WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK IN NEW MEXICO

A few years back I remembered reading about a place where one can actually go “sledding” down a hill of white sand. Longing to teach my Florida child, “Teen Traveler” a bit about another kind of sledding, I couldn’t wait to go there. We planned a trip to New Mexico to see this incredible place of large dunes. I learned this white sand isn’t really sand at all but really is gypsum, a mineral that covers about two hundred and seventy-five square miles of desert in New Mexico. Gypsum is used for many things, I learned. It can be used as plaster in surgical casts, as an additive in many foods (ice cream and tofu among others), for brewing beer and mead, for creating drywall, wallboard, plasterboard, for binding tennis court clay, as molds for dental impression plasters, as a hardening agent in Portland cement, in chalk, in hair products and even in some toothpastes.

White Sands National Park, known as the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, is located approximately fifteen miles southwest of Alamagordo. Some time during World War II, the military started using this place for scientific research and missile testing in the area. Missile tests are still conducted near here from time to time. The dunes are sixty feet high in some spots and are breathtaking to see. The bright blue sky against the whitish dunes is remarkable, almost other worldly.

There are picnic areas and limited back country camping allowed in some spots here. At the visitor center, you can purchase a round saucer-type plastic sled along with some wax to coat the bottom of the sled to make it easier to slide down the dunes. You may also bring your own plastic sled from home, as this is allowed. Round saucer-type sleds seem to work best, though. Sledding is lots of fun here, and so is climbing back up to the top of the dunes afterwards. Although currently closed because of the covid pandemic, normally the visitor center is open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas). The visitor contains a gift shop with snacks and drinks, too, along with rest rooms. There is no water available on the dune fields, so plan ahead. It can get very hot out there.

Life is good. Go out and have some fun all over again. Sledding for both children and adults is a blast.

Carpe diem, friends………………

COPING WITH CORONA….ARMCHAIR TRAVEL TO ASSATEAGUE ISLAND

I had always dreamed of visiting Assateague Island in Maryland and Virginia since I heard all about it from some people I met many years ago. Another “bucket list” item. Assateague Island is the place where the children’s story, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, takes place. In the story, a family tries to raise a pony that was born to a wild pony on this island. During the summer, usually in July, wild ponies on the Southern tip of the island are rounded up and swim to Assateaugue Island. Here the ponies are auctioned off to control the size of the herd and to raise funds for the veterinary care of the ponies. This week-long event is a BIG deal, with over fifty thousand visitors from all around the United States and Canada. A short youtube clip below, by National Geographic, captures the excitements of the annual pony swim:

Of course I had to make the journey with my family to this special place, where you can camp among wild ponies, a few years back. What makes Assateague Island so wonderful, in part, is the availability of some campsites right on the beach. Imagine looking out your RV or tent only to find wild ponies walking through your campsite. It is magical and like nothing else I’ve experienced before. Part of the Island is managed by the National Park System, and part of the island is managed by the state park system. Camping is only available in the Maryland district of the island. Campsite reservations are required from March 15 until November 15, and the site below takes for reservations six months before then. Most weekends sell out quickly. From November 16 through March 14, campsites are first-come first-served . This is an experience for which you should plan ahead, as even the firewood needs to be purchased within fifty miles of the park.

National Park information can be found below:

Maryland State Park information can be found below:

https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/assateague.aspx

There seems to be some difference of opinion as to how these wild ponies got to the island, but most say a Spanish Galleon with these ponies aboard sunk off the coast, and the ponies swam to shore.

If you are traveling with children, a stop to Ocean City Maryland, might be a good place for the kids to burn off some energy after being in the car. Ocean City, Maryland, has a lot of beaches and a wooden boardwalk with shops, restaurants, and hotels. There is also an amusement park there, at the Southern tip, called Trimper’s Rides. This is a historic themepark, which originally was opened in the 1890’s. It is under new management now, and there were plans to add at least nine more rides in 2020. I’m not sure what the status of this new expansion is, however, with the current Covid-19 situation. Normally, the park opens from Memorial Day until October, and there are both indoor and outdoor rides.

https://www.trimperrides.com/home

For a unique camping experience, consider camping on Assateague Island. For those of you who don’t wish to camp, you can drive through to see the wild legendary ponies that live there. Keep in mind, however, that both Assateague Island parks and Trimper Rides are currently closed because of the pandemic.

Enjoy a little unique travel to Assateague Island when the travel restrictions are lifted. This would be a great road trip when that happens and something for which to look forward.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends…….

You can read all about the annual “pony swim” week here:

https://www.chincoteague.com/pony_swim_guide.html