destination highlight: White Sands National Monument

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Got a funny story for y’all…

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Brittany and I had set off on a road trip last February with only the first stop planned out. Funny, huh?! Stopping through Lubbock to see her twin brothers at Texas Tech, we vaguely had an idea of possibly trekking to Albuquerque, or possibly the Grand Canyon. Our indecision was soley based in the fact that our original Big Bend National Park Trip was hanging on a limb due to government closures. Politics aside, I know you’re thinking, “Those usually don’t last that long.” That only tells me that you are unaware that Big Bend National Park is not a day trip, it’s a commitment. 60 miles from the next closest sign of civilization and a border crossing checkpoint, one does not just ‘visit’ Big Bend. I digress. We decided to detour up to Lubbock in hopes that the government opens their happy ass back up. Her younger brother, Chris, suggested we check out this sweet destination in New Mexico, White Sands National Monument. A quick google was all we needed to say ‘yes to the dress!’ Looking like sand from the best beaches in the world, or the endless desserts of Saudi Arabia, it is starkly out of place in the mountainous regions of New Mexico! We had to check this wonderous destination out and off we went…

Cruising across the monotonous flat lands of New Mexico, we got our first glimpse of a mountain range in the distance. It was hot and dry for some time, we kept driving. All of a sudden in what seemed like a very short time, we ended up in a mountain range heading up. We went from desert land to snow covered hills in around 30 minutes. It was quite spectacular. Britt jokingly remarked “How did we end up at the North Pole?! How long was I asleep??”

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As we were crossing these mountains through the snowy Lincoln National Forrest, our GPS said we were 16 miles from the flat desserts of White Sands, but all I could see was snowy mountains. Quite the head scratcher. All of a sudden, as we were descending from the mountain top, the views opened up to our first view of White Sands National Monument in the distance. Had to stop for a photo op. Naturally.

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Coming down from Lincoln National Forrest in the mountains, we ended up in Alamogordo, NM. It is a simple dessert town built around an Air Force base. I subsequently learned that many of our nuclear weapons were tested in this dessert. Adding to the eeriness, signs line the highway with lighted indicators reading “When Flashing, Stop for Missel testing.” We arrived late so we checked into the local KOA and set out for WSNM in the morning. We ended up spending the day, as there was a lot to see and mentally process. I kept trying to reconcile our physical location with what we were seeing. Endless, flowing white sand dunes. Absolutely pristine sand so fine you can sled down like snow. These dunes went on for miles!

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Some important factoids to keep in mind: there is no RV camping within White Sands, but you can do primitive camping deep in the sand dunes with a permit obtained at the Ranger’s Station. We watched many people set out to their campsite on a night that dipped to 34 degrees. Yikes. The nearest town, Alamogordo is a short 15min drive with many RV parks with full amenities so just get you a spot in town and make a day trip of this beautiful national monument. In closing, we really enjoyed our trip to White Sands National Monument. From the bizarre amount of gypsum sand in the middle of nowhere to the beautiful sunsets, this state park left an unexpected exclamation mark on our map.

Thanks for reading, y’all!

  • Will Skiles