White Sands National Park
December 18th, 2021
The glittering white sand dunes made themselves apparent as we rumbled down the mountain pass on highway 82 from Cloudcroft, New Mexico. There was an urge to stop and take a picture of the landscape. The remaining mountains that stood in the foreground and the flat, dry desert with its milky center marking the dunes surely would have been a memorable photo, but we rolled on anyway, wanting more to touch the sands than to photograph them.
We stopped in the town of Alamgordo to refuel and use the restroom. I bounced from foot to foot like a little boy as I desperately waited for the man in front of me to finish his business. All time stopped and it felt like I was in a hellish limbo, listening to locals talk about which cigarettes to buy and holding my pee, stuck forever. But of course it wasn’t actually that bad, and soon we were back on the road.
The White Sands National Park is a small park located on the ancestral lands of the Jornada Mogollon and Apache. It consists of a small visitor center, and an 8-mile loop road that boasts a few turnouts, picnic areas and exhibits. Its small size made it perfect for the lunch break Whitney, Dottie and I needed. So we found a quiet pull out, slathered some PB and J on sliced bread and took off into the dunes.
Dottie quickly lost her mind. She simply could not contain herself. She ran in circles, dug holes, slid down the dunes like a penguin on ice and barked her guts out. So much for a calm, scenic national park experience. Every orifice and inch of her body was soon filled and covered in soft white sand.
Whitney and I took our time to stroll through the dunes barefooted. The sand was remarkably cold beneath our feet. The white color of the gypsum sand did well to reflect any and all solar heat. We picked out a dune in the distance that look still untouched and took our time to explore along the way.
We noticed the footprints where small pocket mice and jackrabbit recently ran. And the perfect semi-circle shapes carved into the sand from the dropping foliage of desert grasses being blown back and forth in the cool desert breeze.
The undulating dunes swallowed us rapidly, and before we knew it, the road was well hidden out of sight. The ringing in our ears reminded us of just how quiet the landscape was. The wilderness of the place showed itself and so we took a moment to sit and stare. The San Andres Mountains towered in the distance, and the waves of dunes seemed to go on forever. Our fingers and toes gently played in the sand as if with minds of their own, and the sun pumped us full of valuable vitamin D.
We were wrenched from our picturesque moment from a violent sneeze that sent white, sand-coated snot missiles onto our legs launched from Dottie’s nose. We laughed (and gagged) and brought ourselves to our feet so to head back for the van, knowing that it was probably a good time to hit the road again.
Like hunters tracking prey we followed our foot steps back through the dunes. Soon we saw our beloved Sage (named after its greenish color and one of Whitney’s alter-egos), glistening patiently in the sun where we parked her. We piled in like one happy, sandy family and pulled out of our parking space just as multiple cars replaced us to enjoy the scene.
We were on our our way to Arizona now and excited to be back on the road. Visiting family and friends for the holidays, and rock climbing in Joshua Tree were on the agenda. We couldn’t get there quick enough!