2004 White Sands National Monument
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No trip to Las Cruces is compete without a  visit to White Sands National Monument for an evening of Subway sandwich eating, dune jumping, and sunset watching, and this year was no different.  In spite of the generally rainy weather overall, this particular day was about perfect with no wind and comfortable temperatures.

 

To reach the monument from Las Cruces, you drive about 50 miles east on U.S. 70 over the Organ Mountains and through the White Sands Missile Range. Once you pass through the visitor gate and make your way back off the highway, the scenery gradually changes from one of short scrubbrush to one that is more a moonscape, with nothing but drifts and dunes of white sand (hence the name!). The FIRST item of business is, of course, to eat the carefully prepared Subway sandwiches.  Nothing like a full stomach to begin an evening of gymnastics on the sand dunes!
     
After careful evaluation and testing, one sand dune was finally judged to have the best combination of height and steepness.
     
Let the leaping begin. Because the dunes are formed by wind action, the steep sides tend to face away from the prevailing wind direction, which is from the west.  Thus, at the time of day we were there, which is late afternoon, the steep side of the dune is in shadow, and anything at the top of the dune casts a shadow on the ground below (assuming the sun is out).  A few carefully arranged human bodies were able to create this shadow.  The lone shadow to the far right is mine of me taking the picture.  (Isn't a good thing we weren't from the University of California!)
     
If civil engineering doesn't work out, high diving is another career option.  
     
Pretty scenery. View of the setting sun through a pair of sunglasses.  Gives the photo a darker tint. Krista wanted to see a snake while we were out west (apparently we do not have snakes in Ohio).  We didn't see any during our visit to White Sands, but so that she wouldn't be disappointed, we thought we'd make one for her.
     
Several guys, who were apparently from Italy, felt the need to announce this fact to any aircraft that happened to be passing overhead. A last jump before calling it an evening.
     
Task 3 posing for a group shot. Task 4 with their tribute to the absent Nick Tipple. Task 5 showing that not only can they fight bacteria in produce wash water, but that they'd also make a heck of a cheerleading squad.
     
Before leaving, Jill wanted one last photo of the setting sun.  By standing on top of the Suburban, she was able to get about six feet (or 0.0000000012 %) closer to it.  That, plus her two bazillion megapixel digital camera, and she had it made in the shade! No outing in the Las Cruces area is complete without a stop at Scoopy's, and our visit to White Sands was no different. Scoopy's is branching out!  They're already in California, and they'll be moving into states adjoining New Mexico in the next year.  If one extrapolates their rate of outward movement, the Athens Scoopy's should be opening about May of 2015.  Mark your calendars!