New Mexico, Where We've Been

White Sands National Park & Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves

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White Sands National Park

As a stark contrast to the surrounding landscape, White Sands National Park stands out as a sea of white in between two somber mountain ranges. To the west, the San Andres mountains are impregnated with a crystal known as selenite. Over time, the selenite breaks down and washes into the valley where it breaks down even further until it becomes the white sand that makes up the dunes in the park.

Gypsum, as the sand is otherwise known, is a material that is used to produce drywall, plaster, building blocks, and chalk. In gardening it is used as a soil additive to help improve soil composition, facilitate root growth, and to overcome the corrosive effects of alkalinity. 

Walking along the dunes, the first thing we noticed is how quiet everything became. It became evident as we walked behind a sand dune, away from the road, that the dunes were preventing any noise from other people or cars in the area from reaching us. This is because sand absorbs sound waves very well. Just one sand dune away, it seemed as if we were alone in this vast wilderness.

Large amounts of vegetation could be seen growing up out of the dunes near the beginning of the park. As we traveled further into the park, the vegetation became more sparse until it eventually disappeared from the landscape. 

Several species of animal life call the dunes their home. In the picture above, there are animal tracks that lead into the bush. Can you guess what animal they are from?

One of the many plants that grow here is the soaptree yucca. On the top of this plant grows the state flower of New Mexico. Back in the early days of the park’s founding, curious spectators dug down along the roots of one of the soaptree yucca plants to find how far the root system extends. In order for the soaptree yuccas to not become buried by the blowing sand dunes, their roots grow up to reach above the dune. Once the dunes moves, however, the soaptree yucca dies as its roots can no longer support the plant’s structure. 

Visiting the park in fall, we can only see the remnants of the once beautiful yucca flower, which will eventually bloom again in the springtime.

Another thing White Sands is famous for is the sledding. Anyone is free to wander in the park, choose a slope of their liking, and sled to their heart’s content. A plastic or slippery bottom sled is advised for the best sledding. We just used the body boards we bought in Oceanside and with some pulling, they seemed to work decently as well. The kids were excited to see the snow-colored sand, and made the most of the New Mexico “snow.”

Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves

There are only a few places in America that produce the right conditions to grow pistachios – California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Alamagordo is home to a couple pistachio groves, including the “world’s largest pistachio.” 

We toured Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves and found out how pistachios are grown, harvested, processed, and sold to people across the U.S. 

This delicious little nut is grown on a tree and when ready to harvest, a machine comes along and shakes the tree vigorously. The ripe nuts then fall off onto a catch basin where they are collected and brought to the warehouse. 

From there they are processed to remove their shells, sorted by size, roasted, and a seasoning added for additional taste.

After the tour, the kids taste tested the pistachio gelato and we bought some nuts to take with us. Yummm!


Holloman AFB FamCamp

We stayed at Holloman AFB FamCamp the week we visited Alamogordo, NM. All the hookup sites were full, so we decided to boondock in the overflow area. At only $3 per day, it was a steal. Laundry was free. Fresh water and a dump were on site.

Our timing wasn’t great, however, as we hit the area during a cold snap and the savings were eaten up with several fill ups for our propane tanks.

Starlink was decent at 18 down and 12 up. Verizon and AT&T were both 5 bars with our cell antenna. (4 bars with Verizon on the phones).