I went to White Sands National Monument today. If you’re not familiar with White Sands, it’s not a “monument” in the traditional sense. You’re not going to see any large statue carved out of marble or granite and polished to a high sheen like you would in Washington D.C. for example. Instead, it’s much more akin to a national park. A national park filled entirely with sand. Miles upon miles of sand. As described in the brochure they hand out as you enter “Great wave like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert here and created the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Believe me, that’s a lot of sand! Dunes upon dunes as far as the eye can see in every direction. I had a rough idea of what to expect before going but regardless I was blown away. As you drive in from the entrance to the park you drive for about a mile after entering the dune fields before you reach the parking area where you can get out and explore.
As I got out of the car, you’re surrounded by high dunes on all sides, and the size of the dune fields cannot truly be comprehended until you climb to the top f one of those nearby dunes and see the view all around you. The dunes only stop when they meet the mountains which surround them. All along the dunes there are people hiking, children running, people snapping pictures and kids using sleds they bought at the gift shop upon entering the park to slide down the large dunes.
After exploring for a while I was watching a couple teenagers goof around on one of the larger dunes sliding down it at a great speed. I regretted not buying a sled to try it myself. Eventually I went up to them and asked if I could give it a try once. They agreed so off I went! Sliding down a dune that must have been at least 30-40 feet long or high, however you want to describe it. It was a thrill, and very similar to snow sledding back home. Only here, instead of getting ice cold snow in your boots, your get white sand in your shoes, socks, and all your pockets.
I continued to explore a bit and stuck around to see the sun set over the mountains. It was a breath taking site and definitely the best sunset I have seen since being in New Mexico. The contrast of the white dunes or truly more of a blue tinged dunes as the light faded and the bright colors of the sunset framed by the silhouette of the mountains was a site to behold. As it rapidly became darker, I could hear the park ranger’s in their trucks driving along the road broadcasting with a megaphone telling everyone that the park was closing soon and to head back to the cars. So I turned around and headed back to where I thought… my car was. Only, with the way the dunes are it is very easy to get lost if you venture off the “trail”. And of course I had done exactly that in my quest for some great pictures. So as I’m walking back to where I think my car is located I start to worry a bit as it gets darker. I can still see clearly but there is that little voice in the back of your head that starts thinking “Oh no, what If I’m not going the right way?!” For some reason that voice sounded a lot like my mom. And I like to think I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction. Thankfully as I had been taking pictures along the way I could mentally identify landmarks which told me I was still headed in the right direction as I had passed by these things on my way out here. I didn’t get to where my car was parked directly on the first try but I was a short 5 minute walk over the dunes away. It was a great experience and a memory which will stick with me all the more because of the rush of emotion and adrenaline when I thought I might… just might… get lost.