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NATURAL BEAUTY: White Sands National Monument

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Sunset from the White Sands National Monument.
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WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUNMENT, N.M. – Upon arriving here, at the White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo, I discovered that it  is surely one of the most militarized parks in the United States.

Located in the middle of the Tularosa Basin that extends from Carrizozo in the north to Mexico, the largest gypsum dune field in the world is surrounded by history.

Presence of plants in the White Sands National Monument. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

The Holloman Air Force base (previously the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range) on the west side of the park, and the White Sands Missile Range (previously the White Sands Proving Ground) on the north and south side, are the two main military presence in the area.

The unique location in the Chihuahuan desert of the White Sands dune field, with a low population, is no stranger to such military presence.

Even the date of the White Sands National Monument creation in 1933, the year when Adolf Hitler became German chancellor, which led to the creation of secret atomic bomb-creating Manhattan Project, is a wink to history.

But the event that is engraved in memory is for sure the first test of the atomic bomb on July 16, 1945. Conducted at the "Trinity Site," in the north portion of the missile range, about 60 miles from White Sands National Monument, the detonation of the first atomic bomb ushered in a new era of human history that changed the face of the world forever.

Unfortunately for us, the Trinity Site is only open to the public on the first Saturdays of April and October.

The obelisk at Trinity Site, which is only open to the public twice a year. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nevertheless, the natural beauty of the white sands dunes formation makes us forbidden that modern history has been made in the region. The sparkling white of the dunes could easily be confused with snow until we step foot on it.

Contrary to other types of sands observed (such as Great Sand Dunes National Park), sands from gypsum have a different texture that makes it cooler and easy to walk on it without shoes. Even though recent rains made the sand harder, it was still a unique  moment for us that we won’t soon forget.

Far too be a desert, plants such as Yucca, are numerous at the entry of the dune field gradually disappearing as we were going deeper into the sand formation. The same observation could be made concerning human’s paths, numerous along the only paved road in the park, but almost absent after hiking a hundred feet into the White Sands.

The writer's family walking into the White Sands National Monument. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

It provided an opportunity for us to observe the presence of the wildlife through the traces let by roadrunners, snakes and others insects present in White Sands.

Roadrunner footprints at the White Sands National Monument. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

Although the White Sands can easily be confused with snow, letting one believe that the place is cool, the heat of the sun forced us to stop our trip in the dunes after few hours hike due to no water.

But our retreat was only for few hours as we came back at sunset to enjoy a free concert to celebrate the full moon.

I can’t say which was more beautiful: the sunset disappearing behind the San Andres Mountains to the west or the full moon rising above the Sacramento Mountains to the east.

This is perhaps the most magical night of my life. While sitting down on the sand with my wife, watching the moon and the lights of nearby Alamogordo flickering, with music playing in the background, I thought that humanity’s future is not to lives crowded in a city. But as close as possible to nature.

EDITOR'S NOTE: And for those interested in visiting the historic Trinity Site at the White Sands Missile Range, during their twice-yearly open house, the next event will be Saturday, Oct. 7 followed by another open house on April 7. 2018. For more information, go here.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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