This stop was kind of special because we were able to go to the "Trinity Site", which is where the U.S. built and tested the atom bomb before they sent it to Japan. You are only able to go there once in the spring and once in the fall. We had to meet at the fairgrounds in Alamogordo and caravan with a police escort to the site which is 85 miles one way. It was quite a sight!! There must have been 200 cars. For the amount of people, they are really well organized. The site is a rock pillar and there are pictures posted on the fence around the pillar of the bomb. It is quite sobering.
Ok..enough of this serious stuff. We stopped by the Pistachio Tree Farm and took a tour. Did you know that there are male and female pistachio trees. The male will pollenize about 26 female trees. The males produce small buds which when blowed by the wind, pollinates the fruit of the female trees. If they are not pollinated they will still bear fruit but there will be no nut meat inside the shell.
The next stop was the White Sands National Park. The 275 square miles of white "sand" dunes is not sand, but gypsum crystals. It is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.
Gypsum is rarely found in the form of sand because it is water-soluble. Normally, rain would dissolve the gypsum and carry it to the sea. The Tularosa Basin is enclosed, meaning that it has no outlet to the sea and that rain that dissolves gypsum from the surrounding San Andres and Sacramento Mountains is trapped within the basin. Thus water either sinks into the ground or forms shallow pools which subsequently dry out and leave gypsum in a crystalline form, called selenite.
Anyhow, they work really well for sliding down on a plastic disc. What a hoot watching all the old fogeys climbing up the hill and then sliding down. Mike, one of the WINS made a custom "WIN sled", but sadly it didn't work all that well. Everyone had a great time.
We finished of our stay by going to a town called Cloudcroft which is in the Sacramento Mountains above Alamogordo at 8600 feet. Lots of railroad history here with the transporting of logs off the mountain. There is also the Sunspot Astronomy Center which constantly observes the sun. The visitors center was closed when we got there, but a kind gentleman let us in to get some pictures.