White Sands National Monument

BY TAYLOR DUNCAN | POSTED: NOV 30, 2018

I finally got to White Sands National Monument after two full days of driving. There is nothing special about driving across the plains, so I was ready for a break from the endless flat countryside! Even the drive up to the dunes was nothing special, but once I got to the visitors' center, I knew I was in for a treat.

I was supposed to meet @dani_the_explorer, @scottyreichard, and @spencerfochtman for some dune exploration, but there wasn't quite a concrete plan yet. Until they got to the dunes, I decided not to venture too far in and did some shorter, touristy hikes remaining in cell service. These were a nice taste for what we would later find. I was able to get a fuller dune experience reading all of the information signs they had and spotted some of the dune wildlife that has adapted incredibly well to the white sand.

Around noon, I met the three Instagrammers for the first time, and we ventured further into the dunes to the Alkali Flats trail - a five mile loop at the heart of the dunes. There are markers for the trail, but we wandered around aimlessly making jokes, laughing, and taking photos as we went.

Both Spencer and I had both been to Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, and we kept trying to compare the two dune fields. It was hard not to. The beauty from the Great Sand Dunes came from their vastness and enormity. The White Sands however are much different. They are not as large and do not cover as much geographical area, but look pure because they are perfectly white.

Our day continued on to a campsite in the backcountry camping area - Campsite 2. This site offered perfect access to the dune field for sunset. After dinner, we hiked through the dunes.

There are markers for the trail, but we wandered around aimlessly making jokes, laughing, and taking photos as we went.


They changed color while the sun started to set. I thought the Great Sand Dunes were beautiful at sunset, but these dunes mirrored the colors of the sky perfectly. They turned a golden yellow at the start of the sunset and then changed to red then purple and lastly blue before the darkness took over. It was an experience that I won't soon forget, and I'm sure none of my companions will either!

As the night came, our shenanigans continued into the campsite, creating memories with lots of inside jokes. We researched the position of the Milky Way for that night and found that it would be visible at 4:30 am, when the moon went away. We set our alarms for four and called it a night.

Spencer, Scotty, and I woke ready to go, but Dani remained in her tent, needing that extra beauty sleep! She definitely missed out! The Milky Way was almost vertical in the southern sky. As our eyes adjusted, we moved a tent for photo purposes. The stars seemed to get brighter and brighter!

We planned some shots and experimented with flashlights for the majority of the time, and got some incredible photos! The light in the clouds in these two photos is light pollution from Las Cruces, NM and El Paso, TX. I'm usually not a fan of light pollution, but in this case it adds another element to the photos that I think really works!

As dawn and the sunrise approached, the sands started to change their color again, and we were treated to an incredible display in the sky! I've come to find that I've been pretty spoiled when I've been in the Southwest. There haven't been many sunrise or sunset duds!

After sunrise, we packed up camp and headed back to the cars. Spencer had an extra day in New Mexico, and he decided to tag along with me to my next location, Shiprock! We said our goodbyes to Dani and Scotty and went our separate ways.

White Sands National Monument

BY TAYLOR DUNCAN | 12.19.18

I finally got to White Sands National Monument after two full days of driving. There is nothing special about driving across the plains, so I was ready for a break from the endless flat countryside! Even the drive up to the dunes was nothing special, but once I got to the visitors' center, I knew I was in for a treat.

I was supposed to meet @dani_the_explorer, @scottyreichard, and @spencerfochtman for some dune exploration, but there wasn't quite a concrete plan yet. Until they got to the dunes, I decided not to venture too far in and did some shorter, touristy hikes remaining in cell service. These were a nice taste for what we would later find. I was able to get a fuller dune experience reading all of the information signs they had and spotted some of the dune wildlife that has adapted incredibly well to the white sand.

Around noon, I met the three Instagrammers for the first time, and we ventured further into the dunes to the Alkali Flats trail - a five mile loop at the heart of the dunes. There are markers for the trail, but we wandered around aimlessly making jokes, laughing, and taking photos as we went.

Both Spencer and I had both been to Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, and we kept trying to compare the two dune fields. It was hard not to. The beauty from the Great Sand Dunes came from their vastness and enormity. The White Sands however are much different. They are not as large and do not cover as much geographical area, but look pure because they are perfectly white.

Our day continued on to a campsite in the backcountry camping area - Campsite 2. This site offered perfect access to the dune field for sunset. After dinner, we hiked through the dunes.

There are markers for the trail, but we wandered around aimlessly making jokes, laughing, and taking photos as we went.


They changed color while the sun started to set. I thought the Great Sand Dunes were beautiful at sunset, but these dunes mirrored the colors of the sky perfectly. They turned a golden yellow at the start of the sunset and then changed to red then purple and lastly blue before the darkness took over. It was an experience that I won't soon forget, and I'm sure none of my companions will either!

As the night came, our shenanigans continued into the campsite, creating memories with lots of inside jokes. We researched the position of the Milky Way for that night and found that it would be visible at 4:30 am, when the moon went away. We set our alarms for four and called it a night.

Spencer, Scotty, and I woke ready to go, but Dani remained in her tent, needing that extra beauty sleep! She definitely missed out! The Milky Way was almost vertical in the southern sky. As our eyes adjusted, we moved a tent for photo purposes. The stars seemed to get brighter and brighter!

We planned some shots and experimented with flashlights for the majority of the time, and got some incredible photos! The light in the clouds in these two photos is light pollution from Las Cruces, NM and El Paso, TX. I'm usually not a fan of light pollution, but in this case it adds another element to the photos that I think really works!

As dawn and the sunrise approached, the sands started to change their color again, and we were treated to an incredible display in the sky! I've come to find that I've been pretty spoiled when I've been in the Southwest. There haven't been many sunrise or sunset duds!

After sunrise, we packed up camp and headed back to the cars. Spencer had an extra day in New Mexico, and he decided to tag along with me to my next location, Shiprock! We said our goodbyes to Dani and Scotty, and went our separate ways.

Taylor Duncan

Taylor is a landscape and adventure photographer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His passion has taken him all over the United States, parts of western Canada, and down to South America. Taylor is an ongoing student of the art always looking for new places to travel to and new compositions to try out. His photographic goal is to experience as much of the world as possible and in turn, inspire others to go out and experience it as well.

Taylor Duncan

Taylor is a landscape and adventure photographer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His passion has taken him all over the United States, parts of western Canada, and down to South America. Taylor is an ongoing student of the art always looking for new places to travel to and new compositions to try out. His photographic goal is to experience as much of the world as possible and in turn, inspire others to go out and experience it as well.

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