One of the things that excited us the most about being assigned to Ciudad Juarez was the opportunity to spend some time exploring the Southwestern USA. We got started early, visiting White Sands National Monument on our way down through New Mexico. White Sands consists of a couple hundred square miles of the whitest sand dunes I’ve ever seen. The mountains nearby contain a lot of gypsum, which is water soluble. So when it rains up in the mountains the water soaks up the gypsum before running its way down to the dry desert valley where it evaporates, leaving behind the pure white gypsum crystals which make up the dunes. There is little enough rain down in the valley that the deposits never wash away. Apparently this whole formation is not very old by geological standards…only 40,000 years or so. There’s a lot of wildlife that its uniquely suited for this odd and shifting environment. Many of the bugs and lizards are white so as to avoid predators. The plants have learned how to suck the air and water out of the sand to create hardened gypsum suits of armor to protect their root structures on the off chance that a sandstorm blows away their foundation. Apparently there are also little organisms that lay dormant in the sand …sometimes for decades…waiting for a rare rain storm to bring puddles that allow them to wake up. Really cool stuff. Enjoy the pictures!