Monahans Sandhills SP

All my gloating about the sunshine and warm weather caught up with me and the temperature plummeted. For a day it was 43 degrees and at night below 30. Now today it's warmed up again, although I chatted with a ranger who warned of potential "sleet" for tomorrow.

Let me digress for a moment about weather warnings. After living in Rhode Island for 2 years I'm very wary of people who tell you about bad weather to come. Many RI residents love to spread fear about the weather. In the Ocean State, its a ritual, a hobby, a tradition even. The mentality seems to be, Why simply recite what the Weather Station predicted when you can come up with your own fire-and-brimstone threats about snow and rain? Why be accurate? Why be reasonable?

I worked in a gym and observed first-hand how a "chance of flurries" mentioned by one customer at 7 AM had become "possibly 3 to 4 feet of snow" intoned somberly by another customer at 4:30. After hearing of such doom people would stare bitterly out the windows, shaking their heads --- the very people who on another day might spin their own web of meteorological deceit! It was a twisted version of the "Telephone" game we've all played, which poses an allegory about misinformation. However in this case it was not simply miscommuncation but, I suspect, intentional paranoia-building. They liked to scare one another.

You'd mention to someone how you planned to drive to Boston after work. "Oh, I wouldn't do that, buddy," this character says gravely, "They're saying rain, sleet, and hail... I'd keep off the roads, if I were you!" So you're alarmed and you check the weather... "Chance of rain 10%..."

It was all the more comic because it was New England which is famous for its harsh winters, rainy springs, steamy summers... Yet it was the life-long residents - supposed veterans of the climate - who seemed to regard any remote chance of precipitation as a signal of the apocalypse.

Anyway... while driving today I stopped at Monahans Sandhills State Park in central Texas. I had it in mind to see what all this "sand sledding" business was about.

True to its name, the park is composed of dunes for as far as you can see above. There are picnic areas and an RV campground. I'm not sure why you'd camp there except as a pitstop. $14/night and you can't even cook outside due to the dryness. There really wasn't much hiking or sight-seeing - just dunes, which you were welcome to walk on, and this "sledding".

ABOVE: The sled rentable at the park headquarters. You lube it up with a chunk of wax. Then you walk out into the dunes and begin the laborious process of carving out a tract. You see, the first dozen or so attempts down the hill, you don't slide at all. You have to drag yourself along by clawing in the sand in order to create a tract. Keep in mind that after each descent you must slog back up the dune and re-wax the sled.

I was eventually able to descend sort of quickly. I think it must be easier for children who won't sink as easily into the earth. It would also be easier with friends, because you could work cooperatively to make a very deep and smooth tract together.

ABOVE: A Texas rest-stop. Many Texas rest-stops offer free wireless internet. It is through one of them that I'm typing this very entry. The idea is to encourage people, especially truckers, to pull over, check e-mail, and maybe sleep a little. I guess they also figure tourists can use it to find out about more tourist stuff. Thanks, Texas!

Tomorrow I drive to Guadalupe National Forest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A person was telling me that she might have to send her child to a therapeutic residential school in Asheville. She was very sad at the thought. A bit later she asked me where the scene was that is the wallpaper on my computer, because the rendering of a mountain stream was so beautiful. I told her that it was from Asheville, and that this had to be a good omen. I emailed the picture to her and she wrote me later saying, "Beautiful."

from the archives of Dr. Anonymous