New Mexico

White Sands National Monument

Sunday, March 04, 2012S.V. CAMBRIA

Sledding at White Sands National Monument.

We arrived at our next destination, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, late yesterday afternoon and made camp as the sun was setting over the San Andres Mountains.  It turned out to be a cold and miserable night, something we’re not set up for.  Our tent is light-weight nylon and we use our duvet for a cover rather than proper sleeping bags (I can’t stand to have anything closing in my legs).  I did my weather homework before we set off so I’m confident things will improve and last night was the exception rather than the rule, but it doesn’t change the fact that we need to invest in new equipment if we plan to do any more late-winter camping in the future.  

But things have a way of improving in the light of day, and we were warmed by the sun’s heat while David made breakfast and we got organized for the day ahead.  The sole reason for our stop is to visit the White Sands National Monument, 275 square miles of gypsum sand dunes,about twenty miles away.  It’s like no other place on earth and one I just had to see … especially when I learned that you were allowed to sled down the dunes.  We took the obligatory tour of the visitor’s center where they had the local weather posted and our suspicions were confirmed … today’s low temperature was 28°F.  Well, if we can survive that, the rest of the trip should be a breeze.

The dunes were calling, so we jumped back in the truck and entered the monument to drive the eight-mile scenic route to the recreation area where we could finally test our snow saucers.  After painstakingly seeking out the perfect dune, we climbed to the top and gave it a try.  It took a while to get the hang of it – like most things in life, there’s a technique to sledding (feet up, don’t lean back too far, distribute your weight properly, avoid soft sand, etc.) – but it wasn’t long before we were flying down the hill and catching air on the final dip.  It was all fun and games until I got a little carried away and didn’t bail out when I should have, landing hard on my tailbone.  I tried a few runs after that, but the damage had been done and my sledding days were over, for now anyway.  I’ll be the first to admit that I often forget my age (which is still quite young, mind you) and tend to overdo things from time to time, but David’s the real offender and it wasn’t five minutes after my tailbone bruising that he did the exact same thing.   It may take us a while, but we do know how to admit defeat, so we called it a day and went back to Alamagordo for lunch and to pick up some more ice and firewood before heading back to the campsite to clean up. 

The details of what happened next are a little fuzzy and I’m not sure who the culprit was – me or David (surely it was him) – but somehow the doors to the truck got locked.  I was getting Sally organized for a walk and shut my door.  And then David shut his.  Only problem was that he had laid the keys on the driver’s seat … and the windows were rolled up.  We have a spare set, but they were tucked safely away in the console (where else would they be?) so he walked up to the Visitors’ Center to call a locksmith (the phone was in the truck as well) while I took a shower to wash away all of the sand.  Twenty minutes and forty-five dollars later, the doors were open and another“disaster” had been averted leaving us to enjoy dinner by campfire while Venus and Jupiter rose in the western sky and the nearly full moon lit up the night.  Life is good . . . .

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