Monday, May 28, 2007
If you're looking to film a snow/desert segment for your upcoming feature film, we suggest White Sands National Monument. In the Tulorosa Basin, low between the San Andres and Sacrament mountains, Lake Lucero collects spring run-off and monsoon tides. No rivers run from the lake. Slow evaporation and ground absorption allow for an unusual mineral concentration. Seasonally the lake recedes, exposing selenite crystals to substantial southwest winds. Gypsym sands blow through the basin, moving the 275 square miles (largest white sand dune int he world!) of dunes up to 30 feet annually.
Near the end of the eight mile park drive, a recreation area is dedicated to sledding, trampling, rolling, writing and angel making.
In the nature study area, where no sleds are allowed, a few plant-types have adapted to life in the sands. A rosemary-mint does wonders to counter the sand's slight urine scent. The soaptree yucca works to out pace the ever moving sands, elongating its leaves by more than a foot per year. The desert cottonwood can survive if even a few of its leaves remain above ground. These plants may thrive even when their first 30 feet are buried. As the parabolic and transverse dunes move on, the newly exposed yucca will collapse while the fibrous roots of other plants will hold a mound of sand, creating a landscape of green-topped mushrooms.
Racing up and down the dunes, self-generating breezes were a great relief from the mid-day heat.
King of the hill, Ukiah practices handstands and wonders why we only get one day in this magical kingdom. Off trail hiking and back "woods" camping are allowed. Another for our must return list.
Brad watched the clouds on the horizon, wondered if it might rain. Aslin, studying for her junior ranger badge, quoted the safety procedures. "If you see lightening, get off the dunes. If you can't, curl into a ball, not touching anything, keeping your knees to your chest." At the first marker, we heard thunder. Half-way through our short hike, Ukiah finally saw lightening first hand. Laughing, running, fearing, mesmerized, the end of the hike found us surrounded by storm clouds on three sides.
Observations on the missile range surrounding the sands, the noticeable decrease in road-kill along that section of hwy 70, the blinding yellow Oklahoma Hummer heavy with drycleaning, the unremarkable Rio
Grande at Los Cruces, the dramatic increase in southern accents- another time.
Off to Ruidoso Downs...