August 7 - Carlsbad Caverns & White Sands

I spent Tuesday morning walking inside the depths of Carlsbad Caverns. One section of the cave was "civilized" many years ago by the addition of a controversial cafeteria , gift shop, bathrooms, and an elevator.

Carlsbad Caverns - entrance (8/07 9:43 AM) Carlsbad Caverns - underground cafeteria (8/07 11:15 AM)

Back aboveground, I started heading back west, stopping at White Sands National Monument , a pocket of bright white gypsum dunes in the otherwise off-limits White Sands Missile Range. This gypsum , normally soluble in water, is a powder in this dry environment — but does get a bit sticky on moist skin. This dunes park is a bit like the beach for New Mexicans — there are picnic tables, and kids playing with shovels. It's also like snow — with kids sledding down the slopes, and areas plowed flat for driving.

White Sands (panorama) (8/07 4:32 PM) somersaulting (8/07 4:40 PM) odd-looking picnic benches (8/07 5:16 PM) yucca surviving at the edge of the dunes (8/07 5:22 PM)