Monday, June 19, 2017

The Politicization of White Sands National Monument

When you live in Alamogordo and have out-of-town visitors turn up it's pretty much written in the rules that you have to take them to White Sands National Monument. No, really! I can show you the page where it says so!

I was here at the Monument many years ago when passing through the area. How many years I'm not sure but it was before I started blogging, well before I was retired. My favorite part of that visit was hiking the Dune Life Nature Trail which is within a couple miles of the park entrance.

This was a self-guided hike over and around the dunes with numbered stations that corresponded with information on a handout you could get from the visitor center. (Did you know that some of the plants here, which pretty much all get their start on bare ground between the dunes, will continue to grow upward as the dunes blow in and will end up with root systems as tall as the dunes they're sitting on?!)

Little did I know at the time that I will likely never be able to walk that trail again.

One of the several abandoned pullouts along the road safety corridor. No longer available to anybody but lawbreakers and Border Patrol.

It seems that the first 4 miles of the Monument's road have now been designated a 'road safety corridor' and you are not allowed to even slow down, let alone stop, anywhere along there. (Although we were forced to stop right in the middle of this no-stop zone by a ranger that was inexplicably blocking the road. As we sat and waited he would release a single vehicle every 5 minutes or so, allowing it to continue on deeper into the monument, but keep the rest of us waiting. I guess after a while he got tired of this senseless crap, maybe his coffee had run out, because eventually he let the rest of the growing line go by en-mass with no explanation.)

I have since tried to look up this 'road safety corridor' but found nothing to explain it. There is a different kind of  road safety corridor that is all about stretches of federal highways with a higher than normal incidence of wrecks where enforcement and traffic fines are increased, but I'm sure they would be hard put to pass that reasoning off on this short dead-end two-lane stretch of 35 MPH road, and even if they could that still doesn't explain the no-slowing, no-stopping rule.

For lack of any other explanation my personal take is that this restriction has nothing to do with safety at all and everything to do with the odious 'Internal Border Control Check Station' that is just south of the park entrance stopping all northbound traffic.

These stations are where everybody, including citizens traveling withing their own country, (They don't give a damn.) is subject to being scanned for explosives, radiation, and warm bodies tucked into hidden compartments, looked up on the computer (Via your license plate) to see if you are worthy or not, sniffed by dogs and questioned by armed guards, (Does this sound like the modernized version of Nazi checkpoints throughout conquered Europe??) all because, in part Border Control didn't do their job - well, you know - at the border. . . but mainly because of a power-grab by Homeland Security and the government in general. (If you let them have it they will take it and never give it back. The founders of this country, whom we have grievously let down, knew this well and tried to put safeguards in place, but the greedy and power-hungry will always find a way if not enough are willing to stand against them.)

Everybody knows where these fixed check stations are so now Border Control needs to appropriate even more vehicles and manpower in order to run around the nearby countryside attempting to nab anyone trying to walk around the checkpoint. Of course it makes their job easier if the only vehicles stopping in the area are the ones picking up 'bypassers'. (And it doesn't matter if you are a citizen or not, if caught on foot in the area, even if you are doing nothing more than exercising your right to walk on public land, you will, at the very least, be escorted from the area with a stern talking to.)

Unfortunately the Dune Life Nature Trail is right in the middle of this zone so it has been lost to all of us, now and most likely well into the future. (The Monument web site states that this and the Playa trails are "temporarily" closed but I'm not buying that crap!)

Fortunately the Interdune Boardwalk is beyond the so-called safety corridor and still accessible.

There's a plethora of information along the not-quite half mile boardwalk

And in the places where people haven't jumped over the side and Nike'ed the ground with designer footprints (You are asked to stay on the boardwalk in this sensitive area but apparently that's asking too much of some of us!) the fine sand retains prints of passing insects,

wandering birds

and even dancing plants!

So take your time on the boardwalk and enjoy this unique habitat,

because with the demise of both the Dune Life Nature and Playa Trails this is pretty much it other than the sledding.

One word of warning about traversing the boardwalk though. The composite deck and handrail are laid over an aluminum support structure and the combination of bone-dry air and relentless wind (Note the firm grip on the straw hat!) builds up quite a static charge just waiting to wallop your ass!

Ahh yes, the sledding!  Back in Alamo this morning we all jammed into one car. It wasn't the smallest car you can get, but it's not all that big either, yet there was no question that we find space for a couple of sledding disks because that's what you do at White Sands!

Apparently there used to be three sledding disks but on a previous trip someone (They are in this photo and know who they are!) took a bit of a flying leap and broke one of them. . .

But even with only two sleds, after making the climb up

there was the sledding down

Only problem with that

is that there are no lifts or tow-lines out here. . .

Fortunately one really cool (Yep, pun intended.) feature about the gypsum sand of White Sands is that even under the summer sun the sand stays cool, in fact bury your feet a few inched down on a blazing summer day and the sand is downright chilly!

Before we leave White Sands, this is why the Tularosa basin is hazy most afternoons during the windy season. The spring sun starts to warm the relatively cool air near the ground in the morning, which sends said air skyward, which causes cool air to come rushing, viciously I might add, down the mountains to fill the gap, and so on and so on.

The very fine gypsum sand, more like dust really, is picked up off the dunes by this action and lifted to amazing heights. It's a wonder there's any left!!

But for now it's time to go because I'm taking my fair share of sand with me and it's going to take a while to get all of it out of - well - everywhere. . .

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