White Sands National Monument, New Mexico (State #4)

“I decided to do a bit of backcountry camping out at White Sands National Monument.


I love sleeping on the platform in my car, but not being able to sit up when I wake up is wearing me down. So $3 later I drove to the trailhead. At just over a mile long, it’s not a difficult hike out to the campsites. The sand is tacky and still hard packed from the recent storm (which I assume was part of the same system that rained on me in Arizona).


It made sense to bring my New Mexico flag with me and let her stretch her threads overnight.




I expected it to be cold (especially for Californian blood), but I didn’t expect it to redefine the limits of that sensation.


Part of it was my fault – I forgot my gloves and beanie in the car, but part of my eventual predicament was due to a conversation I had with a tough looking Australian biker gal I met in the visitor center. She mentioned that she had stayed backcountry “cowboy style” just last night and she intended to do so again. When I asked about the night-time conditions, wind/rain, she responded,


Nah Nah – nothin’ to worry about. If you’ve got a pad to get up off the ground, yo’ll be a’right.


So – game on right?



I, too, decided to sleep cowboy style


The sun goes down as I’m finishing cold leftover spaghetti and meatballs straight from the tupperware and *slam!*. The heat leaves the system, and the law of entropy is served.


My flag whips up and dances to the pipes of whistling mountain air rushing into the valley from the eastern snow-capped range. I wasted no time and bundled up in my sleeping bag and inner thermal liner. For a while it was all going so well. The clouds had cleared up, and I remembered to bring my binoculars for the stars. I added a few more constellations to my mental list and counted 4 moons visible around Jupiter. (Jupiter is the obnoxiously bright dot trying to outshine it neighbor, the moon, right now). I went to sleep around 9.


I wake up at 11:30 with my sleeping bag covered in moisture. I manage to get another 3 hours of sleep – only to wake up at 3:00AM with a layer of frost on everything. I spent the next 3 hours begging the sun to rise just a little bit faster, just this once, for me.. please.


Moonset in the morning


It was a new experience, and I come away with new respect for the weather – and also an enriched respect for the people that lived before modern conveniences. For them there was no car heater waiting to blast thaw their fingers and toes. Just another day of wondering how the dew and frost got there in the first place and hard labor.”


Morning hike out

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