November 22, 2019.
We arrived at White Sands National Monument in the late afternoon, without much time to spend on the trails. We wandered around the Visitor’s Center to learn a bit about the park and then planned on hiking all four short nature trails, a total of just under 2 miles, before sunset.
One of the first things I noticed about White Sands was that the dunes…just weren’t that white. It was pretty, to be sure, but the gleaming white expanses that I’d seen in pictures on the Internet felt like false advertising. Ah, the wonders of marketing and Photoshop. I guess “Small Sand Dunes National Monument” just didn’t have the same ring to it.
The dunes were small, compared to other places we’d seen. Nonetheless, we were intent on exploring and finding what made this place special.
Following colored posts in the dunes, we walked each of the trails in relative quiet. We tried to block out the people ignoring the posted signs and the one idiot who was flying a drone. This kind of behavior is par for the course at National Park sites.
Instead I looked up at the dreamy clouds. At the solitary cottonwood trees somehow growing tall among the endless dunes. At the animal tracks weaving across the sand. And I fought the cold beneath my feet. I mean, I couldn’t hike on sand dunes in my SHOES. That’s blasphemy. But the air and the ground were pretty cold; I suffered in silence.
Sunset was beautiful. We stood on the boardwalk overlooking the sand-colored sand dunes, watching the sky turn purple, pink, orange.
Our visit to White Sands was brief, but we had plans for the next two days. I had tickets to a ranger-led tour of Lake Lucero, the source of the dunes, on November 23. Then, we’d camp on the dunes that night and do a longer hike the following day. While I was underwhelmed on this first excursion, I hoped that a more immersive experience would help me appreciate this site more.
Since the campgrounds I had hoped to camp in were just recently covered in snow (!) we made a last-minute decision to splurge on a hotel room with a jacuzzi to clean up before our stay in White Sands. I stuck to my meal plan, however, and whipped up a stir-fry in the bathroom (can’t set the tiles on fire) and we had a wonderfully relaxing evening.