Friday, September 24, 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.

One year ago today: Utahns mourn at a vigil for Breonna Taylor. Taylor was shot and killed by a police officer in March 2020, inspiring worldwide protests and calls for racial justice. ...

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Gayle Dowdle as Queen Elizabeth I of England ⁠

@dowdledesign is the queen of renaissance fairs and comic conventions. Dowdle began cosplaying six years ago and has been planning to recreate Queen Elizabeth I ever since. She spent as many as 700 hours constructing the ensemble. She entered her cosplay into the @fanxsaltlake 2019 cosplay contest, winning first prize. Since, she has continued to make upgrades to the royal cosplay she has created. “My dress will never be finished,” she says. 👑⁠

The wig is actually made of Dowdle’s own hair, which she cut off before beginning chemotherapy treatments last year. She says, “When I wear this wig, I don’t feel like Gayle with cancer, I just feel like Gayle again.” ⁠

See more portraits of Utah cosplayers at the link in our bio! ⁠

Photo by Adam Finkle⁠

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Missy Moody as Giselle from "Enchanted"⁠

@madamemoodycosplay has competed on the stage at comic conventions from Salt Lake City to New York in Giselle’s massive wedding gown from Disney’s "Enchanted." The self-taught seamstress has remade the dress five times over the course of four years, eventually wearing it to her very own nuptials. ⁠✨⁠

While Moody’s Giselle cosplay has been hailed as screen accurate, Moody advises, “Just have fun with cosplay. Don’t worry too much about accuracy. It’s OK to take some shortcuts.”⁠

See more portraits of Utah cosplayers at the link in our bio! ⁠

Photo by Adam Finkle⁠

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Ryan Bielik as Caleb Widogast from "Critical Role"⁠

“It was a demanding mistress,” @moody_kittens says of his Caleb cosplay, his take on a character from the Dungeons & Dragons live-streaming sensation turned multimedia empire "Critical Role." Bielik started cosplaying in 2013 and typically attends three conventions per year. After the pandemic, his Caleb cosplay represents a return to form: an obsessive attention to detail. Bielik plans to publicly debut his Caleb cosplay this year at @fanxsaltlake, where he will also enter the cosplay contest. 🪶

“I wanted something elegant to do—flashy, colorful. Something with a lot of grace in the costume,” says Bielik. ⁠

See more portraits of Utah cosplayers at the link in our bio! ⁠

Photo by Adam Finkle

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Kimber Gabryszak as Brienne of Tarth from "Game of Thrones"⁠

@kimber.and.connie.cosplay sets a high bar for herself. “I love to be as screen-accurate as possible,” she says. Gabryszak has always loved costuming, “I was cosplaying before I realized what cosplaying was.” But she did not attend her first comic convention until 2015. She says, “Brienne is the most ambitious character I have ever cosplayed.” Gabryszak had to learn leatherworking, for example, but by far the most difficult undertaking was constructing the chainmail. ⚔️ ⁠

"I like doing villains or people with a unique appearance who might not be as conventionally pretty,” she says. “Brienne is this tough, badass, giant, imposing woman.”⁠

See more portraits of Utah cosplayers at the link in our bio! ⁠

Photo by Adam Finkle

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We're teaming up with @gotbeautydotcom and @goodthingsutah to offer a $150 beauty package. Got Beauty is celebrating 30 years of business locally owned and operated by women. ❤️⁠

Here's how you can win: ⁠
✨ Like this post and tag three friends in the comments.⁠
✨ Follow @slmag, @gotbeautydotcom and @goodthingsutah.⁠
✨ Enter by 5 p.m. Friday for a chance to win!⁠

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Get ready to explore a city of secrets⚡👁️⁠

In a brand new issue of @slmag, we're uncovering the strange, obscure and unexplained stories and lore from Salt Lake City’s history, from a lost Mormon colony to a rampaging royal elephant to a sphinx with the face of Joseph Smith.⁠ Plus, we highlight outdoor gear trailblazers and continue our 2021 Travel Series in the Big Sky State.

Subscribers: look for this issue in your inbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands Sept. 1! 📪⁠

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If you’re wondering if it’s worth the trip to a certified Dark Sky Park to view the Perseids, the short answer is “yes.” The long answer is “heck yes.” 🌠⁠

It's not too late to see the yearly Perseids meteor shower light up the night sky. Learn more at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo: Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal; Credit: @miahwatt courtesy @visitutah

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Trade the snowy mountains for sandy peaks. 🏂⁠

At Idaho's Bruneau Dunes State Park, enormous dunes are the perfect playgrounds for dreamy sunsets, night sky views and a sandboarding adventure.⁠

Check out more of our favorite Idaho destinations at the link in our bio!

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Today is National Watermelon Day! 🍉🍉🍉⁠

Celebrate with easy-to-make watermelon granita, summer's coolest frozen dessert. The full recipe is at the link in our bio!⁠

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It's giveaway time!🐒🍻⁠

We're giving away two tickets to @hoglezoo's Zoo Brew. Visit the zoo's more than 800 animals while sipping a local beer at this 21+ event. ⁠
Here's how you can win:⁠
🐘 Like this post and tag three of your favorite party animals in the comments.
🐘 Follow both @slmag and @hoglezoo.⁠
🐘 Enter by 9 a.m. Wednesday for a chance to win!⁠

(Tickets are valid for any 2021 Zoo Brew event.)⁠

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