The Valley of Dulcinea runs roughly north and south. There are hills on three sides with limestone ravines that funnel water down to to a gully at the bottom. From there the water flows into a vast floodplain to the north. Dulcinea overlooks the valley from the east. Engelbrecht Inn & Tavern sits above the valley at the southern end.
Few people from La Mancha visit the valley and almost none have ventured deeply into it. People come to La Mancha to study with the Wizard, get married, or drink whiskey at the Fang & Feather. They aren’t prepared for a safari.
I understand of course, but it’s terribly sad because just a few steps away from the frenzied activities of La Mancha is a beautifully wooded valley that has no lights, no buildings, and few paths. As the shadows rise out of this valley, night creatures bleat, howl, whistle, and hoot. Native shrubberies rustle as foragers scurry into and out of them. The sounds of humanity encroach from every direction, but in quiet moments you feel like civilization is miles away.
There are a number of ways into the valley from La Mancha, but the easiest and best route is the longest one. Sturdy clothing and a bottle of water are required. Get permission from the Welcome Center to enter Engelbrecht Village and the Valley. Go all the way down Gallagher Lane behind Engelbrecht Inn where the road turns to a wilderness trail. The Lost Boys cabins, their construction halted during the Pandemic, mark the end of La Mancha. Beyond are the Western Wild Lands.
If you follow any number of trails running west you’ll eventually run into the Gully of the Wild Things. Follow the gulley downhill as it bends around Engelbrecht Inn and stretches along the bottom of the valley going north.
And what is in our valley? No one knows for sure. That’s what I like about it. There’s a lot of uncharted territory. Most of it hasn’t even been named yet.
I saw a lovely den that was dug with smooth, gentle lines into the ground at the base of a large oak. I waited, hoping to catch sight of Foxy Brown if it was her den, but of course you cannot outwait an animal.
I came across a collection of sun-baked bones in a tree. Sometimes I can find this shrine and other times I cannot. You have to stumble upon it by luck, it seems. And whether that is good or bad luck depends on your own attitude toward such things.
Some kind soul dragged a chair down below the Lost Boys to the statue of Don Quixote. Now you can sit at the edge of the wilderness and look up at Dulcinea with him. I offer a prayer of thanksgiving to this person each time I sit there.
On rare occasions you can hear drumming and chanting drifting in from beyond the border of La Mancha. I know of no one who has been that far north or can explain the sounds.
That’s what I’ve seen in the valley. You would see other things. The only advice I can offer is this:
Come with no expectations