Tag: lizards

Whirlwind afternoon in the White Sands National Park

So the latest #throwbackthursdaytravel page is up under the travel tab. This week’s entry was our whirlwind afternoon in the White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico (though at the time it was still only a National Monument, it had been promoted to a National Park later).

Gypsum dunes with the mountains in the distance

This is actually the world’s largest gypsum dune field at 275 square miles. If you camp in the back country or hike any of the trails away from Dunes Drive, it is easy to see why parts of various movies (such as Independence Day) were filmed within the area, with rolling dunes and flat plains of gypsum as far as the eye can see.

While the dune field covers a large area, one doesn’t want to become ‘lost’ within it–especially since the park is also within the White Sands Missile Testing area and adjacent to a military base.

Our afternoon was spent basically taking the scenic drive through part of the park (the Dunes Drive is a round trip sixteen mile drive, but one should also account for time spent taking pictures, hiking up and down the dunes, and even possibly sledding down the dunes), hiking up some of the dunes and taking pictures.

Bleached earless lizard spotted within the park

While I may have only seen a single lizard, I was able to get pictures of several different wildflowers that are able to grow within the gypsum dunes:

Gypsum Centaury growing in the sands
Desert Mentzelia growing in the sands.

I would love to go back to the park, and actually try sledding down a dune, hiking a little further than what we did, and even trying to camp out in the back-country for a day or two.

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Going through the White Sands National Monument

So on our way to Carlsbad Caverns, we did a side trip to the White Sands National Monument.

The White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico is comprised of great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand and is host to numerous different plants and animals.

       White Sands National Monument

This national monument, is almost unearthly when you’re either driving through or getting out to take a small hike to get some pictures. Above I manged to capture some of the swirling sand behind a couple of dunes. Climbing the dunes was interesting (though I think I managed to get quite a bit of sand accidentally in my sneakers–one drawback of having shoes that have the “holes” in them for your feet to breath).

                Lizard at White Sands

In regards to wildlife that if found within the boundaries of the monument–most of them are either nocturnal, or they live within the scrub areas (and those are usually the rattlesnakes, and I heard one already–didn’t really need to see one). There are suppose to be mice, and foxes, and there were also different lizards that also call this place home.

Above is the bleached earless lizard. This lizard is related to other “earless” lizards, but adapted to the region of the white sands–it is extremely pale (we almost missed seeing this guy run across the ground). It was unusual to see them during the day (usually seen in the morning near the boardwalk), but we saw this guy out in the dunes.

                 Gypsum centaury

There were several different plants, that I also managed to get some pictures of. One of them (above) was this beautiful pinkish flower on this one plant. That plant turned out to be gypsum centaury, and while they are usually found around springs or streams, but can also be found in the interdunal area (or the low areas between the dunes).

                   Yellow flowers

Here is another picture of another plant, that had bright yellow flowers. I’m still in the process of trying to identify this plant. Other plants included species of yucca, and grasses.

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