Largo Canyon

About Largo Canyon School Site - Home of Mustang Camp

Fifty years ago, the small community of ranchers and oil-field workers built this school for their children. The 1950's was not a particularly high point for American architecture so when the school district pulled out in the early 1980's, the building they left behind was a rambling shell, which soon was colonized by woodrats and red-shafted flickers. Fifteen years as an abandoned building, occasionally used by humans for shelter, a chicken house, or a spot for scavenging odd artifacts, left the school a candidate for bulldozing. We plucked it from the brink of ruin and have gradually made it re-inhabitable. It shows the scars of time.

Partially renovated, fully functional

The east wing of the old classroom building has been converted into a large central room surrounded by six monastic bedrooms. The classroom building also contains a classroom, complete with a white board and tables as well as an art room for creative, but messy projects. The gym building is just next door. The three guest bathrooms are located in the gym building. There are two showers and additional outdoor showers can be used during the summer months. The kitchen is in the gym building in what used to be the school cafeteria. Our new additions include a dining room attached to the cafeteria, a dormitory style room upstairs above the original guest rooms, a giant torreon-kiva, and an alcove lounge. The south-east and south-west sides of the building are wrapped with greenhouses providing winter heat and veggies.

Horse Facilities

Our training facility encompasses 3 acres of non crowded stalls, round pens, holding areas, and training plazas.

Lodging Style and Amenities

Guests sleep in the monastic bedrooms of the hostel wing. Each bedroom has two single beds.

The gym building contains the commercial kitchen, and a basketball court. Our water comes from an artesian well. We have a classroom, a library, and a crafts room available.

Covered stalls and large paddocks are available to our guests. Public lands surrounding us provide unlimited riding opportunity.

Escaping from the Mundane World

When you leave the pavement behind and wind your way down our rocky canyon, the rest of the world is left behind. We live in a different dimension, one that doesn't have crowds, credit cards, pagers, pressure, or air pollution. We live in a dimension dominated by natural processes: time, wind, rain, and sunlight. When it gets cold, we build a fire. It's a very simple and authentic reality. The coyotes howl outside the window, really.

If you have never left the work-a-day world before and gone off to a truly lonely spot, you might find yourself crying at first. It's a shock that quickly passes. Then you fall in love with the peace and stillness. In the quietness of our imperfect, incomplete, and impermanent reality, you can sense your inner fire and know who you are. Your core self emerges. In the halls of this ancient school house, you will become more like the child you once were.

The hard part is leaving this sheltered environment to go back to the mundane world you left just days ago.

Short History of Largo Canyon

Mustang Camp is located in Largo Canyon in the old Largo Canyon School site. In this remote canyon, you might feel alone, but you are a part of a long procession of peoples who have gone before. Hundreds of archaeological sites surround us attest to the importance of the Canyon as a buffer zone between warring peoples, as the ancestral home of the Navajo, and as a route in the development of the United States. Rock art, pueblitos, historical landmarks, pithouses, and more are waiting for you to explore.

Dinétah is the traditional homeland of the Navajo Indian Tribe. The region is full of Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) and Navajo rock art and small Navajo ruins called pueblitos, which is Spanish for “little pueblos.” There is also evidence left by the Ute tribes and early Spanish explorers and settlers.

The traditional boundaries for the Dinétah are marked by four mountains: Hesperus Peak to the north, Mount Taylor to the south, Blanca Peak to the east, and the San Francisco Peaks to the west. The heart of the region includes Blanco, Largo, Carrizo and Gobernador Canyons east of Farmington, NM. Within the four sacred mountain boundaries are three more sacred mountains important to Navajo mythology: Huerfano Mesa, Gobernador Knob, and Navajo Mountain.

The region is full of Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) and Navajo rock art and small Navajo ruins called pueblitos, which is Spanish for “little pueblos.” There is also evidence left by the Ute tribes and early Spanish explorers and settlers.

The Largo Canyon, formed from erosional processes is another testimony to the effects of time. Wilma Jean Kaime, my neighbor, remembers the night when the other side of the canyon collapsed, dropping about an acre of land, trees intact, from the mesa above into the canyon. It is not unusual anywhere in the canyon to find a freshly fallen boulder crushing a tree, or as happened recently, partially blocking the road until the county sends a bulldozer to move it.. The rocks are soft rendering them unsuitable for climbing but making them ideal for sculpting by the winds, frosts, and rains that are intensified by our 6,400ft elevation here on the edge of the Colorado Plateau.

To non-desert dwellers the reality of water erosion might not seem significant, but when you live in a place where the vegetation holding the soil is sparse, maybe sparser from the grazing of cattle, and the rain falls in monsoon downpours, our annual 12 inches of precipitation becomes the dominant shape of the landscape. Two or three times a year water pours off the mesas above the canyon in muddy waterfalls. The dry Largo wash runs bank to bank in a flash-flood. The riparian vegetation is stripped away. The soft rocks are pulverized into sand and the sand and mud moves downstream, north, towards the San Juan River.

In the windy dry months, that sand and mud moves back upstream carried by winds out of the north. First the white alkali dust is blown up the Largo, then, as things get more desiccated, the sand moves with the wind and creates sand dunes along the Largo. The dusty winds create the dark patina along the canyon walls which provide the background for petroglyphs of the ancient peoples.

Perhaps the most numerous creatures in this landscape are the ants, which thrive in the calcified sands of the canyon bottom. They gather leaves from the wormwood and salt-brush and create mounds of these leaves and rocky grains pulled out of their burrows. Our other herbivores are the deer, elk, rabbits, ground squirrels, chipmunks, mice, etc. One step higher on the food chain we have swallows, eagles, hawks, bobcats, mountain lions, and the ubiquitous coyote. Animal trails are common and it doesn't take long to recognize the tracks of these various critters.

Even in this lonely and remote landscape, the dominant mammals are the humans, especially those of the oil-field variety. Our landscape is not pristine, but rather has natural gas and oil wells interspersed amongst the rocks and junipers. We hear the hum of gas compressors miles away in the stillness of the night. Gas trucks and drill rigs rumble by, stirring up clouds of dust. In the winter the BLM lands along the Largo become home to herds of cattle and these stray on the open range into the school yard where we appreciate their bovine beauty, but then chase them out before they find the gardens. Human activities accelerate the natural processes of erosion.

Sign up for an adventure vacation with us to explore Largo Canyon.