tldr; already failing to shower.
On January 9, 2021, the two of us got married in a beautiful and intimate ceremony with our families in Austin. Just five days later, after some frantic packing, last minute van-build projects, and bittersweet goodbyes to family, we hit the road to kick off our ~year-long tour of the United States.
We spent our first night of our trip at a rest stop near Las Cruces, New Mexico before visiting our first destination, White Sands National Park, the next morning. The rest stop was clean and safe, and we stayed warm all night, despite the temperature dipping to the low-30s.
The next morning, we headed off to White Sands, the United States’ newest National Park. The drive into White Sands gave the impression that we were heading to the beach, sandy dunes speckled with short shrubs rose up on either side of the road. As we drove further into the park the dunes got progressively lighter and the shrubs disappeared. By the time we made it to the end of the road, all we could see were huge, pristine, white sand dunes rolling into the distance. We pulled over Mr. Smee and ran out into the sand to explore.
We followed the footprints of other tourists as well as the tracks of tiny birds, rabbits, and other creatures. We read messages scrawled in the sand by other visitors, some sweet, others… juvenile. We made our own messages and snow angels in the sand, and I (Alayna) rolled down a huge dune.
After an hour or so of meandering, we decided it was time to get serious. We put on our tennis shoes and embarked on the 5-mile Alkali Flat Trail, which we were warned by many signs was neither flat nor really much of a trail. This “trail” traversed up and down many dunes and rewarded us with stunning views of the entire park as well as mountains rising up in the distance. After a few miles, we took off our shoes and walked barefoot, our toes sinking into the cool, soft sand. After 5 miles of walking under the hot sun, we were ready for lunch and a rest. Lucky for us, Mr. Smee was parked just at the trailhead, stocked with snacks and a comfortable bed for nap time.
After fueling and resting up, we pulled out our Montague bikes and biked to the visitor center and back, a 16 mile round trip that got progressively colder and steeper on our return trip. It was a beautiful bike ride and well-worth the cold fingers and tired leg muscles.
One of the things we loved most about our trip to White Sands was the freedom that we had to explore without needing to head back to a hotel or rush to our next destination. Having Mr. Smee there with us allowed us to explore the park fully while also giving us a space to rest when we needed.
White Sands, we loved your soft, cool sand, your many interesting footprints, and how you made us play like we’re kids! Along We Go!