White Sands National Park

She walks at night.

Across the lonely dunes of New Mexico’s Great White Sand Dunes National Park, the ghost of a lonely maiden still dressed in her flowing white wedding gown searches endlessly for her lost love.

There are few written accounts of the famous legend of White Sands, leaving oral tradition left to carry on the Legend of Pavla Blanca.

“When the padres have built a church in our city to the north, we will be the first to ask their blessing. And there we will take our nuptial vows.”

This promise was made by the 16th-century Spanish conquistador, Hernando de Luna. It was made to de Luna’s young lover, Manuela, who was to remain in Mexico City as he left in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola.

Manuela’s heart sadly would be broken after her lover escaped Apache warriors vanishing into the heart of what is now the Great White Sand Dunes National Monument. His beloved Manuela would never see him again.

Today visitors at Great White Sand Dunes National Monument claim to see Manuela’s ghost as she walks across the dunes just after sunset.

Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin in New Mexico, one-hundred miles to the north of El Paso, Texas, and the Mexican border, are great wave-like sand dunes. The monument is situated at an elevation of 4,235 feet and comprises the southern part of a 275 square mile field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. The gypsum sand dune field is the largest of its kind on earth.

Gypsum rarely occurs as sand because it is water-soluble. Rain usually dissolves gypsum and rivers then carry it to the sea. The Tularosa Basin has no outlet to the sea, so it traps rain that dissolves gypsum from the surrounding San Andres and the Sacramento Mountains. The rainwater either sinks into the ground or forms shallow pools that subsequently dry out and leave gypsum on the surface in a crystalline form called selenite.

On January 18, 1933, President Herbert Hoover designated White Sands National Monument, acting under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906. The dedication and grand opening were on April 29, 1934. The monument is completely surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.

White Sands National Monument preserves not only a major portion of this unique dune field but also the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this constantly changing environment. Partially established as a refuge, White Sands is home to a special set of species that have been able to adapt to the harsh conditions in the desert. Toads, roadrunners and more than 600 species of invertebrates call this protected land their home.

Since its first year as a national monument, visitation to the park has steadily increased. Today, it is one of the most visited national parks in New Mexico as nearly half a million people come to explore the remarkable landscape.

White Sands National Monument has been featured in a variety of western films, including Four Faces West (1948), Hang ‘Em High (1968), The Hired Hand (1971), My Name Is Nobody (1973), Bite the Bullett (1975), and Young Guns II, among others.

Beginning December of 2018, it will be home to a brand new and exciting offering from Backcountry Journeys! We’ll visit two amazing photographic locations while on the Bosque Del Apache & White Sands tour.

This trip is timed to coincide with the migration of thousands of Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, and Sandhill Cranes who spend the night along the Middle Rio Grande to protect themselves from predators. It is the best time to see the greatest number of birds at the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Additionally, we will travel to the wild and unearthly landscape of White Sands National Park. The shimmering white sands of New Mexico fill the Tularosa Basin – creating an incredible white desert landscape against the deep blue desert sky. The shifting sands create endless patterns and the desert light plays across the soft dunes under the rising sun of the Chihuahuan desert.

Such a delicious combination for our photographic appetites! Click here to register as spots remain today, but likely won’t last long!

“The desert could not be claimed or owned–it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names.”

— Michael Ondaatje

Kenton Krueger









Kenton Krueger grew up and spent the first 33 years of his life in the corn country of Omaha, Nebraska. After studying aviation at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Aviation Institute, he “conned” his way into the newsroom at the award-winning Omaha World-Herald where for 3+ years he wrote and photographed news articles on a variety of topics such as community events, travel and even mixed martial arts for the sports department. Yet something was missing. While on backpacking trips to Grand Teton and Grand Canyon National Parks in the mid-2000’s he was quick to realize that the wild lands of the western United States stoked a fire in his heart like nothing else could. This realization led to relocation to Flagstaff, Arizona, and he hasn’t looked back. He has spent the past several years guiding guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, newspaper photographer and writer. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.

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