Spanish explorers arriving in the late 1500s gave us the first written reports of the vast hills of sands on the West Texas plains, which they called “miniature alps of sand.” Records do not show whether the Spaniards used their armor breastplates or cook-pots to slide down the steep slopes, but chances are at least one of them tried it.
Today, sledding down the dunes is a favorite pastime at Monahans Sandhills State Park, which encompasses almost 4,000 acres just northeast of Monahans. At park headquarters, visitors rent a sliding disk, then head a few miles to the best dunes. Rub the disk with a chunk of wax, then clamber to the top of a tall slope, your feet sinking deep into the sugary grains. There are no special effects here, no motors or machines, just you and a 50-foot-tall dune of smooth sand. Sit down, clutch the disk’s rope handles, and push off for an exhilarating swoop to the bottom. Feel free to let out a hearty yell, and don’t worry about a spill or two—the sand is soft and forgiving.
From the November 2001 issue.