Valle Grande Hot As Caldera Cools

- June 6, 2011

“that place is so amazing and beautiful and so comprehensive the way it just lays there like a beautiful southwestern style oil painting…"

I read today about Valles Caldera and thought I would put in my two cents worth as I have thought about this place for a long time…..since the late 60s when I first went up there to gather vigas on Dome Lookout. I was just 17 or 18 years old and had just moved back to New Mexico after graduating from high school in Colorado. Although my family lived here and I had also, off and on, as the fickle finger of fate decided; I was not yet entrenched in this bio-region as I am now, having lived here for a total of just under 45 years, making me a relative newcomer, but something more than that; there should be a word for us, que no ?


Anyway I remember vividly seeing the Valle Grande back then and then quite a few times in those days and my thought and what I told people ever since was: “that place is so amazing and beautiful and so comprehensive the way it just lays there like a beautiful southwestern style oil painting…it should be set aside as a state park or a national park, not doubt about it…it’s got ‘park’ written all over it !” And I was almost too young to even have those thoughts, but they just came naturally in this case. It was, as they say, a “no brainer”. I subsequently went up the creek and fished there, near the lower end and camped out a night or two on what was then private land. I almost thought it was a park, what with all the cows everywhere and such. Anyway, I was in love with that place. Then a few years ago I caught wind of the possibility that it might be a national park. “ Oh great, finally” I thought and was very excited. And William DuBuys was involved. “Even better !” , I thought. But then the ironies began to set in; Pete Dominici was involved, beloved to many, but not me and he was riding that wave of privatization that was spearheaded by the same people who gave us the bankrupt “trickle down” stuff and the deregulation that has nearly ruined this country and the guys who basically privatized the army, the prisons, the forest thinning, the fire fighting and the list goes on and on. So I watched this with some skepticism and saw that people would have to pay through the nose to even see it, except for the one time they opened it up to the public for free and the lines went all the way back to the top of the hill and they couldn’t manage it. I could not get in, so I turned back. I love to fish, but the costs were too high. I hunt, but that was prohibitive and now the place was no longer a querencia, but a resort for the ricos; not for the people. Everything was just too precious for the peasants to be a part of; like the old days of Europe where the dukes had the land and the poor were just potential poachers. It was like a dog in a manger.


Then I read today that the director was being paid $120,000 a year to manage the place. Gee whiz, you guys, what are you thinking? I know plenty of other people who felt the same and yet nothing was done until now when the seed money is used up and the grabbers are jumping ship. It was a bad idea from the get go; sounded interesting but no rancher can operate a ranch with a base salary of such big bucks for the foreman. And no one who had a lick of sense would hire an agribusiness honcho from Dole or whatever. It doesn’t work in the real world of New Mexico. So, in my lifetime, we have the chance to get it right again and I might get in there finally. I feel like my neighbor who rides a beautiful old red classic Harley “panhead”; a prize winner that he has ridden all these years and has enough money, but when he went down to the Harley gathering down in the Burque and they wanted big bucks to enter the arena with all those weekend Harleys; he did what any real vacquero would do; he snuck in! So maybe it won’t come to that now and we will do what any kid can see needs to be done; let the kid in and his kids when they grow up. And everybody knows the place is called Valle Grande, so why don’t you call it that again? So I am thankful that it was bought and is now possessed by the people and am thankful that the people can maybe get in there again sometime soon.