned from white, to blue, grey, and every shade in between, whilst the mountains turned from brown to orange to pink. I just sat there, for an hour, just looking. I felt completely at peace, totally content, inspired by life and the earth, hopeful and excited about the future.
Already we have seen so many different and vast landscapes. As we travel across America I am often filled with an immense appreciate of how small we are, and of how vast and varying this planet is. Dan and I have spent many nights now just staring up at the stars. Have you ever lay under the stars, just staring, long enough to feel as though you are just sucked onto the earth by gravity, and that you are staring down into a deep, dark void? If you look at the stars long enough it starts to feel as though you are staring down into them, not up at them. It's quite a feeling. If you ever want to realise your place in the universe and glimpse the magnitude of creation, lay under the stars (in a desert if possible!) and just look.

The journey to Alamogordo (the closest town to white sands) took us about 2 hours from

Carlsbad. We made plenty of stops because, as usual, the scenery was just divine. You may remember in one of my posts I explained about the mountains having small little trees dotted across them. Well, as we drove through New Mexico the scenery made a sudden change from those little trees, to a completely Alpine looking scene. Suddenly we felt as though we were driving through the Swiss Alps! The small town of Cloudcroft looked like a quaint Swiss ski resort. During the winter the area actually was used as a ski resort, although the snow was long gone by the time we drove through. The little houses nestled in the Alpine hills looked totally Swiss. It was quite a change. We drove up 8500 ft across that area and from the top of the mountains we could see a white valley, way off in the distance, which was the 'White Sands National Monument'.

Another 40 minutes later we were back in the desert! What a range of scenery, from ski resort to desert in just a short car ride. We have stopped booking RV parks in advance now and are just literally turning up in places and finding somewhere to stay. It suits us better this way, as we can just stop wherever we want to.

We drove through Alamogordo and straight to the White Sands National Monument. The whole white sands area of desert covers almost 300 square miles. A section of this has been preserved as a national park (called the monument) and is available for people to explore and enjoy. The kids picked up a junior ranger pack again here, and they are now junior rangers to about 5 different parks. The packs are very educational, and they really enjoy doing them. It's a great way for them to learn about the area they are living in, and they are usually free or just a nominal $1 fee.

As soon as we drove into the park the kids (and I) couldn't wait to get out of the RV and into the sand. The sand is made from gypsum, is completely white, and remains constantly cool, despite the soaring summer temperatures of up to 120 degrees. The dunes are constantly moving, so the scenery never looks the same. The dunes are just beautiful to look at. I had never even heard of this place before, yet it is one of the rarest places on the planet. Part of the white sands area (60 miles from where we were) was used as the testing site for the worlds first atomic bomb.

No doubt though, what Jimmi and Annabelle enjoyed the most, was sledging down the dunes. Every year hundreds of kids visit the park to slide down the dunes, and we hired a plastic snow sledging disc from the gift shop. We oiled the bottom of it to make it go faster and spent a full day just sliding down the dunes. Little Barney was happy enough sliding down on his bottom so

he kept away from the sledge, but the rest of us all had a good go. (You can see tons of fun pics of us surfing the dunes in the New Mexico Album 2 folder. This album is really worth viewing as the pics are just like nothing you will ever see at home. The weather while we were there was perfect. In the summer it would be far too hot for us to visit here. This was as hot as we needed it to be.

At the end of our first night at the dunes we headed off to find somewhere to sleep for the night and ended up dry camping (eg no hook ups) at a nearby state park. We drove up to it at about 8pm. It was so extremely dark that we had no idea what the park or our camp site looked like. When we woke in the morning we discovered we were sleeping in a beautiful wilderness, right beneath a big mountain. So we decided to stay there another night (this time with hook ups). The sky was awesome the nights we stayed here. There seem to be so many more stars in the wilderness. Maybe its because there are no street lights. But on a clear night you can't help but sit out looking at them. On our second night there the kids put on a rock concert for us! Five tunes from Tenacious D, Within Temptation, Nightwish, System of a Down and Evanescence! We watched it by flash light and it was quite a show!

We have headed further west now, (despite me wanting to build a tent and live in the sand dunes!) This morning when we left we had no idea where we were going. Only that we are heading towards Arizona. We drove through Las Cruces and avoided going into El Paso (as had been our original plan) as we heard it was just a big industrial city. We stopped at a missile museum on the way and learnt a bit about atomic warfare! We ended up at an RV park in Demming. It's a Passport America RV site and is only $12 a night for us, so we drove up a long lonely dirt track to get to it, expecting it to be not very nice. Only to discover an amazing little place in the wilderness, set next to another mountain. As soon as we pulled up in our space we noticed literally hundreds of huge desert hares playing around the area, and just dozens of road runners busily running about the place! The kids were completely impressed and so we might stay here tomorrow and just watch nature.

Please be sure to check out all the photos as I just wanted to put them all onto the blog but had to restrain myself!


Tammy said...

Those white sand dunes look amazing!!! You are so fortunate to have been there. I love moments like that. To be totally alone with your thoughts, and to feel the largeness of the universe! I feel like that when at the ocean. I love to sit there, watching the waves, and just get lost in it all.

If you are ever without a place to camp, and you are near a Wal-Mart, drive into the parking lot, and camp there. Many people do. My father in law says when he retires, he's going to drive across country and camp at all the Wal-Marts, lol! said...

Sounds fabulous...i really miss seeing the stars. When i was a young and living in deepest darkest wiltshire i used to gaze long upon the lamps that light the sky beautiful...but now they are partially obliterated by horrid orange coleraine street lighting ...but sometimes if i 'm in the countryside i stop the car, turn off the lights and look up......
I'm enjoying your descriptions of the trip !
Kind regards from Penny Kennedy

Anonymous said...

I love that pic of you in the sand dunes. That's amazing like some scene out of Lawrence of Arabia only you should have your black sari that you bought in Dubai. lol. I cant believe it's two months you have been gone. And you are still having fun!!!
Am still jealous but sooo happy for you FUNGI