Thursday, July 29, 2010

White Sands, Part 2

When I looked at my blog today, I noticed that the video I posted of White Sands is pretty crappy. Turns out, Blogger compresses videos. Sigh. I haven't the wherewithal to figure out how to un-compress the video, so ... photos will have to do.

Here's the link to the gallery, as I'm only going to post a few of the pictures on my blog:

White Sands

First off, it was insanely hot the day I went to White Sands. I didn't pick a great time, since it's the middle of the summer, and monsoon season hadn't really swung into gear. (Monsoon season is in full swing now and effectively cools down the weather a good 15 - 20 degrees.)

I am stubborn and I get crazy ideas in my head that I must follow, so I pooh-pooh'ed the weather, packed a cooler full of ice, water, and snacks, and drove off into the sunset. Before I got to White Sands, I did stop to get gas at a tiny town with a big name:
Literally only stopped so I could take a picture of that sign- I had probably a good half-tank of gas left. It's such a fun name, I couldn't resist! And the city of Elephant Butte sounds like a fun time, too.

There are clouds for miles. I know that the Midwest is considered "Big Sky country," because of the flat land and abundance of nature, but the sky here is pretty darn big, too:
With amazing clouds, with insanely fast mood swings. These clouds change so fast it's amazing that they're all in the same sky.
Even without clouds, the sky feels big. I don't even know how to describe it. It feels like there's so much space, a sensation that I never got in LA, even when I was out in nature. Something about the desert, maybe?
Beautifully soft clouds with beautifully soft sand. The sand really is very white. It's very fine, almost like cosmetic powder, which makes it stick to everything. I got home and shook out a good half-cup of sand all over the place.
There were these strange, hard ridges in the valleys between some of the dunes. I looked it up when I got home, and I think these are called alkali flats, or dry lakes. The trail I hiked is called the Alkali Flat Trail, so I consider that proof. I found the patterns to be very pretty, some rigid structure among the constantly changing sand dunes.
A closer look at those ridges. They're definitely made of sand, but somehow clumped together. I don't know how or why, but it's definitely interesting. I picked off a piece of a ridge, and though it looks hard and sharp, it crumbled gently into soft sand. An almost alien landscape.

Fun picnic areas, with these funny little covers over the tables. The shape, the design, the metal- it all reminds of what was considered "space age" in the '60's. Almost retro, but so cute! I love these things.

During my hike along the Alkali Flat Trail, there were a few signs of life- footprints, markers for the trail, and even a few bugs. The bugs didn't come out until the sun started to set, but once the temperature dropped, they were scuttling across the sand dunes quickly.
Yes, I got this close to a bug. It was a little scary- I don't like bugs, I will never be an entomologist- but somehow, the fact that life could exist in such a barren landscape made me appreciate this little guy.
This might be the same species as the previous bug, but they looked different enough to me at the time (with snowblindness and exhaustion) that I look his picture, too.
I quite liked this bug. Maybe he's a scarab? I associate scarabs with deserts, thanks to repeated viewings of "Aladdin" as a small child. This dude ran across the sand, leaving behind slight footprints. He was moving fast, and I had to run after him to take this picture. I don't know where he was in such a rush to run off to, but he provided me with some amusement at the end of my hike, when I was tired and felt like I would never find my car.

It was a lovely visit, albeit hot as Hades and a little scary. The scary part being that I decided to go hiking along a trail that didn't have markers posted very close together. So I would see a marker, trek over to it, then would have to scope out the area to find the next marker. It made the hike interesting, since I kept veering off course to look for the next marker.

By the time I the sun set and I couldn't take any more pictures, it had gotten sufficiently dark enough to worry me. I kept thinking that I would never find the next marker, and that I would never be able to get home. I wondered how long my bottle of water would last, and how cold the sand got at night.

It was all silly speculation, of course. I found my way back (though the trail seemed eight times longer than when I was setting off) and made it home. I have never been so happy to see my car before, that's for sure.

Then, while the relief of finding my car and not having to sleep on sand was still coursing through my veins, I got caught in a giant lightning storm.

There are lightning storms here that do not have thunder. There are thunderstorms here that do not have lightning. Then, there are lightning storms that don't have thunder but have rain. And there are thunderstorms that do not have lightning but have rain. And any combination of the three- lightning, thunder, and rain. I got caught in the epic storm that had all three, which was a first for me. I'm usually caught in one or two of those elements, but not all three.

It was a bit of a scary drive, with the thunder rumbling, the lightning crackling, and the rain pelting down. The rain eased up almost immediately, and then I was just stuck with crazy lightning and thunder for most of my trip back home.

I imagined what it would be like to get struck by lightning, and what I should do if my car was struck by lightning. Since the tires are rubber ... I should be fine, right? What parts of my car are metal that I shouldn't touch? Is the steering wheel grounded? All kinds of random thoughts.

The worry was for naught, but it made me realize how truly insignificant I am in the scheme of things. A lightning bolt, one of hundreds that occurred during that storm, could have killed me. I could have died as easily as a petunia in the desert, but I didn't. And how lucky am I, just for that survival?

Very lucky.


Amanda July 29, 2010 at 4:23 PM  

I'm pretty sure Truth or Consequences named itself after a game show from the 50s.

I only know this because Good Man found the name somewhere and could not stop going on and on about it.

jeanny July 29, 2010 at 4:38 PM  

It was an old NBC radio show! Its old name used to be Hot Springs- I think the change was a good one.