I must admit, it was nice to wake up so close to the White Sands National Monument. We knew that we could sleep in (a bit at least) and still get to the Sands before the heat of the day. Our audacious goal was to have eaten breakfast and be checked out of the hotel by 8 a.m. We left by 8:30 a.m.
The weatherman said that the high temperature for the day would be 101 degrees in Alamogordo. Wheewww – you don’t want be in the middle of the Sands at that temperature. Surprisingly, when we got into our car, the temperature gauge said 75 degrees. Nice.
It was about 15 miles to White Sands National Monument from our hotel. When we arrived, we drove right by the Visitor’s Center to the guard gate. We handed the attendant our 4th grade pass, she looked into the van to see Seth (our 4th grader) and waved the entrance fees. Yay!
I brought 2 plastic sleds with us that I got for $1 each at a yard sale. We decided we wanted two more sleds so each of the kids could have one.
The attendant told us that the sled discs work best and we could buy new discs at the Visitor’s Center for $18.99 each, buy a used disc for $10, or go back to Wal-mart in town and buy some for $2-6 each.
I should have thought of it earlier. We didn’t want to drive 30 minutes back into town so we reluctantly went to the Visitor’s Center. They had no used discs left so we bought two new discs. The clerk told us that we could get $5 back for each disc if we brought them back after our visit.
We also bought 2 squares of wax to slick up the discs – $2 each. You can also bring the wax squares back and get 50 cents back after sledding. Hey – every little bit helps.
We started driving into the Sands and the boys were not impressed.
They saw small dunes with a lot of plants and bushes on them and wondered how they could sled down those small, bushed dunes. My daughter was confident that the dunes would get better. We’d all have to wait and see.
The guard gate attendant had told us to drive to the furthest part of the Sands to find the biggest dunes. At one point, we left the paved road and were just driving on sand. As we neared the back of the park, the dunes got bigger and the vegetation more sparse. By the time we reached the spot we chose to park, the temperature gauge said 66 degrees. Perfect weather for sand dune sledding!
Just like Carlsbad Caverns, words cannot express how incredible the dunes are in person. There is white gypsum sand as far as your eye can see. The sand is pure white – undefiled. My husband described it as a pure white freshly laundered bed sheet wrapping the hills.
Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Isaiah 1:18
Thank you Jesus!
The contrast of the white sand dunes against the dark mountains in the background is fantastic.
I was concerned that the sand would be very hot on our feet but we were told that this type of sand reflects the heat and doesn’t absorb it. It’s way different than the scorching sand I’m used to from the Maryland/Delaware and the North Carolina/South Carolina beaches. The sand was actually cool and soft on my feet.
We got our GoPros, phones, and cameras ready and headed up the dunes. At first, we just tried to sled on the dune next to the parking lot. The sand is so deep that the kids weren’t going down the dune very well. After making a little path in the sand, the sledding got a little better.
Then we decided to trek farther from the parking lot to see if we could find taller dunes. As we walked over the dunes and away from other visitors, the dunes got more and more spectacular to the eye. All of us took turns sledding down the hill – both sitting down and standing. The discs do work better than the sleds. The sleds pick up sand all the way down the dune until it looks like you’ve pitchpoled a kayak.
Sadly, the one disc that we bought at the Visitor’s Center cracked in half after 3 rides (and the woman didn’t give me our money back for it – hmmmpph!).
I love photography even though I’d consider myself a very beginner amateur. My favorite part of the trip was taking pictures and video of our family and of the scenery. Eventually, I told my husband that I wanted to take a walk to get to the edge of the dunes. He chuckled and told me that the dunes go on for miles and miles. After walking alone toward the mountains for about 15 minutes, I realized that he was right. Just when I got over the next big dune, there were more and more dunes in front of me. I also realized that you could easily get lost in a place like this. I looked all around and knew the general direction that I had come from so I just started walking that way. Thankfully, I eventually found my footprints and was able to follow them back to the family.
To my surprise, I also found some beautiful flowers in the sands.
When I got back to my family, there were in the middle of a “king of the hill” game. They picked the tallest dune, put two sleds at the bottom corners to mark the “field” boundaries, and put one sled at the top of the dune to mark the finish line. Whoever got to the top of the dune and touched the sled first won the race. The first person to win 3 races won the King of the Hill championship and a milkshake. The only rule was that you couldn’t throw sand in a competitor’s face (they’d already done enough of that). You could push, pull, and claw your way to the top and to the win – the boys loved that. It was a joy to watch them have so much fun pushy and grabbing on to whoever was in the front, laughing all the way.
At one point, my daughter joined the fun. She tried to stay out of the fray and sneak around the boys for the win. The boys loved the pile-up and we even got a few looks at boxers – thankfully nothing more.
This game reminded me again how thankful I am for my husband. As a former youth pastor, my husband always has games up his sleeve at the perfect time. Not only did they get some good exercise, they had an absolute ball doing it. This game was definitely the hightlight of the White Sands National Monument visit – even if they had sand in every place possible.
After about two hours of fun on the dunes, we headed back to the van. Everyone was tired and thirsty. On the way out, we found a man to take our picture. He had a Canon camera with a huge lens so why not ask him? It turned out that we traveled there from China and didn’t speak much English. That didn’t stop my husband from trying to have a long conversation with him. Oh boy!
Emma Grace knows how to count 1-10 in Mandarin (one of China’s most used languages) and when she did that, our Chinese photographer’s eyes lit up. He took our family picture and then he wanted to take a selfie with us.
I headed down the dune to the van to get water for Seth. I unlocked the van from the top of the dune and by the time, I got to the bottom, Seth was throwing up in the sand. Yikes!
We quickly realized that he was just dehydrated and thankfully we had water and Gatorade in the van. After just a few minutes of drinking water and sipping on the Gatorade, he felt much better.
From there, we began our 6 hour trip to Phoenix, Arizona. Around lunchtime, we didn’t see many options for food so we decided to pull off at a McDonald’s – not our favorite place but all we could find. As we pulled off the exit, my husband spotted a food truck on the other side of the highway. We decided to take a chance on it.
As we pulled up, we noticed that the food truck was positioned at the front of a small flea market. They also had a warehouse with a store that sold trinkets, toys, signs, souvenirs, and according to the sign, slime for the kids.
Here’s a sign in the store that made me laugh…
After browsing in the store and convincing my son, Nate, that he shouldn’t buy an airsoft gun there, we headed to the food truck. What drew me was the sign for flautas – I love flautas. I usually order them when I got to a Mexican restaurant because it’s something I won’t make at home. They are fried rolled-up tortillas with filling. The sign also said that they sell gorditas.
My husband went to the counter and asked about prices – each gordita and flauta cost $1.25! We ordered a beef gordita and chicken flauta to see which one the kids liked. They both were amazing. The gordita was stacked to the top with beef, cheese, lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and pico.
The flauta’s shell was light and flaky – melt-in-your-mouth good. Each dish came with homemade salsa that was amazing – just the right amount of heat. As we were eating the appetizer course, the owner sent out four beef gorditas on the house. Wow!
Sadly, the chicken flautas were all out. We ordered about 12 more beef gorditas and three beef and potato flautas. I reminded my husband that we were about to eat at McDonalds. Insane!
We had a nice conversation with another customer – Carlos – who grew up in the area (near Las Cruces, New Mexico) and had camped all over with his family. His kids were grown up and he expressed how much he missed the days we were in. “Enjoy it,” he said. We are!
When my husband went to pay, the owner charged him $10. Jimmy wouldn’t have it. He finally convinced the owner of the food truck to take $15 by telling him to spend the $5 on his wife.
These are the types of experiences you miss if you fly over these parts of the country. You don’t get to meet Carlos, you don’t get to eat fresh gorditas on the side of the road with your family, and you don’t get to be blessed by a fellow American and food truck owner.
We’re overflowing with gratitude to the Lord for this wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience.