White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

July 16, 2005

It is afternoon in the desert. The air chills already, the winds kick up, and the risk of losing one’s way is real. So I take a compass to visit this place near where I was born. White Sands, the world’s largest formation of gypsum sand dunes, has been a national park since 1933. White posts with orange reflective tape mark a path into 275 square miles of rising and falling white sand, and a sign warns hikers to turn back if the wind begins to blow. Wind erases footprints, and disorientation is common. One problem: reading compasses is not my strong suit.

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