Regional
3:42 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Rangers Prefer Sunset Strolls To Search And Rescue

White Sands National Monument is a beautiful sight to see.

First-time visitor Bridget Becker came all the way from Minnesota.

“This is actually beautiful, beautiful weather. We are definitely on vacation here.”

She came for one of the nightly sunset strolls, guided by a ranger.

“As far as the eye can reach stretches one unbroken waste…barren, wild and worthless.”

Walking around the national monument is like a walk in the park…but don’t be deceived.

“You really need to come prepared…”

Becky Wiles is the chief of interpretation at the monument.

“Sometimes folks are traveling on vacation. Going out with a with a ranger ensures that they will have a safe and enjoyable visit and be able to get back to their cars.”

The white sands look a whole lot like snow, but it’s not usually that cold out here. Still, park rangers recommend taking a light jacket with you. It could mean the difference between shivering and comfortably watching the sunset.

Visitors sometimes venture off on their own. That’s what one man recently did...getting back was another story.

“It was a photographer, so he was very well prepared and knowledgeable…had taken photos out here in the past.”

He walked a few dunes over looking for the perfect shot…without a GPS or compass.

“Before he knew it, he was turned around, which is really easy to do out here. And he spent an unplanned night out.”

He did have a cell phone, so he was able to call police.

“So we knew that he was out there…hot during the day, it does cool off at night…so unfortunately he got turned around and didn’t have a GPS or a compass to be able to get back to his car.”

With help from White Sands Missile Range, U.S. Border Patrol officers…even a drone from Holloman Air Force Base, the photographer was found safely the next day.

“I hear that he was very happy to see the rangers!”

The experienced hikers are sometimes the ones who get themselves in trouble. Even on her first hike here from Minnesota, Bridget seems to know what to do, though.

“Bring lots of water…gets pretty hot out here with the sun…elevation is something to get used to.”

But, once you have the basics, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

“If you were to come out here, definitely rent some sleds or bring your own – just the plastic kind…. Super fun.”

Another evening comes to a close. Becky Wiles and the staff at White Sands National Monument hope any stragglers left now are tourists getting that one last picture before heading, safely, back home.