April 28, 2016
In this crazy world of over-stimulation there are still places you can go to exhale all the data and distractions and breathe in purity. Dog-friendly White Sands National Monument (near Alamogordo, New Mexico) is the closest Bodie and I have got to feeling like we’ve stepped onto another planet – the lone survivors in a sci-fi movie… (Click to enlarge image and step inside this wonderland!)
Covering 275 square miles of Chihuahuan Desert, the White Sands National Monument is the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.
I don’t know when I’ve seen Bodie running with such an enormous grin on his face!
He built up so much joyous speed he became little more than a blur!
And then mastered his Clint Eastwood squint, sneer and swagger…
Before climbing to higher ground (which is no mean feat – you can read my human account of scaling the dunes below!) and digging…
Home sweet sand pit…
You’ve got a little something on your face…
Undeterred, Bodie wears his new sandy nose and lip crunch with pride…
IN CONCLUSION: White Sands National Monument is well worth the doggie detour – this is a landscape and an experience you’ll treasure forever.
DOG-FRIENDLY WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Website: White Sands National Monument
Directions From Las Cruces, NM: Drive time: About 1 hour. Take Highway US-70 east over the Organ Mountains towards Alamogordo. The monument and visitor center are located about 52 miles (84 km) east of Las Cruces on the north side (left-hand side) of the highway, approximately one mile past the Border Patrol checkpoint station. If you are not an American citizen, you will need to have your passport with you to get past the checkpoint. (I didn’t – big mistake!)
Phone: (575) 479-6124 Fees: $5 per adult for a 7-day pass. Under 17s free.
Important: Summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Farenheit so plan your trip for cooler days/seasons. Our blue sky day was the 1st of January!
One last look before we leave…
WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT – WHERE TO STAY
Las Cruces lies 50 miles from the dog-friendly White Sands National Monument. Hotel Encanto is a grand, spacious, Mexican-tiled hotel with a dedicated dog area on property. Full review coming soon.
DOG-FRIENDLY LAS CRUCES: Click for the CVB’s great resource list.
I visited The Lodge many moons ago while roaming the US for my road trip memoir On The Road To Mr Right. My friend Nina and I had a rather hair-raising experience at the White Sands National Monument (not quite the idyllic weather of the Bodie visit) and then thought we’d swing by the famously haunted hotel for lunch. Here’s a little extract from the book for your amusement:
Nina and I decide to spend the morning in search of rad snowboarder types at White Sands National Monument – apparently you can surf three-story-high dunes on what look like giant Frisbees and if that doesn’t attract thrill seeking dudes by the dozen, I don’t know why will.
‘I can just see them now – wraparound shades, O’Neill t-shirts, sun-bleached hair,’ Nina rapturises. ‘Do you think they have orange campervans out here like they do in Cornwall? I love a campervan!’
We switch to Highway 70 at Las Cruces, pass a blip of a town called Organ and then easily spot the entrance to the monument – the white sands are seeping out onto the tarmac to greet us.
‘Any minute now, surfer dudes!’ Nina pips.
We stop off at the Visitor Centre to buy our ‘sand boards’ which sell for £6 and resemble a big plastic dustbin lid. The price includes a cube of wax which you rub over the base of the ‘board’ every other slide to lubricate your descent. As we breeze through the exhibit, eager to get to the dunes, we learn they are home to mysterious wildlife including the False Blister Beetle, the Kangaroo Rat and the Bleached No-Eared Lizard. And many films – from King Solomon’s Mines to Tank Girl – have been shot here. It’s easy to see why, it’s just about as mesmerizing a backdrop as you could imagine.
‘It’s like a different planet out there!’ Nina coos, nose pressed up against the passenger window scanning our ethereal surroundings for the ultimate dune. ‘Here?’ she points ahead to a pale, powdery peak.
I nod my confirmation. ‘Lets boldly go!’
We leap from the car, bound to the base of the dune and then two strides up we’re sunk – and you thought walking on the moon looked hard! Every step we take our legs seep knee-deep into the crystals, making any kind of progress a monumental effort. Even climbing to a ten-foot ledge leaves me gasping for air, which isn’t a great situation when the air is whisked up with gypsum. But on we go to the top, expecting to find a whole wonderland of sand-surfers beyond the ridge. When we get there we realize it’s just us. And sand. For miles.
We soon find out why – violent winds are gathering, already redistributing the sand like caster sugar being chased across tracing paper.
When we first arrived the sky was blue, the sand was white and road was tawny. Now there is zero contrast between the three. Everything is white. It’s like being in heaven.
Were it not for the brightly painted hut marking the parking area I wouldn’t know which way was up.
‘Are we going to try this before we get buried alive?’ I suggest, battling to turn around while my wind-whipped hair slices at my face.
‘Let’s do it!’ Nina cheers.
‘Okay, here I come!’ I yell, placing my bottom on the lid and bracing myself for immediate take-off. Nothing. I shunt myself forward a little. I go no further than half a metre and stick again. ‘Oh god! I think I’m too heavy to slide!’
‘Don’t be silly, try again!’ Nina shouts encouragement.
I shuffle and jiggle, ready to whoosh. Nothing. Instead I have to make an ungainly descent hoiking myself forward using my feet and bouncing in the disc, creating little ridges as I chug down.
‘Why can’t I do it?’ I whine as I struggle to my feet.
‘Did you wax?’ Nina enquires.
‘Ahhh,’ I groan, tapping my head reproachfully. Actually I did but I like to think perhaps I didn’t wax thoroughly enough.
Wax cube worn to a mere cuticle, I turn back to try again but the wind is against me and I only manage to struggle halfway up the dune using the disc as a shield against the stinging needles of sand. Flumping into position I’m ready to try again. One little jerk and sail down. Not exactly a blur but the unassisted motion feels good. I’m panting as I get to my feet, a gritty smile on my face. Ordinariliy I expect people – kids especially – get hours of exhaustive fun out of this location but after just two goes I feel like I’ve run a mile in lead boots while being chased by a tornado. Nina is already back at the car. The door nearly blows off its hinges as I attempt to join her and, as I struggle to close it behind me, the dashboard disappears under a layer of white as the sand races to join us on our outbound journey.
‘I’m covered in the stuff,’ Nina groans as she excavates a cupful of crystalline powder from her cleavage.
I flip down the mirror and part my sand-strewn tangles. ‘Ohmigod, I look like I’ve got the worst dandruff!’ Peering closer I see that my lipgloss has acted like glue and I now have a white-frosted mouth. ‘Pwah!’ I spit.
‘Good fun though,’ Nina grins.
‘Brilliant!’ I agree.
Having been blinded by the white, I feel like shouting, ‘I can see! I can see!’ when we get back onto the main road. Suddenly everything appears more beautiful, though that may be just because it is. We’re now on winding Highway 82 and is is lifting us skyward – up, up and away from the flat desert to lush pine-packed mountains that remind me of Colorado. This diversion will add a couple of hours to our journey time but we’re rather taken with the idea of lunching with the resident ghost at The Lodge at Cloudcroft. (Rebecca was a flirtatious redhead who, having been done wrong by a former beau way back in 1900, continues to haunt the corridors in search of a new lover. A woman after our own hearts.)
When we get to The Lodge we find it is more refined than we imagined – posh ladies in nice blouses with real jewels sipping Sancerre and nibbling asparagus. Since we look like we’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards and then electrocuted, I’m not sure we’re going to be welcomed with open menus.
‘We can’t go in looking like this,’ I fret.
‘Have you got your Wet Wipes and make-up bag?’
‘Well then, we’ll just duck into the loo, tidy ourselves up and we’ll be fine,’ Nina assures me.
We crunch lightly past reception, dart through the gothic lounge and manage to locate the restrooms without frightening any veterans. As Nina sets to work shaking the small desert from her hair, I empty a knickerful of sand into the toilet bowl.
‘Oh my god no!’ I hear Nina howl.
‘What is it?’ I stick my head out of the cubicle, trousers still at half-mast fearing she’s found a No-eared Lizard half-strangled in her mane but she’s simply mortified by the ever-increasing enormity of her hair.
‘It’s 1983 and I’m Keren from Bananarama,’ she wails at her reflection.
‘How did it get like that?’ I gasp at what would ordinarily be a two-cans-of-Elnett job.
‘I was hanging upside down to get the sand out and now I can’t get it to lie back down.’
In the end we settle on winding it into a bun. Me I look like a back-combed Ginger Spice circa Say You’ll Be There and there’s nothing that can be done about it. (Secretly I’m loving my newfound volume even though the texture is pure wire wool.)
With two fresh coats of foundation and all the trimmings, we’re as preened as we can be and present ourselves at the sun-streamed dining room.
‘Good afternoon ladies?’ The Maitre D’ greets us with a question mark.
‘Yes, two for lunch please.’
‘We stopped serving ten minutes ago.’
Ten minutes? So spending twenty minutes getting ready was probably a mistake. Our bellies flop with dismay.
Heading back to Truth or Consequences we get pulled over at Border Control (we’re less than a hundred miles from the Mexican Border) and I am labelled a Code Red. But that’s another story…