Category Archives: Community

Perspective of a Lifetime Camper

by Annette (Root) Haggard


Chow Hall and grassy field

My parents bought Western Life Camp when I was eight years old. At the time I was shy and unsure of myself but from the moment we arrived I was filled up with the beauty that surrounded me. I remember hearing the water running in the river nearby and watching the breeze blowing through the pine trees. The majestic high mountain peaks, endless sky, solitude, and peace would affect deep changes within me.

There are so many ways that spending my summers as a child at the camp affected me. Each day campers were offered a variety of activities to attend. The choices of activities and the earning of ribbons that signified mastery at various levels of achievement improved my self-confidence. At first I chose activities like riflery and swimming which seemed to come more naturally. But gradually I selected activities like horseback riding and arts and crafts and surprised myself with the level of proficiency I developed. Hiking, backpacking, and overnight camping trips helped me to develop my own special relationship with the natural world around me. I gained a love for wildlife and all things natural that very strongly influenced my personality.  Summer after summer of hiking changed me. Using humor to help conquer fatigue and pain or undesirable circumstances became a strength of mine. I became expert at turning negative experiences into hilarious stories to be enjoyed later with friends and family. Thanks to these positive experiences at WLC  I came out of my teen years as a “Can Do” adult, knowing that I could face and accomplish whatever life put before me.


Annette & Eric’s wedding at WLC

Another significant thing about “going to camp” was the people. The quality of people that I was surrounded with as a young person gave me numerous examples to follow and pattern my developing self after.  As a young adult I became a counselor, instructor, and campfire leader. Later I directed camp activities and even married my husband at the very camp I had grown up attending.  By this time I considered the camp my “heart home” and although my husband and I lived in several other locations, we were able to purchase the property next to the camp and don’t plan to ever leave “home” again.


Hell’s Canyon

I am a real water lover so, just as I did as a child, I still walk and sit in the river and enjoy slipping and sliding in special spots and water holes. I relish experiencing each of the four seasons and what they bring to these mountains. The warm summer days and nights, lying in a field of grass staring at the expanse of stars just overhead. The oak and aspen as they turn into oranges, yellows and browns and their leaves float gently away in the wind. The forest covered in sparkling snow and the river iced over with gurgling fresh water just beneath the surface. The perfect temperature of spring as flowers, and trees begin to bud and bloom again.

Annette+JoanMost of my life-long friends are people I shared camp experiences with in my youth. What a rich gift to my life they are. A shared background of exploration, discovery, teamwork, and personal growth provided the training ground for developing important relationships and interpersonal skills.

Today, Western Life Camp offers lodging for groups of all ages and interests from family reunions to church retreats, academic groups to sports camps. Just as it affected me, I know your experience at the camp will affect you in positive and memorable ways.

I think the time spent at the camp really gets inside you. The memories you create over a few days, a week, or if you were lucky enough to be there for summers, as I was, become part of who you are and who you will become. I encourage you to come spend some time with us at Western Life Camp. You will be inspired invigorated and renewed!


Acequias: A Centuries-Old Tradition of Water Sharing


Photo credit:

El agua es la vida.  Water is life.  It’s a universal concept, but in a dry mountain region like Northern New Mexico the words ring especially true. New Mexico has the longest continuously traceable history of human water use in the country. The tradition of acequias (UH-SAY-KEY-UHS), or shared irrigation canals, is directly linked to that history.   Western Life Camp sits next to the Gallinas River, a mountain stream tributary to the Pecos River. We and our downstream neighbors share water and honor the acequia tradition.


An ancient Anasazi irrigation system?

Acequias are a common thread that spans centuries of New Mexico history.  The indigenous tribes of the area were the first to use gravity-powered ditches for agriculture.  As early as 1400 AD the Pueblo Indians had created complex systems of irrigation lines fed from the area’s rivers and tributaries to grow corn, beans and squash.  With the Spanish colonization of the area in the 1600s the term “acequia” as  shared watercourse began to be used.  The Spaniards noted the similarities to the native watering systems to those brought to Spain during the Moorish occupation.  The word acequia is of Arabic origin.  In Classic Arabic “as-sāqiya”  was a double entendre of “water conduit” and “one who bears water” or “barmaid”.

Today, acequias continue as community-operated irrigation ditches vital to Northern New Mexico.
Acequias are recognized as governmental units under New Mexico law.  The hierarchy goes something like this: State, County, City, Town, Acequia.  Individual acequia associations band together under the state-wide New Mexico Acequia Association.


“Limpia”, or Spring Cleaning. Photo credit: New Mexico Acequia Association

A crucial function of each individual association is the annual spring cleaning.  In a cooperative effort orchestrated by a supervising mayordomo, the individual members, or parcientes, manually clean out the entire ditch of leaves, debris and anything else that accumulated inside the ditch over the Winter months.   When the spring rains and mountain runoff begin, the parcientes enjoy the benefit of their labor as water flows smoothly along the acequia, bringing life to their fields and crops.

Whereas acequias have a long tradition as cooperative community efforts to manage and share water, there are competing interests.  Today, municipalities compete with acequias for water usage and rights, often disproportionally due to golf courses, large lawns, hotel and motel use.  Mining and Fracking also compete for the limited amounts of water available.  As you can imagine, with the money and man power available to cities and the mining industries, it is often a David vs. Goliath struggle.   Support your local acequia by helping raise awareness of this issue and getting involved. You can share this article with others and consider donating to defense funds to help small communities in their struggle against larger municipalities.

References and more info:
History: The Politics of Water
Ancient Traditions Keep Desert Waters Flowing

Contributed by Mike Root