White Sands National Monument is home to a vast field of white as snow, gypsum sand dunes located in the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico. Once a luscious land inhabited by towering beasts such as dire wolves, saber-tooth tigers and mammoths it is now a rugged and harsh desert. Now this land host smaller beasts such as foxes, the terrifying Apache pocket mouse and our own beast, Brody.
Our team set out for an afternoon hike which began at the end of an eight-mile scenic drive through the dunes which begins at the visitor center. Once we cleared the first few dunes the world was ours, just us trekking through the glittering soft sand, feet bare and passing only soap tree yucca plants and a few other less distinguished grasses and bushes. We noted well the plant life, knowing our footprints could get lost in a gust of wind.
As the sun dove, shadows came out to cool the backside of each dune. This cooling fooled our dog Brody into believing he was playing in the snow, continuously taking in mouthfuls of the pure white sand, which we discouraged. *Note: this did not bode well for the subsequent night, bud got sick and we were up all night.
When true sunset began, the dunes became an otherworldly space filled with orange, pink and peach clouds, distant purple mountains and of course the striking white sand with their tell-tail wind patterns. The sun and moon shared the sky this night and had us spinning with 360 degrees worth of beautiful desert views.
When the sun finally sunk below the mountainous horizon we headed back through the sand, now so cold on our bare feet. The temperature had dropped drastically in a noticeable moment as if plunging into a cold pool you weren’t ready for. Once within eye sight of our car, we saw the surge of a mass exodus. A dozen or so people flowed into the parking lot from the secret and solitary places they had found. A sort of comradery of awkwardness took hold, with many shy smiles as we were made aware that only moments ago, we had all thought we were alone. What a special place; you can be one of many but the land makes you feel as if it just you, offering everyone a place to hide and breathe and appreciate the mysterious world we live in.