For those of you who don't know, Max and I went on an epic road trip out west last month. The decision was pretty spontaneous, but usually those are the best decisions you'll ever make. I didn't think the trip was actually going to happen till I mapped out everywhere we'd stop on the trip and realized that it was possible to do in 3 1/2 weeks. It took a little convincing for Max, but honestly all it really took was him doing some research on all of the breweries out in California and he was on board. We had 2 weeks to plan the road trip, which isn't much time considering all of the spots I wanted to see and the lack of information I knew about some of the parks. I spent those 2 weeks reaching out to friends in Cali, researching the best places to camp and hike in each park, figuring out an overall timeline, and mildly freaking out because 2 weeks didn't seem like much time to plan. Two weeks later, everything came together and we packed up the car (who we now refer to as Marge) and headed to White Sands.
The drive was 10 hours to White Sands, making it our longest day of driving the whole trip. We were both excited and in good spirits, which helped us get through the long drive. We stayed in a motel that first night called the Classic Inn Motel. I've stayed in some shitty hotels in the past (Thanks, mom and dad!), but this one was pretty awful. It reeked of grandma perfume and cigarettes and when we turned on the sink it added a moldy/fart-like smell to the mix...yum! I regret washing my face with that water.
The next morning we got up early so we could snag a permit for primitive camping at White Sands. The ranger told us we were the only ones that had signed up for the night so we questioned our sanity for a minute...camping in the desert in summer? Why not? We explored white sands for a few hours before it got too hot to handle and then headed back into Alamogordo to grab some lunch and explore the town. After lunch, we checked the forecast and all of a sudden there was a 60% chance of rain in the forecast so we contemplated not camping. We couldn't decide whether or not to camp so we did what anyone facing a tough decision would do- grab a beer. After our beers, we talked to the bartender and he assured us that it rarely rains even when it says 60% chance and if it does rain it would only last 10 minutes. We decided to head back to White Sands, with the bartenders reassurance and the beers to take away any anxiety we had about the situation.
When we got there we noticed that the temperature had dropped a few degrees and there wasn't a cloud in the sky so we felt comfortable with our decision. We started our hike with all of our camping gear to our assigned spot. The trails weren't marked very well and hiking through sand dunes with a bunch of camping gear and two cameras around my neck was tougher than I had imagined. We ran into other lost campers in search of their spots, which was comforting knowing that we weren't the only ones that were lost.
We finally found our spot and started to set up the tent and then realized the poles weren't in the bag...whoops. We weren't sure if they were in the car or if we forgot to pack them. Max then ran back to the car to check for them. The sun was setting fast and we were advised by the rangers against hiking the dunes at night because it's easy to get lost, but luckily he found them and made it back just in time to catch the sun setting. We climbed up to the largest dune by our camp and drank wine while watching the daylight fade into the mountains.
The wind really picked up after sunset, pelting us with sand as we sat on the dune till we decided to make our way down to camp. We finished the wine, ate dinner, and had too much fun experimenting with long exposure on my camera. The wind got stronger as the night progressed and by the time we went to bed it was violently shaking our tent and sand was pouring into it as if someone was dumping buckets into the tent. It felt like we were being haunted by the sandman! Max put the rain cover on our tent and somehow that made it worse so we slept with no cover and sand pouring on us all night while hit by the sides of the tent blowing in the wind.
We got up to go to the bathroom around 3 in the morning and were greeted by an incredible view of the milky way. It's almost like mother nature didn't want us to sleep so we could enjoy the view. I got out my tripod and took a few photos and then went to bed. We woke up around 7:30, packed up our site, and started hiking back to the car, running on about 3-4 hours of sleep. It was rough, but I would do it all over again for the amazing view and the sense of solitude we felt amongst the massive white dunes.