A Refuge in the Deep Woods
Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center is a 135 acre ranch surrounded by 300,000 acres of Carson National Forest in the Tusas (Beaver) Mountains of northern New Mexico. It is a rich high alpine ecosystem situated at almost 9,000 feet above sea level at the very southern tip of the Rocky Mountains.
The place we call Vallecitos today has long been indigenous land. The Jicarilla Apache and Ute Indians used the area for seasonal hunting and medicine and food gathering. Many artifacts have been found around the ranch showing use during the 13th century by Anasazi including an arrowhead by the Buddha tree dated 2,000 years old. This land has been a place where people come together, gather and then disperse time and again.
The Ranch is a wildly diverse biological museum. The land has never been logged and cattle have not grazed here since before WWII. Every mammal in northern New Mexico has been sighted on the ranch from deer and elk to bobcat, lynx and black bears. We are also visited by beaver, muskrats and porcupines to name a few. It is a rare wetlands habitat with over 60 species of birds and over 50 varieties of grasses and flowers. The Buddha tree is estimated at 600-800 years old as one of many in an area that contains the largest old growth forest in the entire Carson Forest.
The land was originally homesteaded in 1898 by an Irishman named Thomas Sibley who built the homestead cabin which still stands today and is used for staff accommodations. The Lodge was built later in 1928 by the Baxter family. It was patterned after the Lodge at Yellowstone National Park using some of the finest carpenters and artisans in northern NM and CO. The logs were harvested from the surrounding forest and rocks from the Vallecitos river, dated to 1.4 billion years ago, were used to build the fireplace.
The ranch was run as Kit Carson Camp for Kids in the 1930’s and was purchased by Harvey Mudd in 1970. In 1992 Grove Burnett, our Founding Teacher and Linda Valerde, our Founding Director along with two partners purchased the land in the 11th hour before it was to be sold and turned into a high end destination hunting and fishing camp. After purchase of the land the partners generously gifted the ranch to the current tax-exempt, non profit organization that it is today. A conservation easement protects the land – it will never be subdivided or partitioned, it will not exceed the existing facility footprints and the care for all natural conditions and ecosystems will be paramount.