May 2013 - Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument

May 19, 2013
Captains Log 1XE, Day 19 in the month of April in the Earth Calendar Year of 2013.

One of the prettiest flights there is starts right here in Aspen in the Roaring Fork Valley. Our flight path takes us to Taos, New Mexico, flying right over the West Elks and into the San Luis Valley, supposedly the highest and largest alpine valley in the world containing one of the largest freshwater aquifers in North America. From there we skirt the Sangre de Cristo Range and look over on the other side of the valley at the Winnemuche Wilderness and the magnificent San Juans. We are heading down to the newly designated Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, one of the more stunning areas in northern New Mexico. The flight is particularly beautiful if you have had an enormous amount of late spring snow, and have been grounded for weeks as the mountain slopes got pounded. Great for skiing but not flying.


On this particularly beautiful, very early morning flight we are en route to meet with Stuart Wilde, owner of Wild Earth Llama Adventures, and the epitome of a successful activist. Stuart's outfitting company operates collaboratively with the USFS and BLM to promote stewardship of the land. This lends itself to his conservation work with sportsmen, ranchers, small business owners and people across northern New Mexico, who were all involved in the campaign to create the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.


We are flying members of the New Mexico Tourism Board and other officials to document the scenic vistas of the Monument. The Río Grande del Norte covers over 240,000 acres and contains stretches of the Río Grande Gorge and extinct volcanoes that rise from the Taos Plateau. The Monument is known for its spectacular wildlands and waters that sustain animals and the surrounding communities. It encompasses a big-game corridor that stretches between the San Juan Mountains in the west and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the east, and includes traditional lands of the nearby Taos and Picuris Pueblos, as well as the Jicarilla Apache and Ute Tribes.


Speaking with Stuart and his willing compatriots you can't help but be moved by the passion they hold for the land and their sense of the need to protect it. The videos and images we helped produce will go a long way to promoting these protected wildlands, and along with the elk and the wildlife that inhabit this area, we are grateful more people will be able to experience all that this monument has to offer.


They say it takes a village sometimes to accomplish things; in this case it took a pueblo.