The Piedra Lumbre Basin (or Valley of the Shining Stone) stretches from Abiquiu to Chama along the Chama River.

And it is, probably, the most beautiful place in the world.

I’m biased, though, I have many pleasant memories from childhood vacations here.

Its icon is Pedernal, a 9000 foot mountain whose cap was produced in the Jemez volcanic field. Georgia O’Keefe lived in the valley below, and she painted it many times. I couldn’t help but take a zillion pictures of it. It’s like a benevolent version of the eye of Mordor, looking over everyone in the basin all the time, rain or shine.

The lake is Abiquiu Reservoir, and from atop the dam you can see the whole valley, the lake the color of the sky. Below it is the Chama River, where Niko and Monty and I hiked a long ways. The river flows in varying colors of green and turquoise. I love how you can see the reflection of the canyon cliffs against the water, and how the snow hasn’t melted along one bank because the sun never reaches it.

Down the road is Ghost Ranch, a Presbyterian retreat that is open to the public, and the west side of Carson National Forest. The basin itself is a Land Grant, so there is little development and it remains pristine. It doesn’t matter which way you look, every direction is a beautiful view. Yes, that is the cabin from ‘City Slickers.’ Hollywood films here frequently. You can always spot Pedernal in the movies, and I know I saw it in the 4th Indiana Jones film, Cowboys and Aliens, and maybe 3:10 to Yuma.

The red and orange of the cliffs light up like fire when the sun sets behind Pedernal, which is either a deep green or a hazy blue depending on the light. I watched two sunsets in the valley, even if it was an hour’s drive from where I parked Lola.

At least the stars on the way home were beautiful, too.