When we decided to stay here at Leasburg Dam State Park, we only made reservations for two nights, intending to continue north toward Santa Fe, looking for free boondocking sites along the way. The best way to offset fuel cost while traveling is to keep your camping fees as low as possible, preferably free.
But yesterday, after our first night in this park, we had a change of plans. First of all, we really, really like it here. It’s quiet, well-maintained and it’s beautiful in the way that the desert is beautiful. Secondly, the hot air balloon festival is going on in Albuquerque, so campsites are going to be a little harder to find in that area for the next couple of weeks. And thirdly, it’s already starting to get pretty cold in the Santa Fe area, at least at night, with forecasted low temperatures below freezing.
So we decided that we would like to stay in this general area for awhile, but needed a way to reduce the cost. When I made online reservations for this park for two nights, the site was $14/night, but then there was a $10/vehicle entrance fee, along with an $8 service fee for using the online system. It was a total of $56, or $28/night for a site with electricity and water. We don’t want to spend that much every night.
I knew from watching other RVers on YouTube that New Mexico has a great deal on an annual pass for their state parks, so we dropped by the office yesterday afternoon to check it out. For non-residents, you can buy an annual pass for $225 which allows you to bring your RV and your toad/chase vehicle into the park and dry-camp for free. If you want electricity, you pay $4/night, and if you also want sewer hookups at your site (where they are available), you pay another $4/night. The pass expires on the last day of the 12th month after you purchase it, so if you buy it on October 1, 2018 it expires on October 31, 2019, so you actually get 13 months.
We know that we will be spending enough time in New Mexico to recoup the cost of the pass, so we decided we would go ahead and buy it.
The next issue was our campsite. We had reserved site #17 for only two nights because (1) it was the only site available, and (2) it was only available for those two nights. The park is booked up for the weekend as far as reservations go. However, New Mexico’s State Parks only allow you to make reservations for about half their campsites–the other half are non-reservable, first-come, first-served. In this park there are 10 of these campsites on a separate loop called Greasewood, on the opposite side of the wash from our reserved campsite. That meant we could move out of our reserved site and onto a FC-FS site. Andy and I walked the Greasewood loop and found several sites that were available which would fit our rig, and so we selected site #10. It’s a dry-camping site (no electricity), but it would give us some practice at boondocking in a developed location.
We went back to the office to pay for the annual pass and to see if was okay for us to park our truck at site #10 overnight to hold it, since technically we still had site #17 reserved for a second night. They said it wouldn’t be a problem for us to just go ahead and move everything to site #10 since we had already paid for the night in the park anyway.
I took out my credit card to pay for the pass, and only then did they tell me that they only took cash or checks. I had enough cash on me to pay for it, but would have been left with only about $8, so Andy went back to the rig to get the checkbook. As we were winding up the transaction, a lady walked in to the office and told the guy at the desk, “Just wanted to let you guys know that I’ve moved from site #6 to site #10.” Oh well, that’s what first-come, first-served means!
When she left, the desk guy, who is also the camp host for the Greasewood loop, recommended that we move into the lady’s original site #6. Even though it’s non-reservable, it does have electricity. We could just pay the $4 daily fee each morning for as many days as we decide to stay. Now that was a deal!
So we disconnected from site #17, stopped by the dump station to empty the tanks, and then set up on site #6. Easy-peasy, took us about 30 minutes total. We actually have a nicer site than our original one, with a better shelter over the picnic table and more privacy from our neighbors. We love it!
The other deal with New Mexico State Parks, whether you are an annual pass holder or not, is that you can only stay in any park for 14 days, and then you have to leave for at least 6 days before you can return to that park. But with 33 parks in the state, and plenty of first-come, first-served campsites, it shouldn’t be a problem to find a place to camp for $4/night or even free.
Our plan has always been to chase to 70°, to move with the weather. It’s been in the 90’s here for the past two days, but there’s a break in the weather coming tonight, and the temperatures will start to be much more pleasant during the day. The nighttime temps have already been very pleasant, but will get much cooler in the coming week. We may need to start unpacking some of our warmer clothes that are stored in the Tacoma.
So that’s where we are for the moment. I do still want to go to Santa Fe for my birthday on the 17th, but we’ll plan around the weather forecast as to whether we try to camp up there or just drive up for the day.
For now we are settled in and ready to enjoy this beautiful area. We’ll do our grocery shopping in Las Cruces, do some hiking and sightseeing, drag out the photography gear, and Andy’s even talking about setting up his equipment to work on some jewelry. Stay tuned to see what we’re up to!