Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lake Holloman and White Sands, NM

Forum friend Beth told me about this free boondocking spot at Lake Holloman, on the Holloman AFB. The area is just 4 miles from White Sands National Monument, and adjacent to the White Sands Missile Range.
Lake Holloman is a stop for migratory birds, and is a recognized birding area.
Snow-peaked Sierra Blanca is about 60 miles northeast. You can see a portion of the Air Force Base in this picture.
 The Sacramento Mountains are about 30 miles east of us.
 Sierra Blanca...the White Mountain...with an elevation of 12,003 feet at its summit.
 We saw many ducks and other waterfowl. These are Northern Shovelers.
Greater Yellowlegs and American Avocet 
 A pair of House Finches may be nesting in a pile of brush here. There are not many trees, so a bird will do what a bird's gotta do.
 These are mostly coots...in an area that is closed off, so couldn't get closer.
Eared Grebes
Avocets and a Northern Shoveler
 With her spotting scope, Birdie was able to identify a variety of ducks at the far end of the lake.
 Since they are resting on their migratory journey, we did not try to get close lest we set them in flight.

In the afternoon the wind picked up, rearranging the dunes at White Sands to our west.
 Sunset was stunning over the lake.

 And then there was the moonrise.
In the morning I visited White Sands.
 There is a loop drive through the park.
 I stopped to do this boardwalk trail.
 The animals that live here are pale, an adaptation to the white sand habitat.
 Only a few species of plants grow rapidly enough to survive burial by moving dunes.

This Soaptree Yucca must have a very long stem for its roots to be in the soil beneath this tall dune.
 THe area around Lake Holloman has this same kind of crusty surface which I now know is cyanobacteria.
 Fragile crust that holds rainwater and adds nutrients for plants to grow.
The dunes are created by the mineral gypsum, rarely found as sand because it is soluble in water. Rain and snow in the mountains dissolve gypsum from the rocks and carry it to the basin below. Because no river drains this basin to carry dissolved gypsum away, it collects and forms crystals that erode into sand-like particles. Strong winds blow the particles into dunes.
 Other animals that have adapted to living on white sand.
 I didn't see any of those white critters, but some of the plant life took on creature-like shapes.

There were signs that some of those critters have passed this way, perhaps during the night. Ripples and tracks...

 Some small critter finds refuge here.

Perhaps some of those signs belong to the Apache Pocket Mouse. I wish I had kidneys half as efficient as this critter.
The House Finch is the only bird I saw, but others, such as the Roadrunner, live here too.
 This shrub-like plant where the finch is perched may actually be the top of a tree.

 The gypsum actually began at the floor of an ancient seabed.

 Someone tossed a dime on the sand. It will soon be buried, but it gives you an idea of the size of the sand crystals.
 Plants have to grow fast to stay above the shifting sand.
Farther into the park are higher dunes and fewer plants. These are the dunes where visitors are invited to go sledding.

 The circular sleds are for sale in the gift shop.
 The loop road is accessible to RVs, however, there is no RV campground here. The only camping is backcountry tent camping by permit.

 There is more than one way to slide down the dunes apparently.
 Some are more successful than others.
Don't tell Thistle that pets are permitted here on a leash. He stayed home to guard the RV while I came. 
Admission is free with your Golden Age/Access Pass, or $3 per person without.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a nice campground. Do you have to access it through Holloman AFB? Nice tour of White Sands too.


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