We spent late September and early October drifting southward from northeast Oregon, through southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, and into New Mexico (see our reports on this journey in Travels 2018). Our destination was Coronado Campground; a small RV park operated by the City of Bernalillo, fifteen miles north of Albuquerque New Mexico. Our goal was to investigate some properties where we might establish a home base. So, we set up in Coronado Campground for the last two weeks of October.
RV camping around the Santa Fe/Albuquerque is expensive. Although there are some U.S. Forest Service or Corps of Engineers campgrounds twenty miles outside of town, most of these were closed for the season when we arrived in mid-October. Coronado campground was one of the least expensive options and is located conveniently near the intersection of highway 550 and Interstate 25. With a weekly rate discount, we paid $21/night for a site with water and 30-amp power hookups (no sewer). There are also 50-amp sites for bigger rigs, a dump station in the park, and a central bathroom with showers. The sites are generously sized and reservable, each with its own covered cabana, fire ring and picnic table.
The Coronado Historical Site is right behind the campground and well worth visiting (restored ancient Pueblo Indian town with its famous painted kiva). The excellent Bosque Brewery is right in front of the campground with its excellent IPA. It’s near the intersection of two major highways, so there is road noise, but it’s also on the banks of the Rio Grande River with great view of the Sandia Mountains. A big plus for us was relatively strong, free WiFi and a strong cellular signal. The park is old and faded, but it worked for us since we had specific business to attend to in the area.
Our focus was to investigate rural properties outside of Albuquerque or Santa Fe. We wanted bare land on which to build a house that we have designed. As we drove around and met with real estate agents we soon found what we were looking for; small acreage lots in the pinyon/juniper forests on the east side of the Sandia Mountains. Now we have to decide; should we build our home base in New Mexico or in Utah. We’ll know where in a month or so.
Although most of our time was taken up with investigating properties for sale, we did make it to Taos about 2 hours north of Santa Fe. We walked through the Pueblo Nation’s Taos village, a large, ancient town of adobe buildings, many four stories tall, and still occupied by the Pueblo people.
In Taos we visited Kit Carson’s home, one of the most famous mountain men of the 19th century. Then we visited an 18th century Spanish hacienda, the Hacienda Martinez, and the nearby adobe church of San Francisco. The canyon of the Rio Grande River along the way was beautiful with the cottonwood forests all yellow in fall colors and fresh snow in the higher mountains. Here the Rio Grande is a mountain stream, running clear and fast unlike the muddy river it becomes further south.
We finished our stay in New Mexico by stopping at the Chiricahua Mountains in the extreme southwestern corner of the state on our way to Tucson, Arizona. This area is remote with very few options for camping, so we stayed three nights in Rusty’s RV Ranch far out in the desert near the tiny village of Rodeo, New Mexico. For $30/night we had full hookups, WiFi, good cellular signal, and a spacious, level sites where even the biggest RVs could fit. We even had our own tarantula wandering around in the evenings and coyotes serenading us in the mornings under spectacular sunsets and sunrises.
The real treat here is Chiricahua National Monument just across the border in Arizona. We drove to the monument from Rodeo over the 9,000 foot high Chiricahua Mountains on rural route 533. Just under forty miles away, it took us over two hours to drive the steep dirt road through beautiful canyons and mountains. There is no entrance fee into Chiricahua National Monument and there is a small campground, Bonita Canyon Campground, in the monument. But, the sites in the campground were small, cramped and I doubt you could tow anything longer than twenty feet through it. (NOTE: The only place we found to camp in a large RV anywhere near Chiricahua National Monument were some nice, large and level boondocking spots along a mountain stream in the Coronado National Forest, four or five miles up Pinery Road which is off of highway 181 near the monument’s entrance).
We spent the day in Chiricahua hiking the Echo Canyon loop. It was spectacular with very few people. We hiked through forests of standing rock columns, at times squeezing through grotto-like passages through them. We’d never seen so many balanced rocks, some of them stacked four or five high atop slender pinnacles of volcanic rhyolite rock.
Our last day in New Mexico, and the Chiricahua area, was windy and cool, so we went to the local Chiricahua Desert Museum outside of Rodeo. We found a surprisingly modern and large complex with a building dedicated to the natural surroundings (never knew there were so many species of rattlesnakes), a building dedicated to the Apache Indians (Cochise and Geronimo), and a very nice desert botanical garden.
From Chiricahua we drove on into Tucson and our wintering spot at Desert Trails RV park. There’s more to see in the Chiricahua area and we’ll be back for sure. Until then, we’ll stay in the Tucson area until February and after that, well, who knows.