A Valle Vidal Solution…

BY Old Shadows


I’m going to disclose a solve I’ve had for some time but only got to this year, briefly. It’s a beautiful place, the clues fit like a glove… all but one. Maybe you’ll be luckier; I think it is very promising.
Valle Vidal is a pristine wilderness in the Sangre de Christos that is bisected by a single dirt road, FR 1950, which slides down through it like a stain on britches. Both entrances are inauspicious. Arriving from the West on SR 196 via Costilla and Amalia, the pavement just ends, and a dirt road begins. There is no kiosk, no gate, no arch, just a small bulletin board … a quiet go-alone feeling. Three days later, when we exited East, we found the same modesty.
There are two campgrounds w/ pit toilets and water… the water part is wrong. There are WATER SPIGOTS, NOT WATER. We made reservations on-line & paid for a week’s stay based on FS brochures and a live advisor, but left on day 3 due to NO WATER.
NM acquired Valle Vidal in 1988 when the mineral/oil resources were found to be commercially insufficient for its private owner. A local debate about preserving this “Yellowstone of New Mexico” had been going for some years, and I supposed that its acquisition, plus the protective ‘Park” designation, along with its name, Valley of Life, might have had an uplifting appeal for an environmentalist with a cancer diagnosis.
Scanning Valle Vidal on Google Earth I found two WWWH whose logic satisfied me. Each had a canyon. And they converged! Neat.
First was the NM fishing designation ‘Warm Waters’ which halts at the state border. So I picked the biggest canyon I could find on Google Earth that crossed the CO/NM border and entered into Valle Vidal. It ends right at FR 1950. If one were flying down the canyon, they’d see Little Costilla Peak on the west and two Ash Mountains on the east. South Ash Mt. brilliantly displays a big white arrowhead blaze that points right down into the little basket valley between the peaks. The headwaters of Middle Ponil Creek and Mc Crystal Creeks are here. Hope rising.
My other WWWH is somewhat symbolic. Where the paved road halts in Amalia, so does all modernity. There is no ‘warm water’ for modern man in the Valle … no gas, food, lodging, security, phone, electricity, wi-fi, or potable water. Visitors must be prepared, or, will be up a creek without a paddle. We weren’t prepared.
Starting down FR 1950 late in the day, we were Caliph-to-the-dirt. Obedient dirt took us with confidence down into a tight little canyon where Mother Nature unsheathed her beauty weapon and showed us that Caliphs are but beggars in her temple. Rolling at 15mph through fifty shades of mist, windows wide open, Costilla creek on our right rushing to somewhere behind us, wet grasses shoved their fragrant fingers into our brains. All six of us, towing 4 dirt-bikes stacked atop a raggedy-ass pop-up discovered a prehensile reverence for Mom’s most elementary weapon.
Leaving the canyon, the road forks at Comanche Point. Look at your map, this area of VV is squared like a window… imagine grandma’s girlish nose pressed against it to see the Comanche in the yard.
Take the right fork. Clayton Corrals is not far, it’s the intersection point of my two canyons.
Just beyond the corrals, we pulled into the near-empty Cimarron campground to ‘pop-up’ our camper, cook a meal and hit the sack. Well, 3 corners popped up. The 4th did not. Now fully raining and visioned only by the glow of a cloud covered half-moon, a women, a girl, and a semi-crippled grandma needed to search an unknown woods for a 8-9’ log to prop up that 4th corner… to be able slide out the beds, to get to the flashlights, to search for a log … well, you get the circularity. All 4 corners had popped-up at Meteor Crater the night before, but a cable must have snapped somewhere on Caliph’s Wild Ride. Yes, I said women; the men panicked at NO WATER!… they left, drove back up 30 slow wet dirt miles hoping to find a working tap in a village that has one gas/convenience store which probably closed at 7pm. And they did! They filled lots of nice jugs, and cursed the defunding of Forest Service all the way back to camp. Log found, roof up, beds pulled, dinner et, the six went to sleep with the owls (to awake next day with the woodpeckers).
The morning was sparkling glorious. 7 young mule deer ran single file right past me. Didn’t see any of the famous elk. Heard the bears had been removed because the elk herds were aging & not producing enough calves. That was good news… but was it like “Yup, there’s water”?.
Now here’s a little stuff about Little Costilla Peak… first look-up Costilla in Merriam-Webster. Its Spanish, it means rib, or chop… a better cut of meat. But a colloquial meaning is WIFE, ‘my better cut of meat’, like ‘my better half’, Adams rib. And WIFE sits on top the Taos/Colfax county line.
Reading ‘Hush Puppies’– they ‘plastered walls while watching the Cowboys’. WALLS? Four walls are just North and East of Little Costilla, specifically, N. Wall, S. Wall, Little Wall, and Rock Wall. Eyeballs south –the cowboy’s corral! I was on a roll. Kelly and Zoe’s braced arms no longer implied Gilbert Gaul’s bridge, nor covered-bridge trusses designed by Engineer Brown. The girls were Taos and Colfax! No, wait, they were the two Ash peaks! Because, where better to be buried than in a perfect little basket between Wife and Daughters and forever be ‘In The Middle Again’. Well, if this wasn’t the place, it should be.
A little more confirmation, see that little graphic on Tea With Olga — mountains — with a WALL! And my Google Earth tool measures the distance between Santa Fe and Little Costilla Peak at 90 miles. I think this is where Olga’s ashes were scattered. So that makes a 3rd logical reference point for WWWH, a metaphor for a warm memory of a halted friendship and teas. It’s a melancholy thought which I think might come to a man composing his final auto-bio.
From the corral there are two trails … one up to Little Costilla Peak and another to S. Ash Peak. But none into the little canasta between them. It’s an easy bushwack, about 3-4 miles, but if you find the horse trail which is not visible from the road, you’ll have an easy way out and for re-entrance. The kids got in OK, didn’t find the treasure, but really didn’t put up much of a search. They wanted to go biking. What’s wrong with kids today? They did get to the tip of Ash Mountain’s arrowhead blaze. You can walk on its white boulders, maybe break an ankle. But if you are quiet and ‘listen good’ you can hear a gurgling creek that runs under them which you cannot see or touch.
As for, IN THE WOOD… wiki: pinus aristata. They offer a unique hiding capability with millennial longevity. There’s supposed to be a couple Champions here. And the GE photo on the Middle Ponil by C.Woods…See Woods? Bring a sandwich and a flashlight.
I couldn’t find a satisfactory HOB… unless you count the prairie dog village in the corral parking area. I didn’t. However, dirt road’s number, 1950, is also the year the Hemingway book ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE WOODS was published.
So, there you go. Good luck .
Grandma would like to find a lump of gold in her stocking next Christmas.

Old Shadows

28 thoughts on “A Valle Vidal Solution…

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m not searching in that area, but I would love to be where you can’t see or touch the gurgling creek. I would want to look for the way in or out. Good luck in the future!

  2. Beautifully told story of a beautiful area…I took a reconnaissance trip there last summer to look for possible solutions but have not returned yet. Your story makes me want to…

  3. Great story and very well written Old Shadows! Makes me want to go to that area even though it’s not on my radar. 🙂

  4. An the crowd is on their feet! Bravo!! Well written.
    Without even following along on a map I could visualize the wonderful scenery and smell the flowers while listening to the hoot of owls.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Nice synopsis. It’s an inspiring place. A twinge of apprehension comes over me when someone mentions this place publicly. Please forgive my tone if I sound preachy here, but I have seen semi truck (cabbed) motor homes there that certainly detracted from the spirit of the place. I know, I know, gas co trucks are often seen on the east road, too. I simply ask that if you go there, please enjoy the sublime simplicity by keeping your presence sublimely simple. Take your own water, speak, walk and camp softly. It’s a great place to have that kind of experience. Respectfully, O

    • Generators, boomboxes, TV’s, mosquito spray & lighter fluids, strings of electric lanterns, a hundred thousand dollars of chromey shineola … why don’t they know that stars and owls and shiny eyes in the night can fill their hollow?

        • Sure, be my guest. Funny what tickles people. How would you describe those big-ass RV busses that look so great on the highway and in Casino and WallMart parking lots, but so ugly everywhere else?

          • I need to bite my tongue here. My real experience supersedes my playful poetic regarding this.

            In an attempt to be positive I will say this though; when I was very young I enjoyed rare trips in the attic sleeper above the cab in my grandparent’s camper. I couldn’t see the cab itself and if I pressed my face against that wide window and blocked out the curtains and pillows from my peripheral vision, it felt like I was floating down the road.

            BTW “chromey shineola” wasn’t the best part of your poetics, but it did tickle me the most. Great stuff, please continue!

          • Ha, I’d have bet half the folk on this site didn’t know what shinola was… I wasn’t sure it was still around… so I checked, and learned something… now watches in Detroit!
            Must have been fun riding in that cab over.

          • Obviously they realized that in our hyper-trendy, poly-vinyl disposable, touch-screen, modified culture that no one has time to polish great old shoes and that even if they looked down the view would be blocked by the next incoming text.

            What-ever… certainly their bicycle motto ‘All the know-how of the Motor City, without a motor’ shines with it’s own irony, particularly here… but who needs a copper-plated pedal wrench, a $65 six piece screwdriver set, or a $190 leather piggy bank?

            Strangely, there is one item that Mr. Fenn might like; a $50.000 framed, vintage flag with 26 stars.

          • The “looked down” stopped me momentarily… that generational drag thing. Good one.
            Yeh, I like the Shinola rebranding, & the slang holds true; those decimal points need to go west a lane or two. Saw this this morning, you can slide past the video, but catch the wonderful little homily at the end. Should be printed on the currency. (The story reminded me of THE GRADUATE… “Plastics, boy. That’s where its at!” — parphrased of course.) http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/08/04/1319112/-RIP-The-woman-you-never-heard-of-who-changed-our-world?detail=email

      • You just made me realize something. Why is it that you can buy a car with a large moon or sun roof, but you cannot buy an RV with one? Yet the RV does come with a large screen TV. Seems they might be missing the point.

  6. I had been writing a story for the contest but had exceeded 500 words by far and so had thought to just submit it as a regular searcher story until I saw yours. I love any stories about the Valle Vidal for you see many of my early experiences with searching occurred there and this story that I was writing was about the eastern half of the Valle. I feel a little strange submitting it right after yours so I may put a hold on it for a later time. Your story wasggreat. The Valle is a very special place and worthy of its nickname Little Yellowstone.

    • I had no idea that was it’s nickname. Cool Cloud 😉

      I think you should submit your “almost over the side of the mountain” story. That was my first impression of you that showed how much moxy you had and I needed to know who you were.

      • I’m thinking of sending in the longer one that I’ve written that contains my St. James ghostly encounter as a regular search story then go right into the boyscout encounter in the Valle Vidal (I wrote about it a little once and put it on your blog “what’s a blaze”) for the contest. Thanks for remembering that story Stephanie. It seems so long ago.

  7. Go for it cloudcover1… I didn’t know whether to shout or shut-up.

    I wrote for the pleasure, not the contest. Thanks everybody, for your kind comments.

  8. I think people throw the soap out with the bath water. I sometimes can’t see the road for the cars…for some reason horses dont confuse me though. 🙂

  9. Go alone in there, I will. Old Shadows, you tell a good story. No guff is what Jim Shockey would say. Go on another adventure and tell us another story. Thank you for sharing.

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