Heading West Part V: Leasburg Dam

Bill & Denise Semion
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We’re Gone From Texas–Finally–And On To Arizona, with Two Stops In Between

If you’ve been following our tale, in February of 2022 we decided to head west to Arizona from our Michigan digs, rather than south to Florida in our 2015.5 Unity Murphy Bed “Lucky Us”. We drove to Texas and experienced cold fronts which made us change plans several times, seeking warmer locations so we could avoid winterizing and then de-winterizing every few days. In one week, we drove from San Antonio, Texas up to Fredericksburg and Carlsbad, New Mexico, only to tuck our tails and head south to Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Now we’re heading north again, this time driving from Marathon, Texas to Las Cruces, New Mexico, as the weather looks ok. Ok as in staying just around freezing every night. It’s now March 8 and we’ve come to a conclusion: this is not the time to come out to Texas and New Mexico. Period. But we have friends and family waiting in Arizona and California, and they are the carrot at the end of the stick encouraging us to continue on to better weather. Our journey has twisted and turned so many times, the phrase “Gone to Texas”  is now “Gone from Texas” for us.

Leasburg Dam State Park

Leasburg Dam State Park on the Rio Grande (about 17 miles north of Las Cruces) is our destination for the night, followed by a night in Lordsburg to see LTV friends Bob Freese and Peggy Schaefer, who were also on the road. They headed south, then west, from New York. We typically meet them in Florida, and we’ve been exchanging photos, each of us in our winter coats and hats, longing for when we used to don our bathing suits and meet on Florida’s Gulf Coast. They were braver than us, staying in places where the night temps dipped much lower, including a night in Carlsbad, New Mexico where the night temp dropped to 9 degrees.

Our site in the Cactus Patch Campground at Leasburg State Park

Finding a Slot Canyon

Las Cruces, New Mexico is about 45 miles north of El Paso. We didn’t have time to see either town, but we did have time to explore a slot canyon (my first), and with help from the Leasburg State Park campground host, we were able to find it. He told us to go up 185 (North Valley Drive) and look for a gate on the left, which would be locked, and climb over it.

Bill climbs over the gate to start the trail to the slot canyon.
The 2.7-mile loop trail was fairly well-marked to find the entrance to the slot canyon.

On our map app, it’s just labeled “slot canyon” and if you want to find it, the address is 17198 N. Valley Drive, Las Cruces. So, if you are game to climb a gate, go for it.

As we entered the canyon, I’m thinking “this is pretty easy.”
Located within the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument in the Chihuahuan Desert, this slot canyon offered dramatic views as we continued our hike.

Did I mention that the slot gets narrower and narrower? Bill reminded me several times: never hike a slot canyon whenever a rainstorm is expected. It could have dire consequences. For me, I was just hoping an animal didn’t come charging at me.

Hiking at Leasburg

Once we finished our hike through the slot canyon, we returned to Leasburg State Park to hike the Buffalo Soldier Trail and part of the Rio Grand Trail. There’s also a well-marked cactus garden at the park.

An overlook to a trickle that is the Rio Grande. It would look much different following rain.
The easy paths gave us a taste of the area.

Park staff reminded us to unhook our water nightly–we did.

Guard against freezing temps by unhooking your water. We frequently found ice in the morning.

One Quirky Stop

See the Recycled Roadrunner, a 20-foot sculpture by Olin Calk, near Las Cruces. Built from electronic items, sneakers, and more, this piece celebrates New Mexico’s state bird. (Photo by Peggy Schaefer)


Next, on to Lordsburg, a town of a little more than 2,300, and a popular rest stop for travelers along Interstate 10, to meet friends Bob and Peggy at the local KOA campground for one night. Featured as the final destination of John Ford’s western movie “Stagecoach” starring John Wayne, Lordsburg was home to Elizabeth Garrett, who wrote New Mexico’s State song “O Fair New Mexico” and is reputed to be a place where Billy the Kid once washed dishes in hotel kitchens. With an outpost, a trading post, and a ghost town, Lordsburg was a convenient place to meet for a night of catching up on dealing with the high winds, freezing temps, and other travel tales.

Our 2015.5 Unity Murphy Bed, across from Peggy and Bob’s similar model.
Bob and Peggy, left, along with us, and our LTV.

Finally, we were ready to enter Arizona. Bob and Peggy headed up to Gelia Hot Springs Campground near the Gila Cliff Dwellings. We’ll be hiking Chiricahua National Monument and then exploring Kartchner Caverns next, and maybe we’ll see a dinosaur or two along the way. More adventures to follow!

Bill & Denise Semion

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