Navigating New Mexico

We crossed into New Mexico and after checking the long-range forecast (gasping), we immediately decided that we had to adjust our trip.  Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Carlsbad and parts in between were getting snow with more cold fronts coming in so we would have to stay in the southwest and at lower elevations.  That was a bummer but while missing those areas was unfortunate – and we’ll be back – that’s the beauty of having the flexibility to fully adjust our travel plans.

We spent our first day in Las Cruces doing laundry, picking up supplies, then checked out the world’s largest chili pepper…

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The following day, we toured through the historic town of Mesilla, which during the ‘Wild West’ era, attracted such figures as Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and Pancho Villa.  The Bear posed in front of the gift shop that, in 1850, was the courthouse that tried and sentenced Billy the Kid to hang.

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We made our way up to Caballo reservoir and camped at Caballo State Park. After wandering around the campground and talking to a few other campers, we realized that New Mexico has unbelievably cheap camping.  Many NM state park sites are equipped with a shelter, picnic table, electricity, water and 2 fire pits, all for the low, low price of $14.  A site without water and electricity costs just 8 bucks.  And there’s thousands of acres of FREE camping courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.  Value for money, NM has the best camping we’ve come across so far (yes we’re talking to you Northern Ontario and your ripoff $44 unserviced sites…)

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After an overnight at Caballo, we carried on to the ‘spa resort’ town of Truth or Consequences.  T or C, as the locals call it, was originally called Hot Springs, but in 1950, the popular radio show Truth or Consequences announced that it would air its 10th anniversary program from the first town that renamed itself after the show.  Hot Springs won the honor.  Jim Edwards, the program’s host, visited T or C each May for the next 50 years.  Truth or Consequences has a novel name and great advertising (their travel brochure made it look awesome) but after looking around, it’s a relatively ordinary little town with tired-looking ‘motel-spa’ operations.  Needless to say, Mama Bear, the germaphobe, did not indulge in a not-so exotic spa treatment.  But we did find a good butcher, Bullocks, and cooked up a pot roast dinner that would’ve made Nana proud.

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Just a few miles up the road from T or C was Elephant Butte State Park, another fantastic campground on Elephant Butte Reservoir.  Again, we found a terrific campsite that was private and fully equipped ($14 – we love it!).

We spent 3 days at Elephant Butte hiking, doing maintenance to the RV, cooking fancy-ass meals, the Bear went for daily swims, and then we moved south again.  We stopped to look at Fort Selden Historic Site and a kind park ranger let us in without paying the admission (he loved sheepdogs).  Ft Selden was a US Army post that operated from 1865 to 1891.  Now, only the ruins remain of the adobe-style buildings.

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From there, we drove over to White Sands National Monument, about 40 miles east of Las Cruces.  Rising out of the Tularosa Basin, the white sands of New Mexico are a natural wonder that can be seen from outer space.  Huge wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.  Interestingly, to get there along Highway 70, you cross through US military missile testing sites (that occasionally shut down the highway), including the area that the first atomic bomb was tested.  We made a conscious decision not to drink the water…

White Sands National Monument is truly a marvel.  As we entered the park, we thought we were back in Canada heading up to a ski resort, even though it was 70F outside!  The white dunes were amazing and the Bear loved playing in them, once she realized it wasn’t snow and quit trying to eat the sand…

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We finished the day by moving over to some BLM land located near an Air Force Base and found a wonderful free campsite right on a lake.  The sunset was spectacular.

img_7109Now the bad news.  The weather reports are still calling for below freezing weather all over the state so we’re starting to head west towards Arizona, looking for sun and warmth…

 

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