New Mexico Part II: Caballo Lake

We had already spent a full month in New Mexico when we departed Santa Fe, but we decided to make one more stop as we traveled south. Our ultimate plan was continue down I-25 until it intersected with I-10, then head west and begin our Arizona month near Tucson. Caballo Lake State Park was about 1/2 the distance to that goal: about three hours from Santa Fe and the same distance again to Tucson. We weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere in particular, other than a destination that was a little warmer. We had been in the thick of snow and ice since the beginning of November and winter wasn’t looking like it was going to let up anytime soon. We planned to tackle Utah after Arizona, and we didn’t want to venture that far north again until at least late March. Since it was only mid-January, it wasn’t going to hurt anything to spend six more nights in The Land of Enchantment. After all, the weather was warmer in the southern part of the state, Mike would have a lake to fish on, and there were seven full-hookup spots for $18 per night – as long as they weren’t all taken. Reservations were not an option for the targeted spots at the state park, they were only available on a first-come first-served basis. We made a bet that at least one of those spots would be available on a Tuesday and took our chances.

The drive was easy and our hunch was correct; the campground was wide open when we arrived. We selected spot No. 5 because it was the easiest one to enter and exit in the Monaco. We were set up in no time and I was looking forward to the next few days. The lack of campers made our spot very private and quiet. The lake offered a great view for us to enjoy, and I was guessing that the night skies were going to provide for some great star gazing. Since we were basically in the middle of no where, light pollution did not seem like it would be a problem. The temperatures were only in the sixties, so we immediately set up the grill and loaded it up with ribs and potatoes. The only drawback was that there was no grass anywhere. The dogs kept looking at us like “where the hell are we supposed to pee”?

The closest town to our campsite was Truth or Consequences which was about 20 minutes to our north. The town of about 6,000 sits on the Rio Grande River, but was a little underwhelming overall. One interesting thing is that it had hot springs in the area, and there were about ten different spas in town where people could go to soak. Another neat thing was that the Spaceport America complex was located about 30 miles to the east of town. I did go soak in a hot spring tub one day, but for some reason we did not get over to see the Spaceport America outfit. I’m not sure why we didn’t… Mike would have really liked to see that.

The weather was very agreeable each of the six days we were camped at Lake Caballo, which meant we could have the windows open during the day and a campfire roaring at night. Heaven. The Australian Open was also on television that week, so we spent lots of hours sitting outside in front of the tv watching tennis and reading our books. Mike was also super happy because he got to go fishing each day. He only caught one fish that was not worth keeping, but he enjoyed his time by the water none-the-less.

Our one and only daytrip was to Las Cruces and Hatch, both to the south of us on I-25. We accidentally stumbled upon a Saturday Market in downtown Las Cruces, which was a real treat! In Hatch, we had world famous chili cheeseburgers at Sparky’s. They were so good they made the food page of this blog! We also drove over to Elephant Butte State Park one morning. That state park was larger than the one where we were camped and a little closer to T or C – on the north side of town. We walked the dogs on a good walk but didn’t find any grass there either. The highlight of that outing was the quail we spotted running through the desert.

Even though we only made two stops in New Mexico, we both still felt like it was a state we knew well.  The area is very familiar to Mike (and consequently myself). The reason is because he had been coming to New Mexico annually since he was about twelve to go hunting on public lands in many of the national forests located there. The state has a lottery. People submit their applications for hunting permits and are chosen at random each year. Every year his dad submitted applications for himself, and his two sons. Most years they were awarded a license and went on camping/hunting expeditions in the Gila or Lincoln National Forests in search of mule deer. In case you do not know… venison is a good thing to have in one’s freezer. The meat is healthy and yummy to this Texas girl. Most years his mom went too. When Mike and I were first dating, he asked me to go. I said yes and joined in the family tradition. The excursion was always an intense trip. When I learned that my mother-in-law didn’t go EVERY year, I happily scaled myself back to about every third year.

So a month amidst the culture, history, architecture and subdued glitz of Santa Fe, contrasted with a few nights in a rural community next to the Rio Grande, provided us a thorough understanding of New Mexico. With some background knowledge from our previous travels, we confidently scratched The Land of Enchantment off the list of Lower 48 and didn’t look back as we headed to Arizona.

Our spot at Caballo Lake State Park - Number 5.

Our spot at Caballo Lake State Park – Number 5.

The view from my bedroom window. There were only seven spots in our section of the campground. Another couple arrived for the weekend, but we had the place to ourselves other than that.

The view from my bedroom window. There were only seven spots in our section of the campground. Another couple arrived for the weekend, but we had the place to ourselves other than that.

The wind was totally still the first day we arrived, so this was our first view of the lake. We were impressed!

The wind was totally still the first day we arrived, so this was our first view of the lake. We were impressed!

Red rocks at sunset.

Red rocks at sunset.

I've never seen so many solar panels as we did in New Mexico. This Walmart parking lot had all of its spaces covered. Shade for the customers and power for the building. I like it!

I’ve never seen so many solar panels as we did in New Mexico. This Walmart parking lot had all of its spaces covered. Shade for the customers and power for the building. I like it!

Mike didn't catch any keepers in Lake Caballo, but he did snag this 20-lb Buffalo - similar to a Carp. It is mostly a bow fishing target.

Mike didn’t catch any keepers in Lake Caballo, but he did snag this 20-lb Buffalo – similar to a Carp. It is mostly a bow fishing target.

The closest town to Lake Caballo was Truth or Consequences (the locals call it T or C). It was originally named Hot Springs because of all the natural hot springs in the area. In 1950, as a publicity stunt, it changed its name to the name of a popular NBC radio show at the request of the show's host, Ralph Edwards. The city has voted three more times to keep T or C as its name.

The closest town to Lake Caballo was Truth or Consequences (the locals call it T or C). It was originally named Hot Springs because of all the natural hot springs in the area. In 1950, as a publicity stunt, it changed its name to the name of a popular NBC radio show at the request of the show’s host, Ralph Edwards. The city has voted three more times to keep T or C as its name.

The mountains across the lake from us turned all kinds of colors depending on the weather and the time of day.

The mountains across the lake from us turned all kinds of colors depending on the weather and the time of day.

We drove about an hour south on I-25 to Las Cruces to see what their downtown looked like. When we arrived we were excited to find out we were in time for the weekly Saturday Market. The streets are closed to vehicle traffic and vendors set up tents with all handcrafted art, food and other treats. A couple of weeks later, I learned that Mike had secretly bought me a beautiful necklace for my anniversary present!

We drove about an hour south on I-25 to Las Cruces to see what their downtown looked like. When we arrived we were excited to find out we were in time for the weekly Saturday Market. The streets are closed to vehicle traffic and vendors set up tents with all handcrafted art, food and other treats. A couple of weeks later, I learned that Mike had secretly bought me a beautiful necklace for my anniversary present!

Downtown Las Cruces had many pretty restored buildings like the Rio Grande Theater.

Downtown Las Cruces had many pretty restored buildings like the Rio Grande Theater.

The reviews said to expect a wait in line if we wanted to eat at Sparky's in Hatch. Since they recently won First Place in the People's Choice Category at the New Mexico State Fair for their world famous Green Chili Cheeseburger, we didn't mind. It was totally worth it.

The reviews said to expect a wait in line if we wanted to eat at Sparky’s in Hatch. Since they recently won First Place in the People’s Choice Category at the New Mexico State Fair for their world famous Green Chili Cheeseburger, we didn’t mind. It was totally worth it.

The owners of Sparky's love to collect signs and other statues from iconic food establishments. I thought I'd sit with The Colonel a bit while we waited in line.

The owners of Sparky’s love to collect signs and other statues from iconic food establishments. I thought I’d sit with The Colonel a bit while we waited in line.

Inside Sparky's.

Inside Sparky’s.

Full moon over the lake on a clear night.

Full moon over the lake on a clear night.

You have to look very closely, but there is a dove and a quail in this picture. Mike was about to hyperventilate.

You have to look very closely, but there is a dove and a quail in this picture. Mike was about to hyperventilate.

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