Day Two: We spent the first night in boarding-house like hotel in the little mountain town of Cloudcroft, 20 or so miles out of Alamogordo, since hotels in town seemed to be in the $300+ range. There must have been something going on with, or at, Holloman AFB since Alamogordo is not exactly tourist-central. We headed back into town after breakfast at Cloudcroft’s Dusty Boots Café where apparently masks were not allowed, driving slowly through Alamogordo so I could see if I recognized anything. I attended classes at a branch of New Mexico State University on the edge of town before transferring to the main campus in Las Cruces, then a later semester driving into town from the base everyday to complete my student teaching gig. I recognized almost nothing and, on the way to White Sands, when I pulled off the road to take a picture of the entrance sign to Holloman where I lived for two years, it all looked the same. Fifty years ago. I am so damn old.
White Sands National Monument was pure pleasure. It contains the largest gypsum dune field in the world, an area of glistening white sands rolling into the distance, convincing us we’ll be stepping into pure snow in 30⁰ below temperatures when we open our car doors. According to the National Park Service, This dune field is very dynamic, with the most active dunes moving to the northeast at a rate of up to 30 feet per year, while the more stable areas of sand move very little. The pure gypsum (hydrous calcium sulfate) that forms these unusual dunes originates in the western portion of the monument from an ephemeral lake or playa with a very high mineral content. As the water evaporates (theoretically as much as 80″ per year!), the minerals are left behind to form gypsum deposits that eventually are wind-transported to form these white sand dunes.
Then it was on to Roswell for the night.