RV Trip 3.5 Lake Valley Backcountry Byway – Rockhound SP – December 19 – 22, 2017

When we left Caballo we decided to do the Lake Valley Backcountry Byway that went through Hillsboro, Lake Valley, and on to Nutt before taking the highway to Deming. The first half of the journey was very scenic and we passed areas that used to be Copper, Gold, and Silver mines until the price of copper plummeted.

Once we reached Hillsboro we parked the RV and walked around the old town. Hillsboro was a popular area for mining and ranching and had the last operating stage line in the US. It was declared a Historic district in 1986. The museum was closed (most things only open on weekends and we were there on a Tuesday) so we read the various plaques describing the old buildings. One had been the bank, a hotel, a house of ill repute, a bar/restaurant, and then a winery, that certainly covers all the bases;-)

As we headed south from Hillsboro we passed through ranch land with some more spectacular rock mountain areas until we reached the historic town of Lake Valley. There was a walking tour of the old town but it was closed Tuesday/Wednesday so we could only see some of the buildings from a distance but they had a full description of the history. This was a Silver mining town until 1893 when Gold replaced Silver as the monetary standard and then a fire in 1895 destroyed the majority of the town and it was never rebuilt. We were able to see the old Conoco gas station, another bank safe that had been blown open in a robbery and some of the few remaining adobe walls as well as the 1904 Schoolhouse (from a distance). Further south we came to Nutt where we saw an old railroad siding and it was interesting to see it right next to the wind and solar farm.

We followed the Interstate Highway to Deming and did a short stop to get info and brochures at the Deming visitor center before heading to Rockhound SP. We were finding that you needed to be in the State Parks by around 2 pm to get a campsite as most sites were first come first serve. They only had about 10% of the sites as reservable. We ended up with a very nice site at Rockhound and therefore stayed for 3 nights. After we were setup we walked around the Cactus Garden trail and learned all about the rocks in the park called Thunder Eggs and Geodes. They used to allow you to take up to 15 lbs of rocks from the park but now they ask that you just take a few small rocks. The next morning we walked down to the visitor center and looked at the displays. We saw lots of Gambel Quail’s and Roadrunners along the trails. We also learned that in the winter the desert can have a differential of 40 F from night to day and we had experienced this several days where the night time might be 28 F and the day time 68 F. Beside the visitor center was a native plant garden with a maze that Sharon did. We took the Jasper Trail back to the campground and saw a mule deer along the way. In the afternoon we got our hiking poles out and did the Thunder Egg Trail where they allow you to venture off the trail to hunt for rocks. We’re not sure if we found any Thunder Eggs or Geodes but we did find some really cool pieces of Quartz, some with full crystals, and some white opal and pink jasper. We finished off the day with a nice reverse sunset.

The next day was my kind of retirement day! We had decided to bike to Spring Canyon and then do the Overlook trail there. The total for biking was 10 KMS and the total for hiking was 4 KMS which doesn’t sound so bad. However when the biking is going up a 17% grade road and when half of the hike is literally straight up the mountain it does become a challenge! Luckily it wasn’t too hot out so we could handle it, with a bit of walking the bikes up the steep hill sections;-) Our Rockhound entrance covered the fee to get in to Spring Canyon (elevation 7800’), part of the Florida (pronounced Flo rita) Mountains.

Once we arrived at the end of the Spring Canyon and passed the picnic areas we had part of our lunch and locked our bikes up and started up the Lovers Leap Trail. The sunlight was perfect for the right hand side of the canyon so we were watching for Mountain Goats and Persian Ibex but didn’t see any. The trail was listed as very steep and that was certainly correct. We wished we had brought our hiking poles. The trail went straight up with the exception of one large switch back near the top. Once we reached the Overlook we were shocked by how much wind was blowing up and over the mountain. You literally could barely stand up at the top but the view of the valley on the other side, including a dust storm blowing through, was spectacular. We hid behind some rocks to finish our lunch off before returning back the same way. We did see lots of Gambel Quail’s along the trail and the cattle obviously come up here to feed! Once back at our bikes the ride back down the 17% grade was very fast although we were worried we might burn out our brakes. From the steep hill Sharon coasted for 2 miles without pedalling! I pedaled to reach a higher speed;-) The only down side is we had to go uphill to get back in to the campground. What a phenomenal day!

On the way back Sharon saw several Mule Deer near the visitor center. One of our campground neighbours gave us a really nice specimen of a seed pod from the Unicorn Plant called the Devil’s Claw, it will be tricky to get it home intact;-) Also I have the first photo of the beers I have sampled so far on the trip. It’s tough to pick a winner from this set. I really enjoyed the Sierra Blanca Alien Stout, the Rio Grande IPA, and the Rancho Verde Chile Cerveza. That last one had a real spicy chile finish;-)

The next morning on the way to Deming we stopped in at the St. Clair Winery for wine tasting. We tried 7 different red wines as well as one sparkling and a Mimosa. Needless to say we bought lots of bottles including special ones for Christmas and New Year’s. In addition they had lots of wine Knick knacks and an Eiffel Tower made of corks. We also bought some local jams and sauces.

After the winery we had a shopping stop at Walmart before going to Irma’s Mexican Kitchen for lunch and then the fantastic Deming Museum. The Deming Luna Mimbres Museum and Custom House is run by volunteers from the Luna County Historical Society and they have gathered some very interesting collections. They had a Doll Room that my mother would have loved, a Mimbres Pottery collection (the speciality of this museum), collections of Nutcrackers, Bells (2000), Button Hookers and Whisky Bottles, and also a medical room, period shops, a transportation wing and rocks. As usual we closed down the museum that day;-)

After the Museum we headed to Pancho Villa SP where we spent the next 4 nights including Christmas.



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