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Barefoot Hiking

The other thing on our list for our Las Cruces stop was White Sands National Monument, another hour and a half drive from our RV park, this time to Alamagordo, NM, out Highway 70. We were a little less than bright-eyed that morning because of the wind. It’s a tad difficult to sleep through 45 MPH winds in an RV. First, there’s the noise. Wind is different than the constant white noise of rain which can actually be lulling. Wind gusts with varying velocities at unequal intervals bringing a full orchestra of noises to life.

There’s the canvas awnings that cover the exposed roof of each slide-out. They vibrate like a homemade Kazoo – you know the wax paper on a comb kind – except, thank God the wind wasn’t humming a tune while it blew that night. A handle bar from one of the bikes on the rack was knocking into the wall of our bedroom intermittently. The strap you use to pull out the main shade-awning on the side of the RV was tapping on the wall up in the living room. The plastic poop shoot cap that dangles by a rubber leash when it’s not in use was ting-tinging each time the wind blew it up into the metal bottom of the poop tank cabinet. And there’s an old metal aerial antenna that’s folded down flat to the roof, but has just enough play in it to allow the wind to lift it a half-inch and then drop it for a nice clunk-clunk.

Now all of this can mostly be ignored with the aid of earplugs once you know WHAT is making the noise, but the curse of an intelligent mind, or maybe just a stupid curious one, is that it absolutely cannot allow a new noise to go undefined. This being our first big wind storm of the trip, Ali and I just lay there silently, four ears in a frenzy of detection trying to noodle out exactly what we were hearing and if it was still attached to us. Once we realized that neither of us was sleeping, we began consulting with each other, and by about 1am, with only one trip outside required for visual verification, we had every noise defined and classified as harmless. Sigh!

(Side note: we have found solutions for all of the above noises. Yay!)

With ears well-muffled by foam and our exhausted, but satisfied minds eagerly drawing up all of their anchors to wakefulness, we drifted into sleep. However, there was still… the big shimmy. It happens way less frequently and it’s impervious to earplugs, all part of its evilness. We have 4 stabilizers that we crank down manually which help keep our tin box somewhat still as we move around inside, (more still than the rubber tires and shocks do anyway) but they are not perfect. So every time a big gust of wind hits us, we shimmy. It’s like someone dropping a penny at a time into your massaging bed, just one or two seconds worth of shaking, but it’s enough to wake you. (Coincidentally, Ali says the shimmy also happens when your girlfriend trips over a slipper on the way to the bathroom.)

So like I said, we were tired, but so relieved when we checked outside that next morning to find a bright sun and hardly even a breeze. Can you imagine visiting White Sands in 45 MPH winds?

Holy cow!  It's so white, and so sandy!

Holy cow! It’s so white, and so sandy!

After watching the movie in the visitor’s center that explained all about this rare gypsum dune field, we headed to the gift store to rent our saucer for sledding (no we weren’t the oldest people in line) and got back in our car to drive into the actual park. The plan was to fly down huge sand dunes on our butts for an hour, then dump off the saucer in the car and hike one of the trails for a couple hours, then break out our packed lunch at one of the picnic areas.

It took climbing up just one dune for me to decide to jettison my tennis shoes and socks, I needed to grab the sand with my toes. Ooooooh the sand, it was pristine, soft, cool, so luscious! We spent the rest of the day in bare feet.

Waxed up, ready to fly.

Waxed up, ready to fly.

Giddy-up disk!

Giddy-up disk!

Okay, you have to know how excited I was about this sledding thing. I even bought the $0.75 chunk of wax they up-sold with the saucer and worked up a sweat smearing it all over the bottom of our disk so that we could go super fast. But here are a couple of factors I failed to really think through, 1. sand is not snow or ice, it’s no where near as slippery and 2. because of this, our weight would not be an advantage.

We were like a couple of institutional banks needing a government bail out, too big to fall (down the dune that is). But that didn’t stop us. We searched for the steepest sand dune, we patiently created a track for ourselves with repeat turtle speed runs, we tried running starts (hard on the tail bone), we rocked and leaned and jerked our way down, we shoved and pushed each other down the hill, and when we had so much sand in our pants that we squeaked a bit when we walked, we called it a success!

Ali at the bottom of our track, which you can't see because it was impossible to take great pictures in the white sand.

Ali at the bottom of our track, which you can’t see because it was impossible to take great pictures in the white sand.

Underneath us is a big heart with our initials in it that I drew with my feet, but you can't see it because AGAIN it's impossible to take a great photo in the white sand.

Underneath us is a big heart with our initials in it that I drew with my feet, but you can’t see it because AGAIN it’s impossible to take a great photo in the white sand.

I’ll tell you what! Running up sand dunes is a hell of a work out, but I can’t really express how soft and cool and wonderful the sand was, so much so, I adored every lung-busting climb. I love exercise that I forget is really exercise. However, it was time for Part II of the day, the Alkali Flat Trail, a 5 mile loop around the final remnant of Lake Otero which dried up 4,000 years ago.

There was a moment when we thought - we're hiking, should we put our shoes on?  HELL NO was the answer to that.

There was a moment when we thought – we’re hiking, should we put our shoes on? Oh HELL NO was the answer to that.

The trail was marked only by posts in the sand that were spaced every half mile or so, which meant you had to spy the next post to know what direction to walk in. Other than that, you had the mountain range in the far off distance, and just a few other hikers that made little specks of color against my luscious white sand as far as your eye could see.

Alkali Trail - White Sands National Monument

Alkali Trail – White Sands National Monument

Fun with shadows

Fun with shadows

The trail took us up and down dunes, along ridges, across crusty basins through the sheer openness, the overwhelming whiteness, the ever so delicate textures of blown sand. I loved charging down the dunes with big giant steps, feeling a little like a slinky – one foot landing downhill with a spurt of force and sinking in up to the knee, then the slow pulling up of the back foot, a tilting forward, the sand shifting down the hill around my planted leg as I bring around my free foot and then hurl it down the hill in the biggest next step I can muster. It was, and still is so far, my favorite hike of my entire life, sorta like taking a barefoot walk on the beach, but so much better, more fun, so much more exotic and challenging and can I say it just one more time – SOFT!

We were pretty pooped by the time we got off the trail. We set out our lunch at one of the nice covered picnic tables and sat down to enjoy our first shade in 3 hours. Just as we took our first bites of sandwich a big SUV pulled up and 3 kids with saucers spilled out and ran over to the nearest sand dune. We watched with immense pleasure as the 60 and 70-pound kids slid down the dune only a little faster than we had.

Later that night back in Las Cruces, we went on a hunt for coffee beans and ran into this amazing deal on used boots! It was such a temptation that Ali even encouraged me to try on a pair, but we survived. Our existing, and already heavy, shoe to foot ratio is still intact!

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