It’s July 16th 1945, Soviet troops have already captured Berlin and it seems like an end is in sight for WWII. United States troops have completed the capture of Okinawa, which provided a secure base for the final assault on Japan. However, this day plays a particularly significant role, because it’s the day that the world’s first atomic bomb is successfully tested. In the middle of White Sands Missile Range, at nearly the dead center of New Mexico, it detonated “The Gadget,” a 13 pound plutonium bomb… and the rest is history.
It’s been 70 years since the world witnessed the atrocities that occurred during WWII, but they were suddenly being relived in my mind as I drove down the desolate stretch of road known as US 70 towards Alamogordo, New Mexico. It’s here where not only history was made, but where one of the world’s great natural wonders remains. As I got closer I saw patches of bright white, which at fist I thought was a mirage but as I got closer those patches began to grow in size. “White Sands National Monument” the sign read, it was at that moment that I turned into a giddy child. The unbroken white landscape was unlike anything that I had ever seen.
As soon as I made my way into the park, I immediately wanted to kick off my shoes and walk, run… roll in the sand! Who am I kidding… I parked, got out of my car and casually strolled up and down the dunes, snapping away with my camera. However, I was acting like a giddy child in my mind.
White Sands National Monument is truly a surreal environment, sitting in-between two mountain ranges is miles and miles of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals as far as the eye can see. I was even told by the Park Rangers that it’s the largest gypsum dune field in the world! It was easy to see why President Herbert Hoover declared it a national monument in the early 1930s.
After taking more photos than my memory card could handle, I sat down to really soak up the experience. There was a slight breeze in the air. You could see the wind blowing tiny specs of gypsum along the sand, hugging its curves and leaving a trail of ripples behind. I looked back only to see that my footsteps had been erased. Off in the distance I could see kids sliding down the dunes in their makeshift sleds, having the time of their lives as their parents prepared lunch. I could see others, who like myself had also wandered off into the massive dunes and took their time to really enjoy the majestic wonders of White Sands.
It was moments like these that reinforced my reasons for escaping the chains of an unfulfilling career back in Los Angeles. These moments in which time seems to stop and nothing else matters more than the feeling of truly living in the present.