Terrain: It's different from Philmont. Not as rugged, and more open. There aren't any established trails in the Valle, just a few gravel roads, game trails, cattle tracks, and old railroad beds.
Cross-country hiking is actually encouraged, unlike on Philmont property, so you get plenty of use out of your map and compass. Getting lost isn't really a problem; there are plenty of landmarks: meadows, windmills, etc. The woods are more open and the terrain is generally not steep, so there are plenty of routes to take.
Things you'll run into along the way: lots of pretty meadows, and many without trails running through them. Along old railroad grades, you'll run across hand-hewn crossties, some with spikes still in them. There are even a couple of old "ghost towns" with the ruins of several cabins, and old cemeteries from back when the area was logged and was used for farming.
There's more wildlife, including elk, and a "wild" herd of bison we passed. We also had a bear pass through our campsite and make an awful racket one night. He (or she) didn't touch anything, but it was an interesting experience!
The Valle has none of the "comforts of home" that are provided in Philmont campsites. No fire rings, no sumps, no bear cables, and no latrines. You have to practice real "leave no trace" camping. There are no established campsites, so you have to be careful not to select a site that is beginning to show signs of use. The staffs at Dan Beard and Rich Cabins do a great LNT [ Leave No Trace] clinic before you head into the Valle.
My impressions of the program are from past years, so some things may have changed:
Ring Place: An old homestead site. They'll give you a "tour" of the site, and tell you about the family that lived there. We did some conservation work there, and then the staff helped our crew learn the fine art of "porch sitting." This camp is close to a public campground, so there were a few "tailgate campers" nearby. The staff encouraged us to stay on the other side of the bog, away from the public campground.
Seally Canyon: The program is now mountain search and rescue/wilderness medicine. This is located in a pretty canyon, with small ghost towns in both directions. Also, an old rail line ran up the canyon, as evidenced by the crossties and railroad spikes we found in places. The ridge above the camp (to the north) provides some great views, and is a nice place to sit and soak in the quiet.
Iris Park: mountain biking is the program. They'll outfit you and take you on a trip around the area. Depending on the energy level of your crew (and the staff guide) the ride may last from 30 minutes up to 3 hours; the 3 hour ride would be for those psycho-hiker type crews ,-)
Rich Cabins: not really located in the Valle Vidal, but on land leased by Philmont to fill in the gap between the Barker Wildlife Area and the Valle Vidal. This is the homesteading program of Crooked Creek in a more developed setting. They have a large old house and barn, and they'll give you a tour of the homestead and assign you "chores" as "payment" for your overnight stay. We really enjoyed this one.
Yours in Scouting
Warren Williams <firstname.lastname@example.org>