One of the many stage stops between Santa Fe and Los Angeles in the 1800s was at Vallecitos, or Little Valley. The native people of the valley called it “Hawi”— the place where tules (bulrushes) grow. Through the heart of Hawi runs present-day County Road S2. The S2 follows the old Butterfield stage coach road, which was a route for high speed mail delivery by wagon, averaging only 22 days for a letter to leave Missouri and arrive in California! Long before the stage route came into being the valley was crisscrossed by myriad Indian trails.
A visit to Vallecitos County Park on any balmy summer evening under a full moon will bring the openness of the sky right down to the valley floor. Moon shadows are faint and eerie here. They are the lightest possible grey, indistinguishable perhaps from what are said to be ghosts in southern Anza-Borrego Desert.
One night in the late-1850s, the stage pulled up to the adobe station house, where travelers on their way to Buena Vista– now called Los Angeles–could rest. One woman was very ill when she arrived on this night and was given the most comfortable bed to aid in her recuperation. Sadly, she died before morning. She was buried in a white dress she carried with her, at a gravesite that may be visited today near the station house which still stands. On moonlit nights, some say she reappears in her dress in an anxious, pensive state, as if looking for the stage to take her to her waiting fiance in the gold camps of Northern California.
The station house is now host to historical events, especially Vallecitos Days, a yearly gathering of historians and reenactors to commemorate the importance of Vallecitos to emigrants arriving in California.
Vallecitos County Park is a popular place for campers, equestrian clubs, hikers, and RVers. It also attracts astronomy clubs, meteor watchers, and astrophotographers because of its dark skies on moonless nights…
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