The dunes were formed when a shallow sea covered the area about 250 million years ago. They are surrounded by the San Andres, Sacramento and Sierra Blanca Mountain ranges. A road takes tourists eight miles into the dunes, with many turn-offs and parking lots allowing for hiking anywhere. Without following the markers, it would be easy to get lost as there are not any particular features delineating one dune from the next. We have visited many lake and seaside dunes but usually they are partially covered by foliage to prevent erosion. It was really awesome to see miles of sparkling sand dunes stretching out towards the distant mountains.
We spotted an antelope grazing in the brush on our way home. Too late to see the museum, we stopped at the White Sands Missile Range. A number of missiles ranging in size and age were displayed outside and we explored until we were too cold. The sun reaching through the mountains provided a dramatic background for the objects of war.
A funny thing happened to Caron on the way to the missile range....
The Chirichaua Desert Museum was a real gem with exhibits of everything related to reptiles. There were some great posters, packaging, products and postcards that featured snakes, turtles, lizards and alligators. The walls were filled with exquisite paintings by local artist Tell Hicks. Skulls and skeletons were beautifully displayed as were a variety of reptile-themed sculptures. There were live turtles and a huge variety of local snakes on view. Chris captured a video of a rattler who decided that we were a threat and put on quite a display with loud acoustics. All the snakes are so camouflaged in their environments it is not surprising that sightings are rare. The museum owner has been a passionate reptile lover since his youth and travels the world to observe different species. He knew Steve Erwin and had a display of "The Crocodile Hunter" children's games and memorabilia. The gift shop was filled with an amazing book and art collection and fine crafted goods. To underline our desert location, we found a tumbleweed stuck under the car in the museum parking lot!
The cold crazy winds blew in some threatening clouds and before it got dark that night,we could see some precipitation falling in sheets around the mountains. We celebrated New Year's arrival via London TV where we heard Big Ben and the fireworks over skype with Marilyn and Mike in England. Happy New Year!!!!