It was a long drive out to the desert, and I didn’t realize that the green-jumpsuited man on the motorcycle in front of me was Air Force until I remembered that White Sands is a missile range and located next door to Holloman AFB.
Entering the dunes at White Sands was very peaceful. It wasn’t too hot, and as I began to pass the pristine, smooth hills of perfectly sculpted sand, I could have sworn I was at the beach. And some people at the trailheads treated it as such. But I put on my hydropack, looked for the spade-symbolled signs for the Backcountry Trail, and started walking. After a couple dunes, I began marking my path on my GPS, and was glad I did later due to some of the sign posts being knocked over in the sand.
I was deeply reminded of the old game called King’s Quest that I played when I was a kid, where a ghostly man would come out of nowhere in the middle of the desert to lead you further and further out into the dunes until you spontaneously keeled over. The Backcountry Trail was empty, and it was quiet. The mountains stood watch in the distance at the back of the loop. The pure white dunes waved and rippled like water, some hikers like ants rounding the tops of the dunes before crawling into nonexistence again. I was all alone, or so it appeared. But I tend to find peace in these kinds of utterly remote and quiet places. I value silence, and the mysterious reverence of those glaring white dunes extending out in all directions made the stop worthwhile. Even if it was just to see a bunch of sand.