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White Sands - Day 1

White Sands National Park
One of my favorites, this photo is a stitch of 11 photos taken at different foci

Day 1 of my little adventure almost went off without a hitch. I got a rental car (the guy upgraded me and let me choose whatever car I wanted-I can't tell you how great Dollar rental was to me on this trip!) and headed out on my long drive through good Texas.  If any of you are unfamiliar with the drive, I'll put it this way.  Texas is flat.  Do you need to know anything else?

Ok, so maybe it's not quite that bad, but that Texas road seems to go on forever.  I took the I-10 from Houston and the only real site along the road was a continued siting of an advertisement for Sonora Cave.  Quite literally, you cannot miss this cave if you're on the I-10 because the signs start a good 5 hours before you reach the actual thing.  Now I'm not really a cave person (I would've made a horrible spelunker in a different life), so I didn't stop at this great cavern, but I will say that the wikipedia page had named it as one of the most beautiful caves in the entire world, so just fyi if you're ever bored in West Texas.

Anyway, I had planned my trip to try to make the sunset at White Sands.  The reason being that the sand acts as a huge reflector at sunrise and sunset, but they don't let people in in time for sunrise, so sunset is all you get.  I had even gone to get my rental car early to try to get there right at sunset, but this is where my luck started to turn bad on this trip.

Due to some serious miscalculations based on bad data from google, I thought I was going to get there an hour after sunset, and since it was a 12 hour drive, I decided about halfway through the trip that it wasn't worth the money on a ticket for racing the sunset.  Well, as I drove on, and passed park after park that I didn't even know existed(lots of little parks on the edge of Texas and New Mexico), the sun dropped lower and lower and I realized that my calculations had been wrong the entire time, and I would have made it on time.

Unfortunately for me, by the time I had realized this, it was too late, so I stopped at an overpass and took some sunset shots of a road on the edge of Texas.

Highway Long Exposure West Texas
A pretty night for some traffic blurs

Then my phone decided I drove through Mexico before finally reaching old El Paso.  It was pretty late, so I found a stop and fell asleep (yes I slept in my car for all of these days, and yes, I had quite the stench by the end.  Aren't you glad you weren't traveling with me?haha)

White Sands Bridge
I was amazed at just how white everything really was

White Sands National Monument
The lines in the sand really are something, the only traces of movement that is washed away each night.

White Sands National Monument
A couple of  campers hiking out of the dunes

White Sands National Monument
Some more of the beautiful lines

White Sands National Monument
The towering mountains surround the dunes on all sides once you get to the center of the dunes.

The next day I woke up and drove through Las Cruces, which was quite beautiful during the sunrise, and through the mountains to White Sands.  I got there before they were supposed to open, but the gates were already open!  So I probably missed a chance for a sunrise too.  Undeterred, I walked deep into the dunes, and ran into an elderly couple that had camped the night in one of the backcountry camps.  Our conversation went something like this...

"Oh my! Did you see the sunset last night?  We're both in our 50's and we've never ever seen a sunset like that one."

I think my eyes killed both of them on the spot.

White Sands National Monument
The beautiful lines really just ;made me want to hike all over them so they were less perfect.

Fortunately for me, sunrise and sunsetless, White Sands was still an awesome place to stop off.  The Sands are bright enough that you can see them from space, and it's almost unreal to be driving through a basic desert and all of a sudden it's replaced with completely white sand mounds, stretching as far as the eye can see.  It's a photographer's paradise, with the wind replacing foot prints with beautiful waves overnight, trekking into the dunes feels like you're walking into oblivion.  If you want to read my tips on things to see and do at White Sands National Monument click here.  Otherwise continue on with Day 2 at Joshua Tree.

White Sands National Monument, sunset

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