Rocks, Sand, Mexico, Boondocking and a Visit from Back Home
Following our stay in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and our visit to Carlsbad Caverns, we thought it time to get into a little more civilization. Jane was requiring some minor dental repairs and the RV needed to have its wheel bearings re-packed. We headed back into the State of Texas and booked a week-long stay at an RV park in El Paso. It was an easy 160-mile trip.
El Paso is a major metropolitan city with a population of close to 700,000. It shares a border with the Mexican city of Juarez, population 1.5 million. We were definitely back in a big city; whether or not we were in civilization is another question.
We were lucky to get Jane into the dental chair within a couple of hours of our arrival. The wheels were re-packed the next day. Time to play!
Our first foray was to Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site, just east of El Paso. This is a small state park with limited access. You can’t just drive into the park; you must have an appointment for a guided tour before they’ll even let you in the front gate! This park, in addition to being great hiking territory, is filled with history. We spent several hours enjoying a hike and professionally-run guided tour back into the wilds of Hueco Tanks. With the aid of our volunteer tour guides, we were able to visit some of the hard-to-find historic landmarks, many of which contained petrographs and petroglyphs. This area was also a stopover for the Butterfield Overland Mail and Stage Line, a series of wagon trains heading west to California in the 1800’s. So, in addition to the Native American “rock art”, there is also plenty of interesting rock graffiti left by the wagon train travelers of that period.
After a couple of days recovering from the bruises and sore muscles acquired from our Hueco Tanks adventure, we decided to head across the border to Juarez for lunch. We parked the truck a few blocks from the international bridge and strolled into Mexico. We’d heard all kinds of frightening stories of past violence in Juarez and listened to all the warnings about the dangers we might face, including “public daytime street shootouts”! How exciting! Let’s go!
We experienced nothing but warm, polite people and a great lunch. Granted, we only strolled a few blocks into the city, and avoided back roads and dark alleys. After all, we’re not stupid, only adventurous. If you’re planning a trip across into a Mexican border town, don’t forget your passport! If you plan appropriately it’s an easy trip, in and out.
We had been planning since we began this winter RV adventure to head out onto Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, go “off-grid” and do some “boondocking”. Boondocking – also known as dry-camping, also known as dispersed camping, also known as independent parking – usually means little, or no amenities like the electrical, sewer and fresh water hookups normally found in RV parks. It means you are electrically off-grid, self-contained, utilizing the resources of your RV. In most BLM boondocking areas there is no charge and you can stay for as long as fourteen days. It’s a very popular form of RVing in the west and southwest where BLM land is plentiful.
We had previously doubled the capacity of our house batteries, and we had purchased 140-watt solar panels to keep them topped off for our electrical needs. The RV has a 49-gallon fresh water tank, a 33-gallon grey water tank (the sink and shower drain), a 33-gallon black water tank (toilet) and plenty of propane for heating, cooking and, through some strange thermodynamic mysticism, keeping the refrigerator/freezer operating. The RV was filled with all kinds of great food. Let’s go boondocking!
We headed north out of El Paso to Sierra Vista Campground, a desert BLM area just east of Las Cruces, NM, and situated at the base of the Organ Mountains. Although the area was for wild, dry camping, there were some designated RV sites. A few of the sites were even paved with gravel. We slowly bumped our way along dirt roads into the area, found a nice spot and settled in. There were several other RVs in the area, but none less than a hundred yards away, affording us plenty of privacy.
We spent three days hiking the Dripping Springs Trail and relaxing. We had a thoroughly enjoyable time on this first boondocking experience. The scenery was spectacular! The nights, however, were particularly interesting as it usually sounded as if we were surrounded by thousands of howling coyotes. Even though some sounded as if they were only yards from the RV, none were ever spotted. We learned lots about boondocking at Sierra Vista Campground and it won’t be our last time.
We next headed west to Alamogordo, NM to relax for a week (yes, we relax a lot), visit White Sands National Monument and the mountain town of Cloudcroft, up in the Sacramento Mountains to the east of Alamogordo.
White Sands is probably one of the prettiest areas we’ve visited on this trip and we spent several days exploring the area. If you ever find yourself around Alamogordo don’t miss the opportunity to see this world-class wonder. Spoiler alert … it’s not sand, it’s gypsum!
Next, we were headed west into Arizona. But first we had a rendezvous with family from Illinois. While we were in Alamogordo, we received a text from my cousin Dottie and her husband Jim, two very special friends that we can never spend enough time with. It turns out they were vacationing in Arizona and their trip back to Illinois would put them on an intercept course with our route west. We made plans to meet in Deming, NM.
We spent a day with Jim and Dottie, hiking City of Rocks State Park, eating, laughing and drinking. We had a wonderful time and we can’t wait to get together with them again soon. Making new and renewing past friendships has been a special highlight for this road adventure.
The next day we packed up the RV, departed Deming and headed west towards Arizona and Chiricahua National Monument.
Many of our followers have visited this part of the country before. As we continue to make our way west towards San Diego, and then head back east towards St. Louis, do you have any travel suggestions for us? Leave your comments and suggestions below. We read them all!
WanderingOurWay.com (WOW) is Changing and We Need Your HELP!
.A new WanderingOurWay.com website with a new look is currently on the drawing board with plans for release with the beginning of our second sailing season in May. With the new website we’re considering other formats for our content, as well as different content. We’re thinking about providing more video content. In addition to travel log content, we’re considering more instructional/technical content about how we’re doing the things we’re doing. What do you think? Any comments or suggestions? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for your help