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by Paul Cook - Las Cruces, New Mexico – USA

Part One - Part Two

The early mornings and late evenings barely had any breeze at all.  I really wished I had a canoe or kayak to paddle around at those times.  Something fairly light, like one of Michalak’s Imres Canoes or Michael Storer’s Quick Canoes, would have been nice.  The water was calm then, the lake seemed very peaceful, and the views were incredible.  Even walking some of the paths around the lake at those times was a zen like experience.


I saw several sailboats tied up at the marina, but only saw a handful of them out on the water while I was there. There were  a couple of good sized mono-hulls sailing around in the afternoons, but the boats I saw sailing around more frequently  were a couple of Windriders.  One of them swung by our beach on the last day as we were unloading the boat.  The gentleman sailing it complained that they were having the weakest winds he had seen all year.  Secretly I was glad they weren’t stronger. I’m not sure I could have sailed in stronger winds without having problems.  I told him I have friends with Windriders and he informed me that his was for sale.  I told him I couldn’t afford to buy anything right now and that I had built the boat I was sailing in.  He looked at my little puddle duck and said, “It gets around pretty well.”  This seemed like a nice compliment coming from a multi-hull sailor.  Either that or he was just being kind.

The day use area opened at eight every morning.  We usually launched around nine or so.  On the first day I took my daughter out for the first sail and my wife out after we took a break.  The wind built up as the morning went by.  When I took my wife out that first day she had a white knuckled grip on the sides of the boat as we were sailing.  She was relieved when we got back to shore.  The second day, my wife didn’t go out at all. The last two days I took my wife out first and then took our daughter out. Our daughter didn’t mind the windier conditions and my wife was more relaxed going out first.  Our routine grew into sailing for a couple of hours  in the morning, taking a break, sailing for another hour or two,  packing up and taking the boat back to the cabin.  After we unhooked the trailer we ate a late lunch/early supper and went for a drive or lazed around the cabin the rest of the day.

In talking with the locals, we found out that Vallecito Lake had filled much earlier this year.  They had only a fraction of the normal snow pack, so it melted sooner than normal.  This made the lake very full while we were there, but the down side is that the lake started going down sooner than normal.  The level dropped a couple of feet during the time we were there.  I’m not sure what it’s like later in the summer or what date it normally fills up.  I guess we just lucked out on the weather and our choice of dates for this year.

There are a number of bare areas on the hills around the lake.  A bad fire moved through the area about ten years ago.  In some places aspen trees are coming up and in other areas there are still stands of dead trees as a reminder.  The drought conditions in Colorado are bad this year, as they are in much of the west.  Just a couple of weeks after our trip a fire moved through the Colorado Springs area and a number of folks lost their homes. There was another fire going on north of us in Colorado while we were there. You may notice in parts of the pictures and videos it looks like fog.  That’s actually smoke drifting in from a fire on the second day we were there.  The smoke had cleared by the fourth day. I was just thankful we didn’t have a fire in the area where the lake is while we were there.

Here I am trying to get the boards down before we drift back onto the beach.
Here is a shot of some boats at the dock.
The scenery was rather amazing.
With the tall trees, green grass, and lots of shade our day use area felt very luxurious.
I never got tired of looking at the shoreline.
Our daughter managed to get some nice photos from this trip.  Here is one of a bird flying over the lake.
This is one of my favorite photos from the trip.
The view from our picnic table wasn't bad either.
Sometimes the view from the train was a bit scary.
I'm including a couple of photos from our train ride in case you want them. There are more lake pictures to follow as well.
Sometimes the train crossed over the river.
We saw a fair amount of wildlife while we were there. Some of it was very curious.
I saw a lot of Canadian geese on the water in the early mornings.
I think the boat looks happier when it's out on the water.
Even the deer were curious.
Here is a partial shot of the dam with our boat in the far distance.
This is just a shot of me sitting in the boat.
We did see a few sailboats on the water while we were there, but I think I only managed to capture a couple of windriders in either the video or the still shots. Anyway here is the windrider we caught with the still camera.

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment that the lake is known for fishing. 
One of the days we were loading the boat back on the trailer a fisherman stopped by and commented that I must have already caught my limit. When I explained that I wasn’t much of a fisherman and was only there to sail, he gave me a puzzled look.  I’m sure he was thinking I was nuts to be coming to that lake and not be interested in fishing.  Every day we went out there were people perched at their own secret fishing spots all around the lake.  I felt sacrilegious for not having a fishing rod with me.  But I didn’t let it bother me much.  I was too busy having fun sailing.

If you should decide to visit Vallecito Lake and you have family members who are not crazy about sailing, there is a stable near the lake where you can go horseback riding.  You can rent pontoon boats, fishing boats, or canoes.  We saw a few folks paddling kayaks on the lake while we were there and a number of fishing boats out on the lake, but it was never crowded.  There are some nice paths with benches around the lake, that are great for long walks.  A woman showed up by our day use area one morning with a paddle board and launched from our same little beach. The winds were so calm on that morning that she made much faster progress on her board than we did in our sailboat.  She seemed as surprised as us that there weren’t more people using the lake, not that any of us were complaining. I would like to come back to Vallecito Lake again, maybe with a bigger boat so that I don’t have to take my family out one at a time.

On the last day we were there, we took the Durango/Silverton train (a narrow gage, steam engine train).  We had to reserve our tickets weeks in advance.  It was a very nice scenic train ride and we met lots of interesting people.

There are options for taking the train one way and a bus back, or taking the train both ways.  By the time we reserved our tickets we had to take the train both ways.  I’m not complaining, but it’s an all-day thing and we were tired by the time we got back.  We saw some pretty waterfalls and beautiful views on the trip. Unfortunately I never had enough warning to get any photos of the falls as we went by.  By the time I got my camera ready they were gone. I really enjoyed the train ride.  Of course if I had been by myself instead of with my family, I probably would have picked another day of sailing instead, but that’s just me.

A Puddle Duck in Paradise, Part 2

Vallecito Lake was an awesome place to take my little puddle duck and have some fun, relaxing sailing without any crowds or heavy expectations.  There was no rigorous schedule to keep or any place we had to be at an exact time, other than the train ride on the last day. I reveled in sitting under the big tall pine trees, listening to the birds, watching the butterflies, and feeling the peace. We enjoyed eating a late lunch/early supper at the little general stores where there were dining tables on one side and fishing bait and camping gear was sold on the other side.  Did I mention the sailing was incredible?  I savored mint chocolate chip ice cream in the afternoons and watched chipmunks checking us out when we were outside.  For me, it was a perfect vacation, and I didn’t have any problems with the boat.  We saw a variety of wildlife: deer, turkey, squirrels, chipmunks, and Canadian geese.

I can’t guarantee what you will see if you decide to visit.  But if you come in the early summer, you might see a puddle duck out on the water.

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