We spent two weeks bouldering in Hueco Tanks State Park and Historical Site (just outside of El Paso, Texas). As for our stints in Bishop and Joshua Tree, we’re providing a little break-down of our stay in the area – what we did, what we ate, where we stayed, etc.
March 20th – April 3rd, 2015
Where to stay:
- Rock Ranch: We spent one night here ($10/person/night), primarily to get a look at the guide book 🙂 It’s a 10 minute drive from the park, has showers ($5 if you don’t stay there), kitchen facilities and some WiFi if you’re sat in the main building. This is a good option if you’re an American Alpine Club member, as they get a discount.
- Walmart Supercenter parking lot (El Paso): We spent most of our time in the Walmart on Montana Avenue (the main road heading out to Hueco). This seems to be our jam, so not much more to say about that. This one was one of the busier Walmart we’ve stayed at, so if you find yourself in the same location, our advice is to stay in the parking lot closest to the Lowes store. The other perk of staying on this side is that you can pick up the free WiFi from Lowes, if you need it.
- Hueco State Park Campground: The places to get fresh water and an RV dump in El Paso are quite limited. The campground inside the State Park had full-service hook-up ($16/night) and a dumping station ($5 if not camping), so we stayed here whenever we needed fresh water, which ended up being about three nights in total. The scenery was fantastic, the campground was quiet, and the bathrooms and hot showers were clean. Good enough for us!
Where to shop:
- Vista Super Market: This is a local grocery chain (maybe three or four in the city). They have a pretty decent produce and meat/seafood section and a REALLY great bakery section. They make their own tortillas (yum!), donuts, bread and baked goods. They also had a pretty decent craft beer selection. We felt pretty happy to find this place and did most of our grocery shopping here when not getting bulk items at Walmart.
Where to eat:
We talked to a few locals and consulted quite a bit with Señor Google for places to eat, drink and be merry. There is not a big coffee scene in El Paso, nor is it big on craft beer / gastropubs, so not much to report on this front.
- Habaneros Fresh Mex: This Mexican restaurant is in Las Cruces, a town about 1 hour outside of El Paso. We actually stopped here as we left El Paso, but the food was fantastic! Definitely recommended.
- El Prado Bakery: This little bakery had great reviews on-line, and it didn’t disappoint! It was a pretty authentic Mexican Bakery (i.e. we were the ONLY non-Mexicans there, and they ensured we had the English-speaking server to help us). We pointed a bit and asked a lot of questions, and ended up with a pretty good selection of baked goods, most of which I don’t remember the names!
Where to shower:
- El Paso Aquatic Centers: El Paso has a good selection of aquatic centers in the city, and where there’s a pool, there’s a shower! Access to the pool is only $2, so a total score! We used the Marty Robbins Aquatic Center a few times and it was just fine. The only issue is that they are closed for a few hours in the afternoon, and weekend hours tend to be a bit short, so phone to confirm they’re open.
The view across the playing field at the Marty Robbins Aquatic Center.
Where to see the strangest characters:
- Buddy’s Beer Barn: This place was a literally a big barn, which you could drive through if you wanted to, full of the weirdest, craziest crap. It was like a looking at a garage sale in your sketchy part of town. BUT they had a really good choice of craft beer! We were also given a box of day-old donuts because we were Canadian (not sure if we should have been offended by this? A guy drove through in his car and pulled out ~10 boxes of day-olds for the owner). We tried a few… hmm, more like 3-day olds… even Jonty has limits… The owners were friendly but, man, it was weird!
Where to recycle:
- This seems to be the trend on our travels. Recycling for the traveler isn’t popular here either, but is certainly better than Joshua Tree! They do have a few drop-off depots, called Citizen Collection Stations. When we drove up to one, the workers looked at us like we were crazy, asking to recycle our plastic, glass and paper, and pointed us to a big dump truck for “everything”. We’re pretty sure it all just went straight into the landfill. Disappointing, but we tried!
Where to fill-up and dump:
- Hueco Tanks Campground: This was the easiest place to go, if you plan on climbing in the park. There were a few campgrounds within El Paso, but we didn’t bother with those. Likely needs booking in advance in prime climbing season.
- Flying J Travel Plaza: We came across these travel stops when we hit Arizona. These are great places! You can fill up with gas and propane, empty your black/grey water, fill up with fresh water, AND get a hot shower inside! We’ve stopped at these stations a few times on the road.
Where to cycle:
- We’ve found 35 km a good distance for us to cycle on our non-climbing days, and we made up a few routes around town, with the aid of Map My Ride and the El Paso Cycling Club websites.
Where to have the strangest conversation:
As we were driving into El Paso for the first time, we realized that we needed reservations to enter the park. Jonty finally got through to the correct phone number for the reservation line and spoke to Michelle. Now, make sure you pull out your BEST Southern accent for this conversation.
Jonty: Hi, I just phoned to make a reservation but got disconnected – I think I spoke to Michelle a few minutes ago.
Michelle: Well, ma name’s Michelle, but my co-worker is ALSO named Michelle, and ah don’ think you spoke to me, so ah bet you prolly spoke to the OTHER Michelle! There’s two Michelle’s but we have different last names.
Jonty: Ah, okay, well I’d like to confirm our reservation for tomorrow, and I’d also like to confirm the directions into the park. One website says you turn onto a road near the building that looks like a spaceship.
Michelle: Where’d ya hear that? I don’ know of no spaceship-lookin’ building! You jus gotta look for the sign! I’ve been to the park before and I didn’t see no spaceship! Which website?!
Jonty: Ah, okay, we’ll just look for the signs. It was on Mountain Project.
Michelle: Well I ain’t ever heard of no “Mountain Project”. And there’s no spaceship-looking building I know of…
The next day, this is what we saw, turning onto the only road that leads to Hueco:
The “Not a Spaceship” building.
We found Hueco a very hard place to get started in, what with the access hurdles and guidebook hurdles, but we did enjoy our time there. We will definitely come back, as the climbing was really good. We will just make sure it’s earlier in the year, though – February / March time would have been perfect.
Jonty figuring out where the heck we are!
Now for some climbing in Red Rock Canyon: Vegas, here we come!