rockhound6Here’s a real treat for the early part of the camping season, a desert location that’s open all year, is warm enough to camp in without freezing temperatures by early March, and has beautiful scenery. We have been here three times in March so far, and usually end up staying until they kick us out at the two week limit. Rockhound State Park is a few miles south and east of Deming, New Mexico, right off Interstate 10.

Desert poppies on the slope behind out campsite.

Desert poppies on the slope behind our campsite.

This is part of the New Mexico state park system, which I vigorously patronize thanks to their unique annual camping pass – $225 and you can camp all you want for free, all year long. I drove straight here from Florida, picked a spot, and bought my pass. The park is fairly busy this year because of all the winter rains, which brought out a bumper crop of desert wildflowers.

The golden poppies are covering the flanks of the Florida Mountains, named by the conquistadors as they passed through, apparently during another flowery spring. One year we came here and there was hardly anything, even the cactus looked thirsty, so it all depends on the weather.

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After a few days, this beautiful spot opened up and we pounced on it – top of the hill and with a beautiful view of the mountains behind us and the basin below.  Each spot has water, electricity, and a picnic table with canopy.

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The cactus will bloom later, they’re not dependent on recent rain like the wildflowers are.

We are walking the park’s trails enjoying the wildflowers and cactus. Obviously, the birds and other critters are VERY happy with the bounty of vegetative growth – the park rangers were actually out weeding some of the campsites, which is normally not a pressing problem in this climate. Nine inches of rain a year isn’t much. This is the Chihuahuan desert, with ocotillo, mesquite, creosote bush, yucca, prickly pear, and some barrel cactus in the flats, and maybe a juniper of two where they can find water on the mountainsides.

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Desert poppies. They close up at night, and open as the sun hits them each morning.   These are literally growing in our campsite.

The humidity here is scary low – I see negative Fahrenheit temperatures for dewpoints, and single digit relative humidity observations on the weather websites.   It is a welcome change from the dampness and cold we endured all winter back east.  Maybe it’s just because this is the first place out west we stop in our yearly migration, but it always seems so refreshing to get back out here where the skies are big, the air is clear, and you can see for miles. At night, you can look across 50 miles of basin, full of twinkling lights.  Those mountains are over in Arizona, those down there are in Mexico – it’s a big world when you’re out west.  And the stars are spectacular.

rockhound2In late March, daytime temperatures here at 4400 feet above sea level are 70ish and it’s around 40 F every night. Soon, though, it will be above 80, and time to head uphill and north seeking ideal temperatures and new locations to explore.

Now that we have our annual camping pass, though, we’re not really worried about it. I think New Mexico has 35 state parks, some above 7000 feet in altitude, so there’s sure to be another place for us down the road where the sun is warm, the breeze is cool, and the views are spectacular.  I paid good money for this pass, and I intend to give that sucker a beating.