We were just an hour away from the White Sands Monument when a woman at a rest stop told us that the monument was closed – or at least it had been previously, due to a missile landing in the area. There is a testing site right next door. Who knew? “You can still visit the visitor center, and you can see the sand from the highway.” Well, we didn’t drive five hours to turn away at the last one. Besides, I was meeting my college roommate there, and she was certain that the monument had re-opened. Either way, we continued on. To our relief, it was, in fact, open.
The Apache once occupied this space that President Hoover would eventually dedicate a national park. A 20-minute video at the welcome center recounts the history of and explains the science behind the site. The sand forms when leftover gypsum crystals come into contact with the forces of nature – breaking down into those glistening grains through which we passed our hands and feet with glee.
For just $3, you can drive through, hike through, and climb the dunes. The sun is hot and the glare is strong, but the sand is delightfully cool. My friend’s hiking trail of choice was closed, but that did not stop us from throwing our bodies into this never-ending sea of fine sand crystals. I would gladly make the trip back to White Sands – New Mexico has quite the views.