Looking for a romantic getaway in the great outdoors after being cooped up all winter?
Then the Forest Service has got just the place for you, a neat little cabin in the woods, tucked in among a vast stand of aspens with a babbling brook and beaver ponds right outside the front door.
And it’s only four hours from Santa Fe, up in the mountains flanking the upper end of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado.
The Brewery Creek Guard Station is one of several remote cabins located within the nearby Rio Grande National Forest that the public can rent for a reasonable fee and enjoy the same scenery some others pay millions to enjoy.
The Brewery Creek Guard Station is a quaint, two-room, white clapboard cabin with a fire pit and picnic table in the yard, a new outhouse and all the amenities needed to enjoy a comfortable night in the woods.
The cabin features lights, heaters, a full sized stove and refrigerator; all powered by propane as there is no electricity available. The kitchen comes fully stocked with cast iron skillets and other pots and pans as well as plates and cutlery.
A large kitchen table and chairs separates the kitchen area from the living room where one can lounge on a couch or relax in a recliner.
The bedroom features three bunk beds with the lower berths suitable for couples. Sleeping bags, pillows and other gear must be packed in.
The cabin is well supplied with board games and other means of old fashioned entertainment including a series of journals in which visitors have written of their experiences while staying at the cabin.
There is no cell phone coverage at the cabin. For more info about the accommodations, check it out at www.recreation.gov
The cabin was built in 1935 for use by the forest ranger who oversaw the Poncha and Bonanza Districts of what was then called the Cochetopa National Forest.
It sits in the shadow of 13,266-foot Antora Peak and is located just across a mountain range from the historic, silver mining town of Bonanza.
The cabin serves as a great base from which to visit the area’s many recreational opportunities including soaks at local hot springs, wildlife viewing on remote back country roads and perhaps a visit to the nearby town of Salida.
Just across one of the Colorado’s easiest mountain passes, Poncha Pass, at 9,000 feet, Salida boasts great fishing and rafting on the Arkansas River and a very cool downtown historic district.
The downtown area features plenty of Victorian era architecture, great shops, taverns and eateries.
There’s also a nice park and boardwalk on the river that makes for great, sightseeing and picnicking too.
And in the surrounding mountain ranges which including many of Colorado’s famous 14,000-foot peaks, visitors will find great hiking, camping, fishing and skiing opportunities.
During a recent early spring visit to the area, a forest road leading to a mountain top reservoir on the North Fork of the Arkansas River provided a great drive but it ended just a few miles shy of the local favorite fishing hole due to impassable snow drifts.
Returning to the San Luis Valley, one might want to stop at Villa Grove Trade where the café boasts excellent meals and live music, which can be heard on select Sundays nights. This is also where the key to the cabin can be picked up and dropped off. See their website at www.villagrovetrade.com for more info.
Villa Grove also boasts a liquor store for those in need before making the 15-mile trek up a gravel road to the cabin.
New Mexican visitors to San Luis Valley may find it a familiar and comfortable place in part, perhaps, because of our shared native Indian, Hispanic and Anglo cultural roots.
It is also home to the headwaters of the Rio Grande, whose waters nourish New Mexico, and its many farms produce much of the barley used to brew the popular western beer, Coors.
It is the location of one of the largest, solar-powered, electric power plants in the country and also home to the vast, Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Bordered on the west by the San Juan Mountains and to the east by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the valley is home to oldest town in the state of Colorado, San Luis, founded by New Mexican settlers from the Taos and Mora areas in 1851.
To the north the valley ends just above the village of Villa Grove and the mountain crossing at Poncha Pass.
Visitors to the valley from New Mexico typically follow US 285 north through Tres Piedras to the little town of Antonito and then on through the rich, agricultural valley and the college town of Alamosa.
Others might elect to follow N.M. 522 through Taos and Costilla and then head west to the valley from the historic town of Fort Garland on U.S. 160.
The San Luis Valley area boasts several forest service cabins for public use including the Canero Guard Station which is also featured in Outdoors New Mexico.
New Mexico does not have any forest service rental cabins but those who are interested in what’s available nearby can find out more at the U.S. Forest Service’s website at www.fs.fed.us and look under recreation and reservations.
If You Go: From Santa Fe take U.S. 84/285 through Espanola, Los Ojos and Tres Piedras to Antonito, Colorado. Proceed north on U.S. 285 to Alamosa and then pick up state highway 17 to Villa Grove. Just past town, head west on county road LL56 to Bonanza. Take the turnoff to Forest Road 880 at the bridge and follow to the cabin’s gate.