when on the road, planning is something that takes a bit of effort, time and focus. without much effort, the trip to white sands national monument was a stop that had to happen while on this cross country road trip. as i told people back in miami of what i was planning to do in the upcoming days, more than one person mentioned that this was a must see and from the pictures shared, i completely agreed.
doing little research, i planned to hit this stop after my visit to bottomless lakes and before i headed up to taos. heading out mid day, i drove through the new mexico roads and watched the changes in scene from dry desert to mountainous forestry and slowly made my way up and down winding roads in the rain until i eventually, just before dusk, arrived in the town of cloudcroft, a little community tucked away inside the lincoln national forest that my parents told me all about. temperature dropping dramatically from the west side of new mexico and due to changes in elevation and heavy rainfall, i searched for a place to settle down indoors as it was too dark and wet for my liking to find a spot to pitch my tent for the night.
i settled on laying my head at the cloudcroft bed and breakfast and pulled into the drive where i was greeted at the door by scott, one of the inn owners. getting checked in, scott showed me around as gail prepared me a healthy bite to eat that was enjoyed over some conversation before i headed up to settle in for the night.
the inn was clean and possessed character and age, defined by a space full of antiques collected over decades and hints of family, history and love. fitting to the name, i rose the next morning and headed downstairs to share a homemade breakfast with a couple who had stayed the night before as well. chatting about where we were from, what we were doing and our plans for the day lead me to discover that they were both park rangers for parks somewhat nearby, one being white sands. wrapping my time in cloudcroft, i did a short exploration of the town, stopping by to check out the local paper’s office and grab a slice of homemade pie and coffee before hitting the road.
just a short drive lead me to white sands with my head full of tips and precautions given by my dining mates on desert safety and exploration, i made my first stop at the visitor center to fill my water bottles before i turned off my cell and headed into the dunes with the mid-day sun high. upon entry, there was heavier plant life, plopped without order into the sand along the road and out as far as the eyes could see, translating that there was life out here, although none could be seen with the hot sun beaming down. i slowly made my way through, observing the scenery to the left and right, bypassing the walkway at the entry and headed straight back to the dunes that were tucked in a little more as suggested by the ranger when i pulled in.
off roading was not permitted so to preserve the habitat, but shifts of the dunes created by winds trickled the whitest powdery sand across the roads which gave the illusion that you were which was good enough for me. awed by the purity shaped by nature and the mystery of how such a place could exist here as i had just been submerged into forestry and the day before surrounded by dry cracked dirt mountains, i pulled over to take it all in.
clearing my head and lather up with sunblock, i put on a hat and headed for the top of the first dune. digging my heels in with each step up, i slowly made my way to the top where i was left with only the hot desert sun and uncountable miles of white sand. the first view from the top was somewhat indescribable, a sight that you can’t put into words as it is a vision that is felt as much as it is seen. i stood at the top and stared off for quite a while before i eventually sat, then laid in the sand, stilling my mind on the thought that although there were others enjoying the park and space that day, in this space, at that moment, it was just me and the dunes. it was a wonderful feeling.
the day was filled with driving, windows down, from dune to dune, running up and down the hills, getting sandy and sweaty and drinking as much water as i could consume. bypassing dunes occupied by others and enjoying ones that were a bit more isolated, i snapping photos, peered out into the horizon where you could see silhouettes of mountains and the sun beginning to settle behind the rainy clouds and lost track of time.
the hours felt like minutes and minutes felt timeless in this place. the sun was hot and everything somewhat looked the same if you didn’t take the time to look at it closely. in these untraceable moments, i fell in love with the desert and the things that it could hold. the enchantment that laid within each speck of sand, strength that was shown living in every plant, the curiosity hidden in the unseen and unknown. there was a sense of forever that stole time and demanded a silence that brought peace. the energy was liberating, invigorating.
i pulled out of the park just before dusk hit feeling calm and satisfaction, thankful for the time spent in this place and feeling content that i was able to experience this on my own. curiously, i thought of the animals that would soon stir as the sun went down and the heat passed. imagined how they would cover this land in solitude as i had earlier in the day. exploring, hunting, surviving; strategically planning out the grounds covered and aware of their surroundings in order to capture their prey, or to not be captured.
knowing of this silent transition from day to night was some thing that made white sands, and the desert in its self such special place.