Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Rockhound State Park, Deming and Columbus, New Mexico

October 31 - November 4, 2016:

The drive from Leasburg Dam State Park through Las Cruces via routes 70 and 10 to Deming, New Mexico was uneventful, just the way I like it.  Our destination, the Rockhound State Park is about 15 miles outside Deming at the base of the Little Florida Mountains.  This is a campground that we checked out a couple of years ago while staying somewhere else in Deming.  It’s just simply in a beautiful setting and these New Mexico State Parks with spacious campsites, electric, water, shower facilities and dump station are great.

Had to stop in front of this beautifully done fake front
western town at the intersection of routes 10 & 549

The natural desert vegetation here in the Chihuahua Desert is really special, there are many similar but different plants that we don’t see in the Sonoran Desert of the Tucson Arizona area.  They also have a most beautiful visitors center built of adobe in the classic southwest style.  This campground gets it’s name from the fact that it is a well known rockhounding area for jasper, agates, quartz, opal and geodes. There is a geode called a “thunder egg” that is especially sought after.  Up until a few years ago, you were allowed to collect up to 15 pounds of rocks for personal use, not resale, within the State Park.  It's now revised to a few rocks only, I suppose the original 15 pounds was abused.

These New Mexico State Park Campground are nice

View from the Thunder Egg Trail behind the campground

Looking back at the campground

As I am looking at rocks who should appear ?

There were also lots of these large grasshoppers among
the rock who would suddenly fly up and make your heart
skip a beat

This large rock had many nodules that are small geodes

Two miles away is the more rugged Spring Canyon day use area of the Park with more great views, picnic facilities and a hiking trail.  These are the Florida Mountains, a very rugged steep rocky mountain range.  There is a really imposing pointed peak called “Lovers Leap” in the picnic area.  This area is habitat for the Persian Ibex, native to Iran, which are related to domestic goats. A small number was introduced in these mountains in 1970 and have done very well.  I met a retired National Park Ranger there who told me they are doing too well.  They are perfectly suited to this terrain and in order to keep the population at 400 a hunt is held with local guide services by lottery each year. The male Billys have incredible horns and make a prized trophy for the "sportsman".

This range of the Florida Mountains was a lighter color
and in the sun really lit up beautifully

The road to the Spring Canyon area has this short 17
degrees road angle that was fun to coast down, also
a nice viewpoint

This tall solitary peak is called "Lovers Leap"

The rocks can be very colorful

View on the trail below Lovers Leap

Another trail view amongst the rocks

I return a couple of days later taking the steep rocky Lovers Leap Trail part way under threatening rain clouds.  I didn't expect to see anything, but actually spotted movement on a distant mountain side and saw approximately 20 - 30 Ibex.  They were actually watching me way before I saw them.

A group of Ibex making their way up the mountain

Crossing over the top

Deming has a great railroad history as the place where the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroads joined in1881 with a silver spike ceremony creating the second transcontinental railroad.  It also had a great Train Depot and Harvey House.  A portion of the Harvey House was saved and moved to another location, but the original Depot is totally gone.  Amtrak still stops at Deming, but there is no station or facility of any kind.  Deming is the county seat of Luna County, there is an impressive Court House, but about the only real attraction is the world class Deming Luna Mimbres Museum.  There are no brew pubs, no trendy cafes or coffee shops, virtually nothing else to attract tourists to this town.

The old Armory building, now home to the Deming Luna
Mimbres Museum

A Mimbres pot sculpture in downtown Deming, I like
the warning sign to stay off the dirt mound

Another small art area in downtown

Nice art on a highway embankment

The Deming Union Pacific Depot and Harvey House were
spectacular in their day

They have the best historical plaques on downtown buildings
in Deming, too bad the buildings aren't getting more help

A well done mural on a downtown restaurant

An interesting day trip is to the town of Columbus, New Mexico 3 miles from the Mexican border.  This was the only place in the US attacked by a foreign country prior to the 9-11 attack.  Poncho Villa’s band of soldiers crossed the Mexican border and attacked the small town of Columbus on March 9, 1916.  They attacked with a vengeance with approximately 500 soldiers and if not for the local border protection force, the town may have been totally destroyed with heavy casualties.  There were 10 town residents, 8 military and approximately 80 Mexicans killed in this initial attack.  There are various theories as to why he made this attack, but it wasn’t a good decision.  This action prompted the "Punitive Mexican Expedition" with General Pershing and the US 13th Calvary Regiment.  They scoured Northern Mexico with 10,000 soldiers for 6 months,  effectively crippling Villa's army, but never capturing him.  
This was all connected to the struggle for power during the Mexican Revolution of which Villa was a charismatic leader.  He was eventually defeated, but was given sanctuary and lived comfortably for a couple years until he was ultimately assassinated by an enemy. 

We went to the amazing small museum at the train depot, originally the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad, filled with artifacts and information about the invasion.

The Columbus Depot

Everywhere you go in the US, you will find old American
LaFrance fire trucks on display.  We always fuss about then since
they were built in Elmira, NY where Twinkles and I met

Last train from Columbus prints for sale, wish I bought one

Angie Brown's story was amazing

Love him or hate him, either a hero or villain, Pancho Villa
was a most charismatic character in his day

Another small town hero who stayed on the
switchboard to warn town people at risk
to her own life

Small colorful theater in Columbus

The food and service were good at Irma's Kitchen

A shrine in front of what remains of the Columbus Bank,
the bank safe was in the opening and was saved.  The safe 
door is now in the museum at the train depot

In Columbus is the Pancho Villa State Park which is a huge campground, not sure why, there isn’t much to do there.  They have a really good museum on the invasion of Columbus with military vehicles and an actual 1915 Dodge with bullet holes from the attack.  My Dodge Brother Club friends would love this museum, it’s a testament to reliability of the early Dodge Brothers cars.  General Pershing used them as his staff cars during the campaign due to their ruggedness and reliability.

A 1915 Dodge Brothers Car that was used by a town
family to escape the attack, the husband was shot on the
get away, his wife had to jump into the drivers seat.  They
survived, but the car suffered several bullet holes.

Recruitment Ad for the Army

These FWD Trucks were used during the military operation

Pancho Villa and General Pershing in happier days

Air power was used for the first time in this military operation

General Pershing and staff used Dodge Brothers cars such
as this one for his staff use chasing Pancho Villas Army deep into Mexico

After lunch at Irma's Kitchen, we drive 3 miles to the border, parked and walked over into Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico.  There were no crowds, no lines, no hassle at all, quite surprising.  We go to the “Pink Store”, buy a few trinkets  and a bottle of Kahlua which we really need.  It’s the usual border town, dirty, run down, a little scary, but lots of dental and eye doctors.

Pancho Villa Statue in Palomas where he seems to have
heroic stature

The pedestal art was quite nice

Another side of the pedestal

Interesting advertisement on street corner

Mexican Telephone service building ?

After a few weeks of great weather, we have a couple of stormy days that can be uneasy in an RV.  You feel sort of vulnerable in an RV when it gets to severe weather with thunderstorms, high winds and potential hail. If I can avoid it, don’t want to ever be in Tornado territory. It does make for some dramatic sunsets though.

First sunset was great

Second sunset possibly even better

Next stop is a favorite hangout of ours, Silver City, New Mexico,
Twinkles and Slick   

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