The first time I saw a picture of the White Sands National Monument years and years ago, I knew I had to see it with my own eyes. Before I left, people often asked me where I planned to travel and I would say, “Everywhere!” but when pressed for specifics, White Sands was always one of the first places I mentioned.
Now the time had come, and another long awaited dream was about come true. I crossed over the New Mexico border and I was elated! I screamed and cheered and had another one of my bubble up laughter, cry moments which I’ve now come to understand must be pure, unadulterated joy. I was nearing the monument and off in the distance I could see a huge cloud of white in the air. I was like, “Is that the dunes? Could that be a bunch of sand in the air?” It most certainly was. It just so happens there was a wind advisory in effect and the strong winds were kicking up the sand. Now, most people would have waited it out. Going to the sand dunes on a wind advisory day sounds…painful. But not me! I had a dream to realize and a little wind wasn’t gonna stop me! I actually think it made for some pretty cool pictures!
After I played around a little, relished in my success, got my pictures of Mander, it was time to find a place to set up camp. I had been given some inside information that there was a free campground just a handful of miles away so I headed that way. I located the spot and it was perfect! Not too many campers, a beautiful lake view and I could scoot to and from the White Sands instead of lugging Mander back and forth.
The next day, the first thing I did was go to the visitor center. I recommend to always watch the documentaries at the visitor centers because they really help you better understand, thus appreciate, what you’re seeing. I learned that the sand dunes are actually made of gypsum, which washes down from the surrounding mountains and gathers in a temporary lake. Then, when the lake dries up, it forms into crystals softer than a fingernail. The wind picks up, breaks the crystals apart, tumbles them around and creates sand! Pretty freaking amazing if you ask me. The wind also moves the dunes up to 30 feet per year! I saw evidence of this on one of my hikes.
There’s so many amazing things about this place, I could go on and on. But something I hadn’t even thought about, took me by surprise. The sand is cool! Usually when you walk on sand on a hot summer day, you are borderline burning your tootsies off but not at the magical White Sands. Needless to say, I spent 2 days hiking there with my shoes off.
If there’s anything to not like about White Sands is that it’s blindingly bright. I wore a hat and sunglasses the entire time and my eyes still felt sunburnt at the end of each day. So on my last day there, I wised up and did something I should have done the entire time. I waited out the midday sun and made my trip later in the day. The sun was a little less aggressive and as the day wore on and dusk approached, I was able to take off my hat and sunglasses for the first time. Seeing the place without the filter of my sunglasses was really nice and then the sunset was spectacular!
Although I felt a little stupid for not spending every one of my days this way, I thought it was a beautiful end to my time there. When I went back to my scooter to head out of the park, I saw a VERY cool GMC motorhome. I couldn’t help but compliment the owners on it and we ended up talking for quite some time. I found out they had been looking for and couldn’t find the campsite I was staying at so I happily showed them the way. It was dark by the time we reached camp but we stayed up chatting about our rigs and our adventures. The next morning I got some pictures of all of us before I had to head out.
I would have liked to have stayed much longer but I had gotten an offer to do some work in Tucson and Phoenix. Since I never know where my next dollar is gonna come from, I try not to turn down work. Although I made sure to schedule this work with more than enough time to get to where I needed to go, it made me nervous to have a schedule to adhere to. Mander isn’t exactly reliable, so I felt I better play it safe and start making my way towards Arizona!
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Until next time, much love and Mander on!