New Mexico: "Cleaner Than Real Mexico..."

January 21, 2013 we finally made it to Las Cruces, New Mexico after having exhausted all of the sight seeing activities near Benson, Az. It was nice to push on...and cross another State Line. We set up camp at Leasburg Dam State Park, which is technically in Radium Springs, and rests right along the Rio Grande. Even without full hook-ups (no sewer) this has been, by far, one of the nicest State Parks we've seen especially when you factor in the price of $14 per night.

Our camp site at Leasburg Dam. It even had killer wifi!
Camp site at sunset.
Clark and Cleo hiking near the Rio Grande.
Hiking around.
The Rio Grande
Our first night we realized how much we loved the area and decided to extend our stay 5 additional days (instead of the 2 we had planned). The views from the campground were stunning and after 3 weeks in the Arizona desert we were enchanted with this different kind of desert living. There were trees and farm lands and horses at pasture, yet the naked and desolate mountains reminded us we were still in the desert.

What a great view!
Our campground was right next to Fort Selden which was established in 1865 to help protect settlers from the Native Americas...which in itself is a whole 'nother discussion...but saw very little action and was ultimately abandoned less than 30 years later. There's a really good display of artifacts and ruins which shouldn't be missed because...this is where Douglas MacArthur lived between the age of 4 and 6 (his father, Capt. Arthur MacArthur, Jr. was the post commander). It's also where he learned to ride and shoot.

Some of the ruins of Fort Shelden. There is a small visitors center which is nicely done.
Although Las Cruces has all of the normal conveniences one would want in a city like a bicycle repair shop (for the flat tires Clark collected after we rode our bikes to Fort Shelden...on a thorn riddled path...) and normal grocery stores it was Old Mesilla that captured our hearts.

Basilica of San Albino
This little bit of town has done an amazing job keeping with the history and tradition of it's founding in 1848. Entering any of the small shops you will see remnants of the original architecture of these adobe structures. I can't really get into all of the history of this town (I'm on my second drink this evening) but it's fascinating. I mean, everyone loves the folklore of Old West and I'm a sucker for anything that involves Billy the Kid (who was Mesilla...on trial for murder!!) but combine that with the Gadsden Purchase (trust me, it's way more interesting when your standing there looking at the land rather than reading it in a history book in the 8th grade), the Civil War and the Butterfield Stage Coach good ol' cowboy history and you have yourself a good time.
Strangely enough this is right outside of a children's daycare.
There's also a lot of art. Really good art. Affordable art. And it's got good food. We ate at the Double Eagle (thank you Yelp!) which looks like a hole in the wall until you walk through the front door. Trust me, even if you aren't hungry at least walk through the restaurant and bar, they won't mind, and you will be in awe. You could host anything from a boys night of poker to a ladies book club meeting to a lavish wedding to a simple lunch after a day of sight-seeing to grabbing a cocktail with your friends after work.

Go here...really...GO!

We also enjoyed some great coffee at Milagro y Espresso in Las Cruces. It's a great alternative to your corporate Starbucks type coffee shops but still gets as crowded due to its proximity to the college and the fact that their coffee really is that good (we went twice...the second time because Clark liked it so much...and that's saying a lot).

Latte Love
 Another area to visit is the little town of Hatch, which just happens to be the Chile Capital of the World. It's a small farming community that would be easy to miss had it not been for the colorful chiles hanging every where.

We ate at Sparky's, home of the World Famous Green Chile Burger. Truth be told, I think Clark still dreams about this burger. You can get a green chile anything here (pretty much) including Green Chile Lemonade and Green Chile Milkshake. It's a fun spot with a lot of character. And of course we stocked up on Green Chile Salsa, jelly and chips.

Overall I absolutely loved the area with it's dry desert air, interesting history and culture and the fact there is a lot of farmland and orchards. A strange blend but so inviting.

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