White Sands in Alamogordo, NM is unbelievable. In December, it looks like the white sands of the Florida Panhandle, but feels more like I imagine the Arctic tundra does. As I drove over a mountain pass into town I kept looking far into the distance, wondering if I was seeing low clouds or snow, and never making the connection to the sands. They are huge, and I was fairly oxygen deprived at that point!
I visited on my second day there, first stopping at the visitor center to watch a film and then winding my way into the Sands, stopping a couple of times to run down boardwalks or crawl up dunes to take photos and watch people sledding in the sand. I'd never thought very hard about how they maintain the roads until I noticed earth moving equipment and realized that they are simply plowed periodically, just like snow.
Like all of the other places I've visited out west, there's muted color everywhere. The more you look, the more you see. It's the opposite of a super-saturated New England Spring or Autumn, inviting you instead to stop and watch, to pay attention.
I was in Alamogordo for a couple of nights, opting to visit the New Mexico Space History Museum the afternoon I arrived, which was an interesting couple of hours of wandering through a nearly deserted building with great views of the mountains. I sat through a planetarium show, which I greatly enjoyed, though it was so good on the effects side that I had to close my eyes periodically (even Ferris wheels are dicey for me). There were huge satellite photos, costume bins, and a metal plate you could stand on to experience the vibration ofrocket launch. A super cool place to take kids and Trekkies - there's a whole section dedicated to Star Trek.
I also stopped by one of the local pistachio farms, unable to resist (or miss) the gigantic concrete pistachio out front. The statue is a monument to the original owner, a tribute built by his son to honor him. I skipped the pistachio rose tasting, but did leave with a burlap sack of nuts, which I'll treat myself to at some point down the road.