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Vast and Unknowable

Reflections on the Chico Basin Ranch

By Claudia Landreville

May 8, 2024

The first time I drove to the Chico was in September of 2020. The Colorado skies were thick and heavy from a couple of nearby wildfires that week, and I remember thinking that the smoke hugging the subtle curves of the prairie’s hills in a sheer pinkish cloak made the landscape look shadowless and alien. The sun hung low in the sky, looking more like a hot pink bouncy ball from a vending machine than a celestial body. The dirt road seemed to wind through the short green grass and cholla forever, and my old car (creatively held together with hair ties and orange juice caps in the engine) threatened to rattle apart on its sandy washboards. I loved it.

Like the MP, where I had spent much of the previous year, I was immediately taken with its sense of vastness. It felt huge and unknowable, stretching on as far as my eyes could see and further; the kind of place you could spend your whole life getting to know, and it would still have its secrets. 

Over the past four years, flying in and out of the Chico’s orbit consistently but fleetingly, I’ve barely scratched the surface of getting to know her. The Chico Basin Ranch is enormous, not just in the physical space it takes up on the land, but also in the space it takes up inside the ones that live here and love this sweeping shortgrass prairie.

Since I’m better at pictures than words, I thought my homage to the Chico should be a mostly visual one.

Have a memory to share from the Chico or Zapata?

2024 will be our final year operating on both the Zapata Ranch and Chico Basin Ranches in Colorado.

Over the years, we've shared these places with so many of you and know that they've meant as much to you as they have to us. Throughout our final months in each place, we'd love to collect stories from the community who've grown to love them. Your reflection could be an essay, a poem, a set of photos, a short video or a drawing — anything that captures a memory or feeling from the Chico or Zapata that you think should be remembered.

Our favorite submissions will be collected into a print publication and may be shared on social media, email or on our website, with credit to you.



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