Backpacking & Camping at White Sands, New Mexico
Saturday we left our campsite at Aguirre Spring and drove straight to White Sands National Monument to reserve our campsite for backpacking and camping overnight. The night was especially important to us as there was a new moon (meaning no moon is visible, and the stars fill up the sky) and we have been patiently waiting for Milky Way season.
As Andrew and I open up the door to the visitors center at 9:02 am the Park Ranger shouted from behind the desk, “That’s 10! That’s it; no more permits!” Our hearts sunk; there would be no camping for us that night. We remained hopeful and stood around listening to conversations and making sure that all ten campsites were accounted for before leaving.
We had overheard that there could be 6 in a group per campsite, so we found two guys who were the only persons in their group. We eagerly went up to them and asked, “May the four of us join you guys? We want to photograph the stars tonight!” The main guy who was signing the permit slightly smiled and looked at the other one and said, “Sure, why not.”
Turns out that Kenneth LeRose IG: @krl_photo and Ryan IG: @ryantoswald are pretty amazing photographers that are currently traveling in an Air Stream across the country to teach a Photography workshop in Oregon! A huge thank you for their hospitality of letting us join on their permit.
After securing the information we needed, we were off back to Las Cruces to enjoy the Farmers Market and catch up with some friends and fill our bellies with Fresh Red Chile Burgers and “Fire Fries” from Wannabe Farms Food Truck.
Around 5:00 pm Andrew, Riley, my son Levi, and I loaded up the Cruiser and headed back out to White Sands. We pulled up to the backpacking parking lot and began to gear up. We hiked about a mile to the campsite and began to set up our tents and set a plan for the night.
However, the night took a different turn. Instead of chasing the “perfect shot” we set off to explore the dunes and find a place for dinner and coffee. We settled far in the southwest corner of the park on top of a dune and Andrew fixed us up with some ramen noodles and coffee. We sat on the beautiful sand underneath the stars, and there was a feeling of comfort. You know, the support you have with being with friends. Your loved ones. The people who inspire you and hold you in conversation.
As the night pushed on so did we, we followed the dunes as they formed peaks and valleys. We hiked, hiked, and hiked until we were tired. About 1:30 am we decided to head back to our campsite and look to retire for the night. On our way again Riley and Andrew had found another dune to set up their cameras and capture the Milky Way which was started to round its way over the sky.
I had fallen back mostly to stay with my son Levi and make sure he was doing ok with all of the hiking and how late the night was. I pulled out my camera and tripod and set up this simple shot. While I have other photos from the trip that have more meaning to me, this shot sums up what we’re doing that night. Our hearts were full of wonder. Our minds were continually exploding with the thoughts of creativity. But our spirits, our spirits were humbled. We’re in awe. We were starstruck.
As we settled back into our tents, the night proved to be very cold reaching 49 degrees. We wrestled with the cold winds and tired legs that had just finished up hiking 10 miles through White Sands. Morning brought the redemption of pink skies and a rising sun that would soon give us all the warmth we needed to grab our cameras and work our way back up to catch the breathtaking sunrise that was full of colors and memories.
I can’t encourage you enough to travel to White Sands and grab a camping permit (only ten issued per day). If you go with friends or loved ones, please know that it’s one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have with your friends and family. It’s truly an opportunity to become closer not only with each other but with the heavens as well.