Two weeks ago, Mark and I went on a seven-mile hike in the Valle Caldera National Preserve, We joined the “Friends” of this great endeavor to preserve one of the West’s classic landscapes and largest volcanic craters for public use. It took a lot to make this happen, both in Congress and here in New Mexico. Rep. Roger Madelena and I sponsored a Memorial in 1998 requesting that this land be bought by the federal government from the Dunigans, a Texas oil family who owned much of the remaining Baca Land Grant. It finally was purchased, under the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2000, with support coming from the entire NM delegation, and finally, Sen Domenici,. However, the proviso was, that it had to be self-sufficient in five years or so. A tall order, but the Trust is going to do it, with more public tours—van tours, cross country events, marathons—as well as with the more traditional ranching, and hunting (there are from 2,500-3,500 elk on the 89,000-acre property.)
Our guided hike, sponsored by the Friends of the Valle Grande, walked around Cerro del Abrigo, a mountain in the middle of the preserve from which you could see several different valleys – Valle San Antonio, and Valle Toledo-- and mountains, including Redondo Peak and Pajarito Mountain. There were great volunteers along who were wild flower and bird specialists from Los Alamos, and tour guide Craig Martin, who wrote a great book about the Baca Location called, Valle Grande: A History of the Baca Location No. 1. It’s a paperback from All Seasons Publishing ( ISBN 0-9639040-4-3) that’s available from Bookworks in the North Valley and other local bookstores. After the hike, we had a barbecue with a power point from Craig on the history of the land. I’m not a huge fan of power points but for history buffs and naturalists, though, this was great.
To Find out more hikes and other activities at the Valles Caldera Preserve, go to www.vallescaldera.gov.