Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Mexico and the start of Texas

Las Cruces

We left Arizona on January 3, 2017 and headed into New Mexico. We made a one night stop at the Sunny Acres RV Park in Las Cruses, NM
We stayed here for a week in February 2016. The majority of the park is snowbirds. The park is well maintained and the overnight sites are all pull through with full hook-ups. The sites are gravel with a strip of grass, they are a little narrow but there are bushes for some privacy. Our site was plenty long enough for our rig and tow-dolly with the car still attached. 
They have a nice fenced dog park where Mielikki made a new friend and the laundry room is very clean. We paid $36.00 a night with our Good Sam discount.

Van Horn
We entered the Lone Star state on January 4, 2017. We stayed at the Desert Willow RV Park in Van Horn, TX. The park is split in two with a section on both sides of the road. Both are all gravel and the majority of sites are pull through.
Sites are long and about average width. This is a pretty basic park, the laundry room was clean. They have a dog run, but it is not kept up and is full of goat head weeds, as is most of the property so walking the dog was a challenge. The worst part was the very loud train right across the street, 
A frosty morning
in fact we left a day early because of it. We paid $13.50 a night with our Passport America discount. 
The weather was pretty cold, we had planned to go to the Guadalupe Mountains but there was snow and some of the roads were closed. 

Van Horn is on the Texas Mountain Trail so we explored it some. You can follow the 1960's driving route that takes you to state and national parks. 
It reminded us a little of some of the places on Route 66, not much left to see in the small towns but the scenery was pretty.

As you know we love to explore old cemeteries, so when we read about the history of the Van Horn Cemetery we had to check it out.  
It is always interesting to see the different types of headstones and how people of different faiths and heritage confront and celebrate death. 

The first grave in this cemetery is that of "Baby Beach", infant child of James and Nancy Beach, who died on October 7, 1882. 
The first adult to be buried was Augustus Sanders Goynes who was shot by his brother-in-law over a watering hole dispute on June 30, 1892, his 52nd birthday. Which is rather ironic as Augustus was the person who suggested that the town's motto should be "This town is so healthy we have to shoot a man to start a cemetery". This motto hung in the lobby of the local hotels. 

The El Capitan Hotel was built in 1930 and operated until the late '60's when it closed down. In the early 70's it reopened as the Van Horn State Bank. In 2007 Lanna and Joe Duncan purchased the building and converted it back into a hotel. 

We hope they serve better food than the diesel fried chicken place! 

Arriving in Marathon a day earlier proved to be a good idea as it gave us an extra day to explore Big Bend National Park.
The drive in once again offered up some cool scenery. We stayed at the Marathon Motel and RV Park. It has 10 motel rooms and 19 RV sites, some that are permanent or long term but all are kept up well. 

Sites are pull through and plenty long enough and very wide as well as level. The laundry room was out of order which was a drag, but the park was nice.

The roof on the building
slides open
It is also a destination for star gazers as this area is considered to have some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states. They have a section called the SkyPark that has cement pads for setting up telescopes for star gazing. There is a building on site that is filed with equipment for star gazing and tracking planets. The owner has a great deal of equipment as well and you can even arrange to rent some. The SkyPark link has a webcam on it. 

There is a section that has a labyrinth type walk, a deck over looking a pond and a garden area with hanging swings to sit and relax and watch the sunset. 

Marathon is a small town with a hotel, a small cafe, a tiny grocery store and the coolest B & B we have seen in long time. It, like so many others was developed when the railroad came through. 

We did find two Roadside Oddities, The Chicken House and The Target Building, we would spend a lot less money if all Targets were this size! They weren't kidding when they said they have amazing sunsets.


As mentioned we went to Big Bend National Park and this one is on the list of favorites. We spent two days exploring this amazing park. 
The first day we came in from the north at the Persimmon Gap entrance with a stop at the Visitor Center. They have some great displays of animal information. We loved the casts of the foot prints.

The park lies in the northern part of the Chihuahuan Desert. It is comprised of two types of land, one is sedimentary and formed from the oceans and the other is volcanic, formed when volcanoes erupted millions of years ago. You find mountains, valleys, canyons, lush vegetation, arid deserts and hot springs here.

A trip down the Auto Tour Road was fun, we do find some interesting roads to travel. It took us to the Dagger Flats
The views of the surrounding mountains and the cactus and scrub were amazing. 
The Fossil Exhibit didn't officially open until January 14, but we were able to get into it anyways. You wandered through an open air building that has photos and information on the development of this area
There are also a number of fossils and representations of fossils that were found here.  

One section has metal pipes for you to look through that focus in on the spots the fossils were found. Really neat.
There is a walkway to the top of a mound that offers up some nice views. 
Just off the parking lot is a covered pavilion that during the summer months will offer much needed shade. Surrounding the pavilion they have information boards with a question or statement on one side and the answer and facts on the other, plus there are large plastic "fossils" to explore. 
Panther Junction was the next Visitor Center, and this one has a post office in it. There is also a self-guided walk through a desert garden. 

Rio Grande Village was a final destination for the first day. You cross over the Ernst Basin and then through a tunnel.  

L: Sierra del Carmen, US ~~ C: Sierra del Carmen, Mexico ~~ R: Maderas del Carmen
Just past the tunnel is the Rio Grande Overlook. You can not see the river from here but you do get a beautiful view of the mountains, Boquillas, Mexico, and the Rio Grande Village
While driving through Rio Grande Village, we met a few birds and of course saw more cactus. 

There are a few places to gain access to the river and Nancy took advantage of that by dipping her toes in. 

As you drive north, heading to the Persimmon Gap entrance/exit the road stretches out before you. 

Driving back home with the sun going down and the moon coming up was priceless. 

Our next visit was through the west entrance at the Maverick Junction.

We hiked a little at the Croton Springs. It was a bit warm so Mielikki dug herself a cool spot to lay in while we found some interesting rocks, including a "Michigan" one.

The drive down to Castolon took us a few hours. 
We stopped at the Sotol Vista Overlook. 
L: Goat Mtn ~~ C: Kit Mtn ~~ R: Xmas Mtn

Then the Burro Mesa and the Burro Ears.

The stop at Tuffs Canyon was cool. It never ceases to amaze us the power that water has. You can hike down into the canyon.

Every turn in the road gives you something different to see. One section reminded us of the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 
Picture on right is the Castolon Cerro Castellan

We also saw a very large "Michigan" rock. 

At the Santa Elena Canyon there is a boat ramp for the rafts for white water rafting, we didn't do that but Nancy and Mielikki posed for a picture. 

While at the Canyon we met a group of guys from the Houston area who were on a guys weekend adventure. Roger and Nancy got to talking about life on the road as he and his wife want to do this, and Nancy was able to help them out by taking their picture. We love meeting new people and exchanging stories and contact info. So, Roger if you are reading this we hope you and Joan can hit the road soon. 
This canyon is amazing, it has been created by the water rushing through and eroding the limestone base. There is a 1.7 mile hike that takes you to a very narrow part of the river, where you can cross and hike to an observation deck to see down the canyon. The day was getting away from us and it was time to head back home so we didn't do the hike. 
While driving out of the canyon you get a great side view of the Castolon Cerro Castellan.

This time as we watched the moon come up we also got to chase our shadow.
Next up is Del Rio, Freer and Kingsville.

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way
~ Don't get locked out
Many of the RV parks that we stay in are gated, and/or the bathrooms, laundry and clubhouse have keypad locks on them. 
When you check in you are given a map or brochure that has the key code info on it. Nancy takes a picture with her phone and that way we don't have to rely on our memory, which isn't always the best! We've blocked out the numbers for safety reasons. 

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