Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The sand really is white, almost blindingly white. And surprisingly cool to the touch, because the heat reflects off it. This isn't just any white sand. It's gypsum, and rarely found in the form of sand because it's soluble, and usually ends up being washed into the sea. Rain dissolved gypsum from the rocks in the surrounding mountains and carried it down into the Tularosa Valley where it turned into crystals that were worn down to sand by the weather. But no river drains the Tularosa basin, and this 275 square mile area of shifting sands in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert is the largest of its kind in the world.
So where's the ocean? Bao wanted to know.
No ocean, but lots of dunes. And they're constantly on the move, sometimes traveling as much as 30 feet in a year. So you can walk -- or dune surf -- anywhere. There are no signs telling you to keep off the dunes. I mean, what would be the point?
It's a bit tricky for the plants, though. Some of them (notably, the Soaptree Yucca) have adapted by learning how to grow faster than the sand moves, which enables them to keep their heads above water. Or I should say, their stems above sand. The Soaptree Yucca can grow a foot a year, if it has to.
Cottonwood trees can survive almost total burial, so long as a few leaves remain exposed. And then of course the sand dune moves on, and the cottonwood shakes itself off and goes on doing whatever cottonwoods do. Pocket mice and lizards have evolved a white coloration to help them blend in. And if you're lucky, you'll see the occasional oryx, a South African antelope originally introduced onto the White Sands Missile Range, God knows why. The park rangers consider the oryx a threat to native plants and wildlife. I'm sure the oryx consider the missile tests that still occur twice a week on the missile range an even worse threat.
White Sands National Monument was established before White Sands Missile Range, which is just as well. The Missile Range surrounds it, and they close both the road and the park whenever they conduct tests.
Bao liked it. He got to go to the beach without getting wet.
Tomorrow, Roswell. The truth is out there, or so they say.


Blogger Dogwalkmusings said...

Any fleas??

2:23 PM


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