December 26 (continued)
After climbing down from the White Mountains, 70 meets up with US54 in the town of Tularosa, New Mexico. I point Bertha’s nose south and cruise through Alamogordo, after which 70 splits off again and continues southwest.
Not far out of town lies Holloman Air Force Base. After passing the proper exits towards the base, an unmarked dirt road stems from 70 to the north, parallelling a man-made body of water that I believe is called Holloman lake. It’s a good place for bird watching during the right time of year, but of more interest to me is the fact that there is boondocking along the shore.
I park Bertha and Cas at the entrance and walk up to the boondocking sites. No one is here, the road is passable. Good enough for me! Reviews online say that this area is managed by the base and gets patrolled, even though it’s technically on BLM land.
Before long I have Cas pulled up to the lake, and it’s level enough that I don’t have to unhitch. Very convenient as I’ll only be staying here the night. The view from my “office” window is superb.
The view down near the water is superb too.
The setting sun lights up the White Mountains to the east, also quite nice.
Once the sun is gone, the temperature drops immediately. Much of New Mexico is at a high elevation, which is why you don’t hear about boondockers staying in this state in the winter. It gets quite cold. I run my little propane heater for a couple hours before going to bed.
December 27, Tuesday
It’s 26 degrees out when I wake up. I’m fine in my warm sleeping bag and layers, but temps like this could be a problem for the plumbing if it stays below freezing long enough. I lean out of bed just far enough to turn the heater back on, then read in bed for a couple hours while Cas warms up.
Success! Water is flowing freely when I get up to use the bathroom. Once it gets above freezing outside it’s back on the road.
Just a few minutes farther west on 70 is White Sands National Monument. The place is a zoo when I pull in, kids are on winter vacation and there are a lot of families visiting the park. I get blocked in the visitor center parking lot, but that gives me a chance to eat lunch, get online and do some things.
This place is beautiful! The dunes aren’t as big as at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, but they are very white which makes it seem like it should be snow and not sand, a feeling enhanced by the cold weather.
The loop road that goes into the park past the visitor center is only paved near the beginning, but it’s in good shape and wide enough for any size RV to tour.
I get out to take a walk.
Most of the plants are gray and dormant, but the yucca provide a nice bit of contrasting green.
I’d like to spend tonight in Arizona where it’s warmer, this means I can’t stay long and White Sands and am back on the road by mid-afternoon.
70 rolls into Las Cruces, and from there I board I10 heading west. Coming from the north instead of El Paso, I expect to avoid the boarder patrol, but I get stopped shortly west of Las Cruces. The line moves quickly and I pass through without incident (“Thank you ma’am, have a good day”).
The sun has set when I spy the Arizona welcome sign. My phone has a hard time capturing it in the low light. I’ve made it!
Tonight I’ll be earning my ‘finding a boondocking spot after dark’ merit badge. This could go poorly. I’ve read reviews on this place but that’s no substitute for having been there before. I always recommend scouting a potential boondocking place out ahead of time and arriving before dark.
At Bowie, AZ I get off on exit 366 and follow Business 10 until a sign announces the turnoff for Fort Bowie National Historic Site on S Apache Pass Road. I creep along at a slow pace, not wanting to miss the less visible turnoff onto S Happy Camp Canyon (a small dirt road) where the free camping is.
I get lucky. Happy Camp road is in reasonable shape and there’s a nice big spot near the entrance to the boondocking area (Called Indian Bread Rocks) that is open so I don’t need to do a lot of fumbling around in the dark. I’m also able to get level without unhitching and with minimal fuss. It’s good that it went so easily this time, but that doesn’t mean it would be easy next time. I wouldn’t make a habit of arriving after dark.
December 28, Wednesday
Wow, this place is pretty! Traces of snow decorate the boulders on the hillside. The spot I chose in the dark last night turns out to have a great view of them.
After breakfast I take a walk around.
The sky is overcast so colors are muted, but it’s still neat. The formations remind me a lot of Enchanted Rock in Texas. The rough texture is even the same and I wonder if this place was formed the same way.
I climb up a ways and get a picture of Cas and Bertha below.
By 10 am it’s back to the road, I’ve got places to be. A small group of free-range cattle give me the eye on the way out, that would explain all the cow plops in the boondocking area. I stop where Happy Camp meets Apache Pass and can’t pass up this photo opportunity. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to spend more time here some day.
Back on I10, traffic increases near Tucson, then dwindles again as the city disappears in the rear-view mirror. Bertha dutifully chugs up a hill into a low pass with more fun rocks and a rest area. It’s a good place to have lunch.
After an afternoon of easy driving, I exit I10 and use I8 to bypass Phoenix to the south. I remember I8 being in rough shape when I came through here in January before first light on my way to the RTR, but either it’s not as bad as I remember or it’s seen some improvements since then.
At Gila Bend I turn north on 85. My destination is Buckeye Hills Recreation Area, a well known dry camping and boondocking destination within easy reach of Phoenix. Julie arrives by plane in two days, and this is as good a base of operations as any.
To get here, you take Buckeye Hills Drive to the west of 85 and drive past the Sheriff training facility and the shooting range. There’s a loop with 10 or so developed sites (picnic tables and grills) in a loop at the end of the road, or you can turn onto Robbins Road just before the loop which is dotted with boondocking spots. At the end of Robbins Road is another 3-4 developed sites, and I manage to snag one of these.
By the time I’m set up the sun is setting, I’ll have to get photos of camp another day. Not having to get up and drive again in the morning is going to feel nice!
* * *
In real time, it’s January 2nd. Happy New Year everyone!
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