Effective just before Christmas, the 275 square miles of New Mexico desert formerly known as White Sands National Monument became the nation’s newest National Park. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Although both are run by the Park Service, it’s been my experience Parks tend to accumulate petty rules and officious functionaries more rapidly than Monuments. But maybe that’s simply a result of visitation, with the most beautiful and famous sites so overwhelmed by nature-loving daytrippers that a corresponding bureaucracy is needed to handle the crowds.
Although it’s been some years since my last visit, I hope the Arena Blanca is still a considerable way short of the sad condition of Zion, Yosemite and the South Rim. Kids can still have a lot of fun in the Sands without venturing beyond sight of the parking lot, and desert rats like myself can immerse themselves in the trackless expanse of the dunes with a ten-minute hike from pavement. That access can make the dunes quite dangerous, however. Please keep the risks in mind if you’re following Nana’s trail.