Caballo Lake State Park

Earlier this week I told you we had arrived at Caballo Lake State Park and found ourselves an amazing spot by the water. I shared a few photos of this incredible find, but since it’s so gorgeous I feel compelled to share some more.

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Looking up from the water’s edge

Caballo Lake State Park

Kitchen window view

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Caballo Lake on a rare calm day – morning & afternoon

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Lakeside living is grand

I’m starting to feel like a broken record when I tell you that, yet again, we had a quiet week. It seems that lately I don’t have as many adventures to share as I once did. I think the reason is because over the past few months we’ve fallen into a comfortable routine that involves much more time spent around the house enjoying our immediate surrounding, and not much time out and about. Most of our days consist of work during the day followed by an afternoon and evening close to home. We do our running (just finished up week 9! blog post coming soon), maybe take a bike ride or a stroll around the campground, but not much else. And that’s perfectly fine with us.

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Biking on the Caballo Dam

There was a time when our goal was always to do and see as much as possible. If there was a cool hike near by, or some popular attraction, we tried our best to cram these activities in. The problem was that since we don’t have all day to drive around checking out cool things and hiking mountains, we often spent a week, or even two, in an area and still left feeling like we hadn’t experienced everything. For awhile we both struggled with this. Logic told us that if we’re not fully exploring all the places we travel to, then what’s the point of this lifestyle? For me, I know this feeling stems in part from the ridiculous amount of travel blogs that I read. I read about travelers who hike everyday, visit every national park/monument/preserve, go to every museum, eat at every restaurant. Where do they find the time? The answer is really quite simple. It’s called retirement. Out of all the travel blogs I follow, I estimate that 80-90% of them are written by retired folks. No wonder we can’t keep up. Eventually we stopped trying.

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Pretty purple flowers by the lake

I am not sure exactly when, or why, it happened. I don’t even think it was a conscious decision, but at some point we stopped forcing ourselves to squeeze in as much as possible. We came to the realization that this is long term lifestyle for us. A lifestyle that we feel secure and happy with. A lifestyle that is not about seeing and doing as much as possible in a year or two, and then rushing back to real life (whatever that is). Instead, this is chance for us to live a fairly normal life with the extra bonus of getting to experience new places, meet new people, and enjoy new surroundings – all at our own pace.

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Headed down to the boat ramp

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Pointing out the obvious

If that means we leave somewhere without visiting every attraction or hiking every trail, then so be it. The beauty of living in a house on wheels is that it’s really easy to make a return visit. We’ve already re-visited many places. Lake Mead, San Diego, Phoenix, and Tucson are all places we returned for a second time and found both new and old things to explore. This summer we’re headed back to Colorado, and while we’re planning to make some new stops, we’re also going to re-visit some of our favorites from last summer. Does that mean we will have experienced everything those places have to offer. Probably not. But that’s okay. Full-time RV living for us has truly become an ongoing adventure.

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The riverside area of the campground

About a month ago I wrote a post about how content I feel to be living this traveling lifestyle. I think part of that content, happy feeling comes from letting go of the notion that we must do it all. Once we gave up the regret and disappointment in regards to what we were missing out on, it was much easier to enjoy what was right in front of us. This week that happens to be a lovely lake.

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Evening on the lake

All of this absolutely does not mean that we’ve given up on experiencing all those things that make this country great as we travel from place to place. A few weeks ago we spent the day at White Sands, this weekend we have a full day of ghost town viewing and green chili eating planned, and I just adjusted our schedule for the following weekend so we could visit the Very Large Array. But if in between these outings we have a whole week of nothing but work and strolling around the campground, we’re totally okay with that.

caballo lake state park

Link Love

Link LoveIf I ever find myself near Crossville, TN I am definitely visiting the World’s Largest Tree House. This magnificent feat of engineering is 90′ tall, contains 80 rooms, and is supported by a combination of one ginormous 80′ tall white oak  & 11 other supporting oak trees. Sadly, the tree house is currently closed under orders of the fire marshall. I still want to visit.

We are currently parked on the shores of Caballo Lake with a gorgeous view of the Caballo Mountains on the far side of the lake. Yesterday I was researching possible hiking trails in the mountains and came across article after article referencing Spanish Treasure Found in the Mountains. So if you don’t hear from us for awhile it would be safe to assume that we found some Spanish treasure, bought a private island, and are currently lying on the beach drinking Piña Coladas.

Have you ever heard of a Bosque? The word means woods or forest in Spanish, and here in the southwest it is used to describe the unique ecosystem that surrounds the Rio Grande River. It makes me happy to be experiencing this fascinating forest in the desert firsthand, and I’ve been busy learning the names of the plants that live in the Bosque.

One of the absolute best things about traveling around the US is discovering and enjoying local food. In case you’re wondering what to look out for in each state The Lonely Plant has a handy dandy State-by-State Guide to Iconic Foods. I am not sure how they came up with this list, and exactly how authentic it is, but from now on it’s my mission to eat from the list every time we go to a new state. On that note, a few states I need to avoid are: Delaware- Scrapple (google it), Montana -Rocky Mountain oysters (NOT really oysters, but instead a part of a bull’s anatomy that I would rather not ingest), and Minnesota – lutefisk (aged, lye-soaked white fish).

Just as I am gearing up to publish Part 2 of my Airstream Kitchen post all about planning, shopping and preparation, Lynne from the blog Tales from Mutiny comes along and beats me too it! I am kidding of course. If I only wrote blog posts about subjects that have never been written about before, I would never have anything to write about. Her awesome post offers great tips on saving money and staying green while cooking and eating in an RV. She includes some yummy sounding recipe links and even some great ideas for natural cleaning. You should definitely check it out.

Speaking of RV cooking, last week I had a moment of culinary mastery when I made this Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread. It was incredible and we had to restrain ourselves from eating the entire loaf in a single gluttonous bread-gobbling feast. The recipe was super simple, and if it didn’t take nearly 4 hours to make, including numerous rises and lots of kneading, I might make it every week.

One more food link. Airstreams are a popular method of advertisement for many brands. The latest company to jump on the Airstream bandwagon, errr…trailer, is Chevre, the makers of some mighty fine tasting Goat Cheese. We are huge goat cheese fans around here, and obviously we love Airstreams, so this seems like a perfect match. I only wish the road trip was coming a bit farther west so we could snag some yummy samples.

Did you know that for several years Airstream made a toy hauler? This 34′ beast is pretty slick looking, but even at that size what you gain in toy hauling space you loose in living space. Which means you have room for you kayak and motorcycle, but have to sleep in a tiny bed squished in the corner. I pick a comfortable place to sleep over toys any day.

Love, love, love these Airstream T-shirts. $36 + shipping seems really pricy for a t-shirt though.

I thought this list of the Best North-South Roads was interesting. Of the six on the list we’ve driven sections of only three including US 101, US 89, and US 1 (not with the Airstream).

Lots of RVers know about the Bumfuzzle family. They became famous (on infamous to some) in the traveling world about 10 years ago when the then childless couple decided to sail around the world- with no prior sailing knowledge. Tim & I both just finished reading their book about that journey around the world. We’ve often indulged in thoughts of living on a sailboat, and this account was eye-opening on several levels. While we are far, far from giving up the Airstream for a boat, it’s still fun to dream at times of a completely different kind of adventure.

Hiking the Organ Mtns. + Waterfront Property at Caballo Lake

On Saturday we made our way to the eastern side of Las Cruces for a hike in the Organ Mountains. This rugged section of mountains contains spiky looking granite needles that have the appearance of organ pipes – hence the name.

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On the Pine Tree Trail- the bottom left photo show the Organ Needle which tops out at an elevation of 9,000′ and is the highest peak in the mountain range

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The Organ Mountains

There are a number of trails that traverse the mountains, including some fairly technical (and scary) sounding climbs up the steep granite peaks. We’re more into hiking than climbing, so we chose a moderate 4.5 mile loop that took us up to the base of mountains. The Pine Tree Trail starts and ends at the Aguirre Springs Campground. We hiked up a series of mild switch backs to the high point of the trail (elevation 6,880) and enjoyed a view of the Tularosa Basin below.

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View from the top

It was a perfect day for a hike with mild temperatures, little wind, and bright sun overhead. We’ve haven’t done too much hiking lately and it felt good to stretch our legs and lungs with an uphill work out.

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More from the trail

At the end of the hike we walked around the campground to see how it might work for a future visit. At only $7/per night, and a full cell signal, it seemed almost prefect. We did spot a sign on the drive up to the campground at the point where the road becomes a winding one-way loop that said no trailers over 23-feet, but Tim confidently claimed we could make it with the Airstream no problem. And the campground, could we fit in any of the sites? Yup. While a good number would only be suitable for tents or really small trailers, there were a few sites where we could have easily fit. This pull-though with an amazing mountain view was my favorite.

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Site 18 at Aguirre Springs

A definite possibility for the next time we come through this area, but for now we are headed north. Not too far north though. On Sunday we packed it up and traveled about 45 minutes to Caballo Lake State Park. We drove through the nearly full electric and water loop before spotting a few RVs down by the water. The campground website says they have primitive beach camping ($8/night or free with our pass) which sounded right up our alley, so we headed in that direction. The first site we tried was at the end of the parking lot for the boat ramp. Great views of the water, but too much potential traffic from people going in and out of the parking lot. Out next stop was down a dirt road  and out on a little peninsula. As soon as we pulled up I knew this was the perfect spot. Just look at that view!!!

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Waterfront property

As you can see, even though we are technically in the state park, we’re completely alone.

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Ahhh…all alone

I’ll share much more about the campground after we’ve been here for a few days, but for now here’s some pictures from yesterday evening.

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Caballo Lake at the “magic hour”

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Evening glow on the Caballo Mountains

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Pretty clouds over the lake

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Sunday Sunset

One more thing – I forgot to include the updated spreadsheet detailing our costs at the New Mexico State Parks last week. So here it is with last week and this week added in. At the end of this week we will have been in NM for 27 nights. If you remember the first week I said it would take 22 days for the pass to pay for itself, which means it now has and then some. Also notice how the per day cost with pass has dipped below the per day cost without pass. From here on out the divide between these numbers will continue to increase.

New Mexico State Park Fees

This Week in an Instagram / March 30-April 5

Leasburg Dam State ParkCactus Flowers
Rio Grande River
Leasburg Dam State Park
Tulips
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Leasburg Dam State Park
Alligator Juniper
On a hike
The Organ Mountains
Site 10 for $10 / Found some cactus flowers / The mighty Rio Grande River not looking so grande / Visitor center at the campground / Tulips to brighten up the house / Yummy homemade cinnamon swirl bread / Our neighbor was fooled by our wifi name “FBI Surveillance Airstream”. He asked if we were FBI. He was serious. / The bark of an Alligator Juniper / Tim admiring the view / The Organ Mountains

Leasburg Dam State Park

Compared to the excitement of our day playing in the dunes at White Sands, the rest of the week has been rather anti-climatic. We arrived at Leasburg Dam State Park just north of Las Cruces a little past noon on Sunday.

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Us, a bridge & a bird

I know I run the risk of ruining a good thing by saying this, but I think I am ready to declare that we’ve perfected the art of snagging one of the first-come, first-serve sites at the New Mexico State Parks. The trick is to arrive on a Sunday between twelve and one. All the weekenders will be leaving on Sunday, and since most people need to a few hours to drive home they leave an hour or two before the 2:00 check out. Technically check-in at the NMSPs is 4:00, but from what we’ve seen there’s no way you’ll get a site if you show up that late. By the way, don’t you find it funny that check in times are typically two hours later than check out times at campgrounds. What happens during those two hours? I mean, it’s not like they’re making up your bed, or cleaning you bathroom. Some campgrounds rake the site, but from what we’ve seen the majority do not. It’s very puzzling. Anyway, I digress. So we showed up on Sunday sometime between noon and one to find only two of the 31 sites open. One of the them was a very large, no hook-ups site on top of a bluff overlooking the diversion canal and Rio Grande River below.

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Site 10 at Leasburg Dam SP

You’ll notice in the above photo that we don’t have any tables or chairs outside, there are lots of large rocks holding down the mat, and a few random flip flops laying around. That’s all the result of the very, very windy week that we’re having around here. Far too windy to even think about sitting outside. On the plus side, up until Thursday it was really warm, like almost 80-degrees, which we have been enjoying immensely.

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Two more views of our site including the adobe picnic shelter

There’s nothing really special or exciting about Leasburg Dam SP. But that’s okay, because we knew ahead of time it wasn’t going to be the kind of campground that blew us away with beauty. I know I said last week that I was spoiled and always wanted to find the absolute best campground, but I’m also realistic and know that sometimes we’re going to end up in a place that is just okay. The major reason we decided to stay here is to take advantage of the close proximity to Las Cruces. For the first time since we left Tucson over a month ago we have access to some larger stores for shopping. This meant we could buy the part for our black tank that we desperately needed (you don’t want to know), stock up at Target, find a birthday present for our little niece who is turning one this month, get some new running shoes for me, and take care of a bunch of other stuff that just can’t happen in the tiny towns we’ve been near lately.

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The view from our site. The foot bridge crosses the diversion canal, and the trees beyond are on the banks of the Rio Grande River

Besides shopping and working we have spent some time exploring the nature that surrounds us here in the park. There are a few short trails that meander around the campground, and down below us is the day use area with access to the river and a few more trails. The day use area is closed during the week this time of year, but we may have snuck around the fence anyway. Shhh…don’t tell. My best guess as to why it’s closed is because hardly anyone wants to visit it this time of year. Why don’t they want to visit? Could have something to do with the lack of water in the river. Below is what the diversion canal looks like right now. Pretty dry.

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No water here

The reason the diversion canal is dry becomes pretty evident when you see the dam. The dam by the way, is not there to hold back water, but to divert it into a series of canals for use by nearby farms. As you can see, there’s nothing to divert right now.

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The Leasburg Dam not damming a dam thing

The lack of water is due in part to the time of year, which is typically very dry, and also the fact that by the time the river reaches southern New Mexico it has been diverted so many times that it often dwindles down to nearly nothing.

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The Rio Grande

Despite the lack of water, we did discover some signs of spring down by the river. I’ve really been longing to see some green lately, so as you can imagine I was excited to find green leaves, some pretty pale pink flowers, and even a path lined with trees. Trees! What are those? We’ve been in the desert so long that I nearly forgot what it felt like to walk down a tree-lined path.

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Signs of spring

Back at the campground, we’ve also spotted a few signs that spring has sprung in southern New Mexico. Check out this impressive Yucca flower.

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A Yucca flower

And these cactus flowers!

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A type of Hedgehog Cactus called Claret Cup

I Spotted these the day we arrived and posted a photo on Instagram. Since then a ton more blooms have opened.  Aren’t they pretty?

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So pretty!

As usual we’ll be heading out to a new campground on Sunday. In the meantime, we plan to spend tomorrow exploring some of the hiking trails in the Organ Mountains just east of Las Cruces. If we’re lucky we might even find some more trees.