City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

Stop 66: Hello (Deming) New Mexico!

New Mexico

We officially kicked off the start of the second leg of our trip, arriving in Deming, New Mexico, on January 1, in the midst of a cold front that brought snow and frosty conditions — as well as a federal government shutdown that is challenging our plans for the trip.

Deming is a curious area for many reasons, including that there are some 25 RV parks in and around the town — the most we have ever seen on one area … including five parks side-by-side on Pine Street. Deming was founded in the late 1800s and is located about 30+ miles north of Mexico. Before it officially became a town, the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach service had a station nearby. The town has a great railroad history, with the Silver Spike completing the second transcontinental railroad here, connecting the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads.

Rockhound State Park, New Mexico

Yet the town itself is still a puzzle to us. It is also the county seat and has a fairgrounds and airport, but the town seems a bit rundown (and the population on the decline). We did not visit it, but the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum is supposed to be the highlight of a visit to the town; we simply prefer to spend our time outside in nature, marveling at all its beauty.

The area around Deming is known as a “rock-hunters paradise” and so we set off to explore the state parks surrounding the town.

Our first stop was to Rockhound State Park, just southeast of Deming, which includes a visitor center, campgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking trails. The main park is situated on the rugged slopes of the Little Florida Mountains, while a separate unit in nearby Spring Canyon offers picnicking and hiking opportunities. At the main park, we hiked about 3 miles combined on the Thunder Egg Trail and the Jasper Trail. Of course, the fun is going off-trail (one of the rare times it is okay to do so) to find hidden gems… literally. In fact, the park, which opened in 1966 as the first park in the United States that allowed collecting of rocks and minerals for personal use, allows each visitor to collect as much as 15 pounds of rocks and minerals from the 1,100-acre park. Fun! (And yes, Ran did gather some specimens for his growing rock collection.)

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

Next up was City of Rocks State park, located northwest of Deming, in the
Mimbres Valley of the Chihuahuan Desert. The attraction for most visitors is a cluster of large sculpted volcanic rock formations/pinnacles and monolithic blocks separated by paths and lanes — resembling city streets. These formations were created from a massive volcanic eruption (estimated to be 1,000 times bigger than Mt. Saint Helens) about 34 million years ago. It is part of the Kneeling Nun Tuff from the Emory caldera. (The Kneeling Nun Tuff represents only one of dozens of huge ash-flow tuff eruptions that occurred in southwest New Mexico between 36 and 24 million years ago.)

While we of course climbed all around the pinnacles, when Ran saw that a trail led up to Table Mountain, there was no question we were hiking up to the top. The just under 4-mile (RT) hike is a fairly easy climb (total elevation gain of about 400 feet), but very rocky — so definitely wear strong boots. Once again, we loved having our hiking poles make the climb up much easier. The views from the top are pretty amazing — and it was fun hiking with snow on parts of the upper trail.

The park also has several other trails, including a large looping trail called the Hydra Trail.

Deming wine-tasting

After all that hiking and outdoor adventure, we rewarded ourselves with some wine–tasting. Deming has two wineries — located on the opposite ends of town. We started with Luna Rossa Winery, located on the west side of town.

Luna Rossa, which produces a nice variety of wines from grapes grown completely in their vineyards in Deming, creates wine in the Italian tradition. We enjoyed several of their reds, but left with a bottle each of Carmenere and Shiraz — both French varietals. The tasting room is large and filled with the most wine merchandise we have ever seen in any tasting room. The service was fine, especially for being complimentary, but our server was not as schooled on the grapes and wines as she should have been. (Another pet peeve we have when wine-tasting is having the server just standing there staring at you as you taste; for that reason, Ran sometimes walks away and wanders around the room.)

We then traveled across town to St. Clair Winery. The tastings are relatively inexpensive, but we got them for free because we had obtained passes at the Deming Visitor Center. (Note to self and all readers: Stop at the city’s or region’s visitor center to gather information and coupons for free or reduced price offerings!) St. Clair has reds, whites, ports, and sparkling wines. We left with four bottles (including a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and sparkling Bellissimo) and a locally-produced green-chili salsa.

Deming, New Mexico, hoar frost

The crazy winter weather we experienced in Deming was a bit of a shock — as well as being unusual, according to locals. For Jen and Ran, the best part of the cold snap was an overcast morning in which hoar frost covered everything in the RV park… a truly beautiful winter wonderland.

Our first stop in New Mexico was a wonderful surprise, but we are looking forward to slowly moving northward and around the rest of the state, starting with a few nights in Elephant Butte before heading to Albuquerque.

One final note. We remain disheartened at the President and Congress for allowing this government shutdown to even happen. It is a MAJOR disruption to the lives of those workers who have been furloughed WITHOUT pay — who are pawns to the politicians. We are also bummed because of how the shutdown may affect our trip. We already had to cancel plans to visit Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, as the park was closed because of the shutdown. We are also a little saddened to hear how some folks are trashing the national parks, which remain open but mainly unstaffed; why do people think it’s okay to dump trash in these treasures?

Soapbox grumbling over. Onward…. to Elephant Butte!

Leave a Reply