Laura Fortune

White Sands

U.S. Travel, Roadtrip, National ParkLaura FortuneComment

August 10

I left Tucson around 7am and headed east.  There were two places that were suggested, for me to see, on the way to Austin.  White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns.  As I looked at the map, I could stop to see these places and split my 13 hours drive to Austin into two days.  With the chance to see more, I was sold.

I messaged the friend who suggested White Sands (which I had never heard of), to tell him I was on my way, and he immediately said, "backcountry camp there if you have a tent."

I arrived to White Sands at 1pm, and in my experience with campsites, nothing is ever available after 10am.  Knowing there are only 10 backcountry campsites available, I was expecting to be told it was full and I'd move on to reach Carlsbad that evening.  

I went into the Visitors Office and asked if any sites were available, and she chuckled and said, I have 9 available.  I was taken aback and had to take a moment to think about it.  I'd never backcountry camped alone on this trip.  I had thought of it, but it seemed a step into ever riskier territory, hiking everything in and being totally alone.  

I called my brother.  He was at work and immediately looked up websites to inform me of the meteor shower that was close to it's peak, and he said, don't even sleep in a tent.  He encouraged me and I secured Site #8.

I packed up what I needed and hiked in a mile to find my site.


The sand is bright white and pure, fine and soft.  It's actually made from gypsum that has been tumbled down by the wind over time.  It's bright, but it's not hot and I walked barefoot for my entire time there.  Site 8 was surrounded by shrubs and plants and so I found a spot nearby that seemed a little softer and I set up my tent.  I walked around on the dunes nearby and sunset was on it's way.



I was totally alone, a few other campsites were used, but I was by myself.  The night never seemed to darken as the stars filled the sky very quickly, and it was by far the most stars I have ever seen in my life.  I saw shooting stars and moving satellites and the Milky Way so clearly.  A bright light appeared over the horizon it was the moon rising.  Once it came up in the sky the stars faded a bit with the intense light that lit up the area around me.  I didn't need my tent.  I took my sleeping back out at one point early in the night and laid high on a soft dune and fell asleep looking up into the sky.  It was one of the most incredible nights of my life.  And I woke by the morning to see the light of the sunrise and the soft colors of the morning that reflect all over the white sand.  I packed up and hiked out after the sun had fully introduced itself to the sky.