To say it is quiet here would not be understating it; for miles around there is no sound but the shhhh-hsss of tiny grains of sand shifting against each other with each breath of wind. I stand at the crest of a 20-foot dune, watching the lines of the desert shift and change with every gust. Though it’s drawing towards evening, I don’t dare take off my sunglasses: The sand at my feet is bright white, and the sunlight reflected off the dunes is dazzling. The sand rolls seemingly endlessly out to the horizon, where a range of bare, dust-brown mountains finally breaks the edge of the desert.
No, it’s not the Sahara or a sci-fi set: It’s New Mexico. You don’t have to fly to another continent or another planet to hike among sand dunes. In White Sands National Park, bright white sand drifts spread over 275 square miles, forming the largest gypsum dunefield on Earth. When you’re out in their midst, they spread from horizon to horizon in wind-crafted ripples up to 60 feet tall.