The long awaited Episode #5 of my video series “Cheyenne’s VERY Cool Life” is up on YouTube now. In this episode I take you to White Sands National Monument in Southern New Mexico, it’s a magical place of glistening white dunes, not of sand but of gypsum. Going to this ancient dry lake bed in the Tularosa Valley is like stepping back to Jurassic times, with thunder rumbling in the distance and billowing clouds forming while lighting strikes were happening throughout the valley. All I needed to hear was the “roar” of a T-Rex and I would have felt like Raqhel Welch in “One Million Years B.C.”, except that I had left my cave girl outfit at home….kidding…but you get my point. The undulating milky white dunes glisten when the sun is high but it all turns to a soft pastel palette when the sun sinks low towards the San Andres Mountains in the West. White Sands is literally a Zen a treat for the senses…..the perfect place to come and let all the stresses of everyday life go and to just “be”.
It had been over 15 years since I had shot photos in this magical place and I was eager to get back since the slides that I had shot on film were damaged some years ago and I was left with only wonderful memories. So I was on my way! I arrived at White Sands National Monument just before sunset and took the drive down the “Dunes Road” to find the perfect spot – mind you this is not an easy thing…..do I want dunes with clumps of greenery or a lone yucca or do I want dunes with nothing at all on them??…aggg…I wanted it all!!! My choice was a little bit of everything; greenery, yuccas and bare dunes if I wanted them. I quickly gathered my camera, tripod, water, clif bar and small flashlight, Blackberry (yes there is cell service out here) and oh yes, my video camera and hit the dunes! Off I went into to what some would think was a winter wonderland with dunes as white as snow but not for me, it was a photographers paradise of colors, light, shapes and textures and I was like a kid in a candy store.
It crossed my mind that I might be out late and I glanced down at my footprints to see if they were registering hard enough in the sand so I could find my way back if I went too far. It can not only get very dark very fast out here but even in the brightest light it can be a bit disorienting and difficult to find your way back. Then I thought; “Oh man I should of grabbed a few bags of M&Ms to mark my path at the Stop & Go”….kidding of course but it would really help. I know your probably thinking, “Why doesn’t she just use the GPS on her Blackberry?”….I kind of prefer M&M’s as my GPS thank you very much! Anyway, I tried to make a mental note of any landmark that I could although it all starts to look the same after a while….mmmm….was it this cute little yucca or that one???
I got right to work since the sun was getting low in the western sky – I was standing, kneeling and laying on the sand for shots of all kinds – I was having a blast. I’d recommend lightweight pants and a long sleeve shirt if your gonna do that….the “sand” isn’t as soft as it looks and can rub your knees and elbows a bit raw….ouch! No matter where you point your camera at White Sands you are going to get beautiful photos – do as I did and just wander among the dunes and shoot until your hearts content. The icing on the cake of the night was the lightning that was in the distance and completely surrounding this sea of dunes. I was in White Sands National Monument smack dab in the middle of the monsoon season (July – Sept) so I knew I might get a show later in the evening and I was right. I headed back towards the car before it got too dark so I wouldn’t get lost but stayed just far enough away to get some good lightning photos. It takes a lot of time and patience to get good lightning shots which I got a few of, nothing spectacular but some decent shots. My stomach was growling very loud and I looked at my watch and was shocked to see that it was 10PM….wow…time really does fly when you are having fun but I was hungry! In the summer months the gates of White Sands National Monument don’t close until 10PM. I didn’t want to camp in the park like I did some 15 years ago since I knew the heavy rains were coming so I stowed all of my gear and headed back to Alamogordo for dinner and to get a good nights sleep.
I urge to get out to this amazingly beautiful part of New Mexico….I KNOW New Mexico will be my next home…I am totally enchanted by the Land of Enchantment and you will be too.
Enjoy and happy snapping!
“Episode #5 of “Cheyenne’s VERY Cool Life”