Sunday, April 18, 2021
Home Adventures Travel Getaway: White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Getaway: White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns National Park


Photo courtesy of NPS

Several must-see sights that should be on any bucket list worth its bucket can be found further afield from Albuquerque (see our post on a road trip to Albuquerque here). A visit to White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns National Park will take you to the southern part of the state, but your driving time is rewarded with two kinds of white formations.

In the southeast corner of New Mexico, Carlsbad keeps its secrets subterranean. Driving through some unspectacular hills to the incredibly crowded visitor center parking lot, you may not have an inkling of the treasure that lies beneath the surface. You can enter the caverns two ways: by foot or by elevator, a crazy piece of modern technology plunging into eons old Earth. We chose to wander in under our own steam and, unlike most visitors, to wander back out the same way.

The trip down the Main Corridor, along the paved but steep trail, reveals highlights around each corner. A favorite trick is to turn a torch roof ward to watch the shining descents of single drops of water, the minute building blocks of the cave.  Speleothems, or cave formations, include not just stalagmite and stalactite, but draperies, soda straws, columns, flowstone, popcorn and dams, all varying shapes and hues of white. In the midst of all this natural wonder, a restroom, snack bar, souvenir shop and aforementioned elevator are to be found. A constant stream of people and 57-degree temperature await you as you explore.

After driving for three hours, you wind down the huge grade of State Road 82 into Alamogordo, the town closest to White Sands National Monument. In the distance is a giant white expanse, reflecting the sky. Nestled in the northern limits of the Chihuahuan Desert, surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, this monument is small but special. Upon reaching the visitor center, you may be perplexed to see people in snow pants, toting plastic snow saucers. Juxtaposed with the blazing sun, these sights seem most peculiar. Upon entering the park and driving along Dunes Drive, the attire and accoutrement make sense; massive white sand dunes provide perfect sledding hills, minus the snow.

Photo by Pippa Keene
We timed our visit for sunset colors and good photography light, arriving about 2 p.m. Many parking areas allow you to leave your car and stroll for as far or near as you want. But, as most sand dunes look very much alike, keep an eye on the mountains behind you so you may navigate the way back. Though they may look the same to the untrained eye, there are four distinct types of dunes: Dome, Barchan, Transverse and Parabolic, forms based on wind, sand supply and plant life. After walking for half an hour, a peaceful feeling descends, as there are no other people visible. Shadows of cacti and grasses cast crazy patterns in the waning light while tiny lizard feet leave etchings of hasty passage. The hearty Soaptree Yucca can grow up to a foot a year to keep its leaves above the sand, resting on a sand pedestal once the dune moves on.

Both Carlsbad and Alamogordo have every service you need for your visit. A four-hour drive from Alamogordo has you in Santa Fe, the crown jewel of the state.

You know it's spring in Utah when cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the @utstatecapitol ⁠🌸😍⁠

Photo by @gravesstuart

Inspired by @oldsaltlake, we're celebrating #throwbackthursday with a favorite snapshot of early 20th century Salt Lake City. 🏖️⁠

Photos shared by @oldsaltlake are inspiring millennials and zoomers decades later with visions of a different city: one with easily accessible public transportation, walkable streets, local businesses (open late) and distinctive architecture.⁠

See more photos at the link in our bio. ⁠

Pictured: Women relax at what is believed to be Saltair Beach, date unknown

Why did Utah's only Titanic passenger not survive her journey?⁠

The descendants of Irene Corbett believe that the 30-year-old teacher sacrificed her life to save others. It's one of the many ways this remarkable figure bucked tradition and forged her own trail.⁠

Read more about Irene at the link in our bio!

One year ago today: a Salt Lake earthquake that even shook Moroni 👼⁠

Photo by @gravesstuart

"We must have done something right, cause you guys kept coming back."⁠

@bluepelatedinerslc, one of Salt Lake's signature spots for everyone from hungover college kids to vegan food lovers, will be closing its doors this May after more than two decades of service. It's the latest casualty in a brutal year for the restaurant industry. ⁠

Head to the link in our bio for a tribute to Blue Plate Diner. (And keep supporting your favorite local restaurants. ❤️)

Tony Caputo, a food evangelist and founding father of today’s SLC food community, passed away last night.⁠

Tony started @caputosmarket in 1997, bringing his passion for the cuisine of his heritage to Utah tables. Most days during the lunch rush you’d find Tony behind the counter slicing meat and cheeses and then, after it wound down, holding court out front. He’d often rush back behind the counter and holler over his shoulder, “you have to try this!" only to return with a sample bite of veiny cheese, a paper-thin leaf of prosciutto or a perfectly crisp amaretti cookie that he’d recently added to his menagerie of taste. For his many contributions to Salt Lake City, we awarded Tony with a Lifetime Achievement Dining Award in 2007.⁠

Today, we're sending love to @caputosmarket and the many people whose lives were touched by Tony. A full tribute is on our website now. ❤️

Why is the Pleasant Grove theme park Evermore suing one of the most powerful women in music? Long story short: a playground for those who would choose lore over folklore is taking on Taylor Swift over the name of her most recent album. Both parties have their reputation on the line in a battle of undercover Swifties and novelty mug disputes. Will Evermore hit the gold rush? Or did they cross the wrong mad woman? The full story is at the link in our bio. ...

Even in the exploration boom of the 1800s, nobody dared to explore the terrain flowing through the Green and the Colorado Rivers.⁠

That is, nobody until Major John W. Powell said the 19th Century equivalent of “Hey man, hold my beer while I try this.”⁠

Read more about his dangerous expedition at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo of Powell’s expedition courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division⁠

A brand new issue of Salt Lake magazine is coming your way! ⁠

We can't wait to share these stories with you. This issue includes our annual Blue Plate Awards celebrating those surviving and thriving in the restaurant biz. Plus, we take a road trip to Wyoming and ask why the only Utah passenger on the Titanic didn’t survive her journey.⁠

A note from our editor Jeremy Pugh, including beautiful tributes to Mary Brown Malouf from our friends in the community, is online now. Read more at the link in our bio ❤️⁠

Subscribers: Look for this issue in your mailbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands March 1! 📬

Today, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2021 Blue Plate Awards! ⁠🎉⁠

These prizes honor the growers, food evangelists, grocers, servers, bakers, chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs who do more than put good food on the table—they make our community a better place to live. This year, just surviving as a local business deserves an award, but each of our Blue Plate winners did more than that. They made us grateful for every person involved in the essential act of feeding us.⁠ 🍽⁠

At the link in our bio, we have the full list of winners, a celebration of feats of COVID creativity and a tribute to restaurants we lost this year. If you’re hungry for more, pick up a copy on newsstands March 1! Plus, check out our Instagram for spotlights on some of the Blue Plate winners. ⁠

This year’s Blue Plate Awards are the first without our beloved Executive Editor Mary Brown Malouf. We dedicate them to her, our town’s biggest food fan, critic and champion. xoxomm⁠ 💙

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @ricobrandut for Staying in Beansness⁠

Last summer, it seemed that Rico would be another victim of rapid gentrification in Salt Lake. Luckily, Rico was able to find a new home in Poplar Grove and now plans to add even more employees. It’s a last-minute happy ending for a community leader who literally wears his mission on his sleeve, courtesy a tattoo in bright red block letters: “pay it forward.” 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award Winner: @spicekitchenincubator for Keeping the Spice Flowing⁠

This year Spice Kitchen Incubator, already an essential resource for refugees, became, well, even more essential. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @thestore_utah for Special Deliveries ⁠

As grocery delivery becomes the new norm, The Store offers a personal touch that only an independent grocer can provide. Last March, high-risk and elderly customers began calling in their grocery lists over the phone, and The Store’s general managers personally delivered food to their homes. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @cucinaslc for Preserving Neighborhood Connection⁠

Cucina’s outdoor spaces became a place where the neighborhood could gather safely. Owner Dean Pierose offered free coffee in the mornings and encouraged his regulars to linger and commiserate together, preserving a semblance of society during a socially distanced time. 💙⁠