White Sands National Monument – New Mexico’s Desert Dunes!

February, 2015 – The first thing we noticed when we arrived at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, was the beautiful patterns in the sand. The wind leaves ripples across the sand, the way the ocean does at the beach, and the patterns wriggled away from us in semi-parallel lines as far as we could see.

Rippled sand of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico

We saw beautiful patterns in the sand everywhere.

When we first were driving towards the National Monument, we wondered where the sand was, becauase all we could see was vast brown landscapes all around us. But as soon as we got onto the Dunes Drive inside the park, the white sand enveloped us on all sides.

Vast landscapes and tiny person at White Sands National Park New Mexico

The landscape at White Sands is vast.

The sand was virgin in most places, filled with patterns that Mother Nature chose. But in some spots we saw the tracks of little creatures and the footprints of people, some wearing shoes and many running barefoot!

Sand Patterns at White Sands New Mexico

Ripples weave across the desert floor.

Animal tracks in the sand

Animals and people left tracks here and there.


There are hundreds of square miles of brilliant white sand in this area, and White Sand National Monument encloses 223 of those square miles. The sand is a crystallized form of gypsum that usually dissolves in the rain before being washed away. But this area is in a basin that doesn’t drain, which leaves beautiful dunes and “beaches” on the earth’s surface.

Standing on virgin sand

This is a unique landscape!

There are many different kinds of dunes, and sand piles, and flat open expanses of sand. Desert plants poke up through the sand here and there, and the light and shadows play with each other on the dune faces as the sun travels across the sky.

Plant and shadow in White Sands New Mexico

Plant and shadow…

Desert plants in White Sands National Monument New Mexico

Desert plants

We were enchanted by the patterns we found everywhere. In some places the sand makes crisp little ridges, and in others the sand undulated in large, soft waves.

Dodge RAM 3500 truck in White Sands National Monument New Mexico

Some of the dunes undulate in large, soft waves.

It was nearly Valentine’s Day, and Mark got inspired, drawing hearts and writing “Sweety” and my name in the sand. We played with making shadow puppets and made two wonderful hearts as we stood side by side. As we looked down at our perfect shadows on the ground, we both said simultaneously, “Now all we need is someone to take our picture!” Oh well, no one was around so we got just one heart shadow instead of two.

Sand swirls leading to a heart

We got into the Valentine’s spirit…

Shadow Puppet heart in the sand

…but with double-heart shadow-play, who takes the photo?


We were both drawn to the beauty in totally different ways, and we ran off in different directions to try to capture it. I turned around at one point and saw Mark lying down in the sand! Luckily, the sand brushes off really easily. His little bit of lolling around on this desert beach yielded some beautiful photos from sand level!

Getting down for a low shot of White Sands National Monument New Mexico

Mark gets low for a shot from sand level…

Blue sky at White Sands National Monument New Mexico


White Sands National Monument is a really FUN park. We watched kids making snow angels in the sand and families sledding down hills on flying saucers they’d rented at the visitors center. The beauty of this crazy sand paradise is that whenever the wind blows, the tracks left by people are erased, and the sand palette is wiped clean.

Brushed and rippled sand with grass plant

Footsteps leading to me in White Sands National Monument New Mexico


Like an old fashioned Etch-A-Sketch, or a sand castle made at low tide, you can leave your mark here, but only for a short while.

Desert plants in the white sands of New Mexico

The road that goes through the park isn’t paved. Instead, the National Park Service seems to use a snowplow to clear the sand to the sides! Some people bring their RVs down the Dunes Drive, but it looked like their wheel wells got pretty sandy.

Curving dunes in the sand in New Mexico

Plowed roads at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico

The Dunes Drive is a plowed road through the sand!!

Our visit was way too brief, and we didn’t get to see the magic hours of sunrise and sunset. Oh well — next time!!!

Motorhome and sand dune in New Mexico

We had a wonderful introduction to this magical place,
and we’ll be back for sure!!

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More info about the area:

White Sands National Monument – Official Website
White Sands National Monument – Wikipedia

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Bisti Badlands, New Mexico – Exotic Rock Formations and Alien Eggs!

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Bisti Badlands NM – Mysterious rocks and an alien egg factory!

Bisti Badlands hiking in the wash

Hiking into the remote and mysterious Bisti Badlands.

Late September, 2012 – One of the great things about hanging out with the photography pros at Nasim Mansurov’s Colorado Landscape Photography Workshop was that they knew where the cool places were to take pictures.  Nasim suggested we check out the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico where there are all kinds of rock formations, hoodoos and some mysterious alien looking “eggs.”

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Hiking through the rock formations

We hiked on ridges and in valleys

This is a very remote place, 36 miles south of Farmington, New Mexico, and when you get here after miles and miles of boring flat land, it is a wonder to behold.  Even more startling for us, though, was having an Indian on a spotted Appaloosa horse ride up to our campsite to chat with us.  His name was Nelson, and I suspect his first language was Navajo, as he spoke English with an unusual accent.  He had been out rounding up a miscreant brahma bull that had wandered away when his nephew accidentally left the paddock gate open.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico lots of colors in the rocks and Teepees

The colors vary from one neighborhood to the next.

Tourists from all over the world make their way to Bisti Badlands, and Nelson has met folks from Europe, Asia, and all the states.  It is a wilderness area, so there are no signs and no trail markers, and too often hese tourists wind up on his ranch, quite lost.  The rather baffling maps from the BLM office make it look easy to find your way, but they quickly prove almost useless once you start hiking.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Indian on an Appaloosa Horse

An Indian visits our campsite on his spotted Appaloosa horse “Oreo”

Just last week Nelson had rescued a Japanese family that saw the light on in his house near midnight.  They knocked on his door seeking refuge from the cold, scary desert night.  He brought them back to their car in the morning.  “Don’t they see the movement of the sun, or watch the moon?” He asked us, shaking his head in disbelief.  Then he spurred his horse and cantered down the road in a cloud of dust, his faithful dogs following.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico hoodoos

Exotic hoodoos surrounded us.

Wow.  That was right out of the movies!!

Bisti Badlands Alice in Wonderland furniture

Mark finds himself a little table.



We ventured into the badlands armed with a compass, binoculars, a good sense of the sun’s path, a bunch of food and water, and our cameras.  The “egg factory” is a collection of rocks that look like aliens hatching out of their eggs, and finding it was our ultimate goal (as it is for most travelers here).  But the rock formations and desert colors we saw on the way were just as inspiring.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Alice in Wonderland hoodoos

Obama and Romney should pontificate a bit out here!!

We hiked for hours, following first one wash and then another, climbing up and over tall pyramid shaped rocks and skirting around the bottoms.  Over the years visitors have given the different groups of rock formations names:  The Wings, Alice in Wonderland, The Teepees, etc.  Spread out over several square miles, you only know you’ve arrived in a particular neighborhood when the rock formations look like the names they’ve been granted.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico searching for the cracked eggs

Mark scans the horizon for the eggs

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Collared Lizard

This lizard wasn’t lost!

We came across a group of rock formations that looked like furniture.  A perfect little table and a podium were fun to pose with.




But where in the world were those crazy eggs?  They were supposed to be about two miles into the badlands area, along a wash that branched southeast.  Well, there were lots of washes, and they branched all over the place.  We saw lizards scampering along the desert floor.  Surely they knew exactly how things were laid out in this vast barren place.

Bisti Badlands Rock Formations

Well, the eggs aren’t here, but this is cool!

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Wings

Winged things.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Flying Saucer

A flying saucer!







We found ourselves in another area of formations that had flat roofs, or wings.  These hoodoos were otherworldly.  One even looked like a flying saucer.  Some of the flat tops were detachable and could be lifted off.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Pyramids

Mark stands at the base of a pyramid

Continuing on, we wandered between tall pyramid shaped formations that were decorated with fantastic horizontal stripes.  They stood just a hundred feet or so high, and were easy to scramble up onto for a birds-eye view.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico colorful black and red pyramids

The colors change to black and red

The landscape changed from shades of white and yellow to shades of red and black.  It was all quite beautiful and exotic.  But the eggs were nowhere to be found.

Bisti Badlands bird

Bisti Badlands New Mexico searching for the egg factory

“North is that way!”

We returned to our campsite and studied the BLM map once again.  Maybe they would turn up on a second day’s quest.  We headed out again the next day and this time recognized many of the landmarks and had a much better sense of where we were.  “North is that way,” Mark said at one point.  He had a photo of the eggs from the BLM and now we knew what they would look like if we found them:  small egg-like rocks backed by white eroded cliffs.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico cracked eggs

Two of the elusive alien eggs

Finally we found them and whooped and hollered in triumph.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the black boobs

The black boobs – important landmarks!

In the end, they are actually very easy to find.  There are GPS coordinates available on the web, but here is an easy landmark-based way to get there:


Follow the fence on the left side of the parking lot into the badlands.  When the fence takes its second sharp 90 degree turn to the left, look straight ahead in the direction you’ve been walking, and look for two black “boobs.”

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the egg factory

Mark sits among the eggs

Walk towards them.  As you approach them, walk around the leftmost one (the further one), leaving it on your right, and continue on to the black topped white cliffs in the distance.  The little collection of eggs is right there in front of the cliffs.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico egg factory

The best light for these guys is dawn and dusk

Bisti Badlands New Mexico cracked eggs

Bisti Badlands New Mexico egg factory

We had arrived at the eggs in the glare of midday, but who cares?

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the egg factory

In a softer light at dusk

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the eggs

An alien rises up out of its shell!

Bisti Badlands New Mexico the eggs at dusk












We felt like successful Explorers!  The following afternoon we returned to the eggs a second time to capture them in the softer light of sunset.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico egg factory light painting

A full moon rises behind the eggs

There were a few other photographers with us, and we all had very a funny moment when we suddenly noticed the full moon rising opposite the setting sun.  All the cameras and tripods turned around in one motion!

Bisti Badlands New Mexico Cracked Eggs light painting

Light painting on the eggs

We hung out as the sky darkened, and we played with a new photography technique Mark had learned:  light painting.  Using a flashlight, we “painted” the eggs with light and used long exposures to get a wonderfully eerie effect.

This was the last of our RV travels before we returned to Phoenix to visit friends and family. Then it was time to store the trailer and board a plane to Mexico where our sailboat Groovy waited for us in a slip down south in Marina Chiapas.

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We returned to Bisti Badlands in the spring of 2017:

Alien Eggs in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands) New Mexico

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New Mexico – Just Started and In a Hurry!

Lincoln, New Mexico

Thick adobe walls

Thick adobe walls

We stopped for coffee at Calamity Jane's

Inside we met an unusual local man who makes

dreamcatchers out of horseshoes and the discarded

feathers from his friend's macaw.

The dreamcatchers were clever.  He

offered one to me, but I realized that if I

started collecting all the wonderful things I

found on my travels, our little buggy would

soon be stuffed to overflowing and would

exceed its maximum weight rating (GVWR)

of 7,300 lbs.

The roads in New Mexico stretched straight and narrow to

the horizon ahead of us.  We felt alone in the world.

Suddenly rows of satellite radios appeared in the vast lands

on either side of us.  Are we truly alone?

Is anybody out there?

New Mexico

After picking up our Lynx trailer at Marshall's RV in Dallas, Texas in May, 2007, we traveled

west through New Mexico..  We took a less-traveled route on roads between I-40 and I-10 and

discovered the charming historic community of Lincoln.  This town is filled with old adobe

homes that have thick walls.  You can see how thick the walls are in the doorways and


This was our first boondocking experience.  We parked in a

pullout by the side of the road and slept soundly.  There

wasn't a soul on the road after dark.  When we awoke in the

morning we strolled through the charming town.  Our

cameras were very busy trying to capture the beauty of this

stop, and then we jumped in the truck and continued

westward for California.

Next Post: Mammoth Lakes California.