After winning a slot for the Valles Caldera's annual Photography Adventure, I was given an all-access pass to explore the 89,216-acre preserve unaccompanied. The Valles Caldera is a massive 14-mile wide wide volcanic caldera located in the Jemez Mountains west of Los Alamos. The preserve's landscape is defined by vast grassy valleys (or valles), boulder strewn mountains and rugged volcanic outcroppings. The Valles Caldera National Preserve gained notoriety after being featured as the prime shooting location for Ron Howard's 2003 film The Missing. One of the historic homesteads depicted in the movie later became known as "The Missing Cabin". During my time at the Valles Caldera, I logged over 200-miles exploring the preserve's vast valleys and vistas, never crossing paths with another soul. Sunrise was spent in the golden hills of the Valle Grande; evenings were spent in the far reaches of the meandering Valle San Antonio. After dark, I'd return to my basecamp below Redondo Peak, greeted by the galaxies above and buzzing locusts. This is New Mexico truly wild.
For more information on the Valles Caldera National Preserve, visit http://www.vallescaldera.gov/