Shelter from the storm

A thunderstorm over White Sands National Monument. Photo by Evgueni Strok.

The dark shadows from the nearing storm cast a cool, blue light across the towering sand dunes, transforming them into a pitching ocean. What once looked eternally still and solid now seemed as fluid as a rolling breaker. Lightning strikes, once faraway in the San Andreas Mountains, are getting closer and closer.

Though black masses of clouds now block out the horizon, making it impossible to tell exactly where the mountains are—my compass point—I feel almost certain I’m heading in the right direction. I remember passing the same skunkbush sumac, wrapped in a mounded plaster cast of etched gypsum, on my way out on the trail. And there’s the three brittle soaptree yuccas where I first stopped to drink some water two hours ago.

A deafening clap of thunder, a brilliant lightning strike and just when I’m almost certain that I’m lost, I see it: The glare of my car in the deserted parking lot. I run as fast as I can and nervously open up the car door just as the first large plops of the thunderstorm smack against my chalky windshield.

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