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by Paul Cook - Las Cruces, New Mexico - USA

In July we went back to Vallecito Lake, for our summer vacation.  We rented a cabin again. The peace and tranquility there draw us in and we can’t resist. And of course, I love sailing there. We went in June the previous year and the reservoir was full when we got there.  This year we went a month later and the water level was down a lot from last year. I understand from talking to some of the locals that the lake didn’t fill up to it’s normal level this year.  Much of the islands and shoreline visible this year were under water last year.  It rained every afternoon we were there.  We sailed in the mornings, took a break for lunch and sailed again. We had a week there, but spent one day in the cabin because it rained all day and took another day to visit Mesa Verde. We had a nice time hiking around at Mesa Verde and looking at the ancient dwellings.  It was a great history lesson and we had some fantastic views.  There was a full moon while we were at Vallecito.  With the balcony of the cabin looking out over the lake, it was magical. After the sun went down we could see the glow of the moon on the water of the lake as well.

Last year we were able to launch from a little beach at a forest service day use area. That was a fairy tale experience. We had big tall trees there with lots of shade and our own picnic table for the time we were there.  This year we saw that the lake level was way down but drove to the day use area to check it out anyway. We parked at the picnic table by the spot we launched from before and the water was about 100 yards out from the little beach this time.  A puddle duck is not a heavy boat, but I was not going to haul it that far through all the mud and muck to get to the water.  So we drove back to the marina and launched from the beach by the end of the boat ramp.  We found a picnic table under a shelter not too far away from the boat ramp to eat our lunch at, but it was not nearly as nice as the spot we used in the day use area last year. 

We were not allowed to leave our boat parked by the marina overnight so we had to load and unload the boat off of the trailer every day.  Unfortunately, I have a utility trailer, not a boat trailer. When I get my bigger boat finished I may see how much it costs to rent a space at the dock for the week.  I suppose I shouldn’t complain about having to load and unload off the trailer. We saw a number of larger boats that were not able to launch from the boat ramp and had to leave because the water level was so low.  We met a lot of nice folks at the boat ramp.  Several of them commented on my little puddle duck.  None of them had ever seen one before.  We came across a gentleman with a Windrider, who we saw on the lake last year.  We passed by each other a number of times on the lake and he came by and talked to us at the boat ramp.  We chased him around the lake, but since he had a Windrider we had no chance of catching him in our puddle duck.

We heard reports of bear sightings in the area before we got there. Fortunately we didn't run into any live bears, but got a kick out of this carving.
We were fascinated by this large bird's nest built at the top of a dead tree. The nest was visible from the road up to the cabin. We saw the two birds in the nest a number of times but were never able to get the camera out before they flew away.
A picture of the bird's nest without the zoom.
A picture of the birds from the giant nest in flight.
The blue sail is my puddle duck headed away from the beach by the boat ramp.
A deer that decided to cross the road as we were coming by.
The deer after it crossed the road, looking for forage.
Some fishermen passing behind us on the lake.
Reflection of the full moon on the lake at night.
Close-up of the full moon surrounded by clouds.
View of the lake with land exposed that was under water when we were there last year.
Another view of the lake.
Anther view of the lake with one of the islands exposed.
A picture of people exploring Mesa Verde.
Another photo of the boat on the water.
The tiny white sail way off in the background is a production sailboat considerably larger than our puddle duck.
A close up shot of the puddle duck on the lake when there wasn't much wind. It was very tranquil.
Picture of the boat on the water with my wife waving and lots of pine trees in the background.
Picnic table that we ate lunch at this year. Not nearly as secluded or peaceful as the table we ate lunch at last year.
The quilt my wife finished piecing while we were there.
The quilter setting up her machine.
Another picture of the puddle duck with a reflection of the sail on the water.
A rare photo of the video camera operator/narrator/singer in the two youtube videos.

Just like last year, we spent the early part of the day sailing and the afternoons driving around to different places and often stopping at one of the little stores for mint chocolate chip ice-cream.  I went for hikes around our cabin in the afternoons with our daughter while my wife would work on her quilt.  And we saw a lot of wildlife again this year.  Deer seemed to like to hang around the general area of our cabin in the early mornings and late afternoons.  We had a good view of a really large bird’s nest built at the top of a dead tree.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get the camera out fast enough to get a picture of them in the nest, but we did get a photo of them flying around.  We heard that there were bear sightings in the area shortly before we came up, but fortunately we didn’t run into any live ones while we were there.

Our last day of sailing turned into an adventure.  The clouds started building up a lot sooner that day and the wind died off that morning.  It took a really long time to get any distance around the lake.  After lunch it seemed like the wind was starting to pick up.  We hopped in the boat and started around the lake, but noticed the clouds looking ominous.  My daughter felt rain drops so we came about and headed back to the boat ramp. The wind picked this time to die completely.  So I made the decision to break out the oars and the sprinkle turned into real rain.  I started rowing in earnest and after another five minutes the clouds opened up and the rain turned into a deluge. There was not a good place for me to beach the boat between where we were and the boat ramp.  I was rowing like a mad man.  We came around the edge of the cove where the boat ramp is located, and with our landing spot in sight the clouds went from rain to hail.  I must say I’ve never rowed a boat in a hail storm before.  It was a very unique experience.  It was small hail and by this point my daughter and I were laughing so hard I could barely continue rowing.  I only wish my daughter hadn’t turned off the video camera when it started raining. A video of me rowing the boat in the hail storm would have been hysterical.  We weren’t the only ones caught out in the hail storm.  There were some fishermen and a couple of paddle boarders that got caught unaware as well.  That will teach me to pay more attention next time.  And yes, there will be a next time.

Sailing for Adventure, In a Puddle Duck:

No Capsizing for Cathy: 

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