Known to few, White Sands National Monument has a river. Enthusiastically named Lost River, it is dry most of the year (including now). It's home to a local endangered species, only found there, the White Sands pup fish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Sands_pupfish). The park service does not advertise and seldom discusses this important portion of the park, because of its remote location and fragile ecosystem.
If you're tired of Alkali Flat and would like something different (as different as you can get at WSNM), this is a nice change. If you're training for the Bataan Death March, this is also a great training hike.
I would like to make it to the river, and if time permits to the northeast corner of the park to see the monument's "million dollar fence" designed to keep Oryx from entering the park.
Jan 2, 2012 is a federal holiday, and is the best upcoming day for this—we're unlikely to be blown up or maimed by military activity. We will remain in the public, no-permit-required area of the park.
A quick summary of the dangers on this hike:
Dehydration: Even though it's unlikely air temperature crests 65°F, sunlight reflects off the sand making you feel much hotter, dehydrating you faster. This is in the deep dunes/desert, you must carry all of your own water. Military debris: There is a lot of military-related debris and litter once you leave the comfort of Dune Drive. DO NOT TOUCH IT! Remote: This is deep in the dunes and desert. If you need rescue, it will take a long time to get it. Later in January, I'd planning an even longer, more strenuous & difficult hike to White Sands' Lake Lucero (25 mi). If interested, please do this hike first to determine whether you can handle anything more difficult.
DISTANCE is 16–17 mi round-trip.
ELEVATION GAIN is a couple dozen feet absolute, but because of the up and down of the dunes will probably net to a couple hundred feet.
FEES: Free (WSNM is free for MLK weekend). Of course, if you carpool, please compensate your driver for gas!
DURATION: 8–9 hours, finish by mid/late afternoon.
PET FRIENDLY? No—unless you think your pet can do this kind of mileage.
SKILL LEVEL is NOT beginner friendly. No whiners!
TERRAIN includes sand dunes, ranging from medium-coarse (the kind you see around Dune Drive) to extremely fine & sticky (towards the Lost River). Many dunes to traverse, though fortunately the ones in this part of the park are not particularly big. Sand is, obviously, loose and difficult to walk through.
WEATHER is unknown, hopefully clear.
AFTERWARDS we may get dinner.
MEET for carpool at:
Las Cruces: 6:15 am, K-Mart parking lot on North Main/US 70 and Del Rey, near Shell. See map (OpenStreetMap (http://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=32.35083&mlon=-106.76538&zoom=17&layers=M) or Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=32.35083,-106.76538&aq=&sll=32.2563,-106.7&sspn=0.015497,0.018582&ie=UTF8&ll=32.351135,-106.768591&spn=0.00774,0.01502&t=h&z=17)). El Paso: 5:30 am, Walmart at Transmountain/US 54 at the west-most parking lot towards US 54. See map (Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=31.897292,+-106.439618&aq=&sll=31.897353,-106.435947&sspn=0.001806,0.001269&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=16)). Note: your organizer is not meeting here, please self-organize! White Sands National Monument entrance: 7 am (park opening). MORE information:
White Sands' UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) hazards video (http://www.wsmr.army.mil/ldocs/uxo-brief.wmv)