VALLECITO, Colo. — Four months have passed since 13-year-old Dylan Redwine disappeared while on a court-ordered visit with his father in this small lakeside community.

The investigation into Dylan's disappearance continues, and while some have lost hope that any sign of the boy will ever be found, many Vallecito residents are not only holding out hope, but are eagerly anticipating the spring thaw so they can resume the search.

Vallecito, which in Spanish means "little valley," is tucked into the picturesque mountains surrounding Vallecito Reservoir, a man-made lake constructed in 1941. The lake is surrounded by 12 miles of shoreline, with campground- and cabin-lined roads branching out in all directions.

Most of the homes are second residences, used by vacationers who visit the area for weeks at a time during the warm summer months. The population during this time can reach more than a thousand people, but there are about 400 who call Vallecito their home on a year-round basis. These hearty individuals and families tough out the snow-covered winter months. They will quickly say, however, that they're the lucky ones for having the opportunity to live here.

Redwine' disappearance last November hit this tight-knit community hard, but many here say they are still holding out hope and have not given up the search.

"Dylan's disappearance definitely made people more aware," said RaeLynn Elkins, who works at the Vallecito Market. Elkins' parents own and operate the store and restaurant, which is one of the only businesses that remain open year-round.

"It's amazing how people here and in Bayfield came together with fundraising and searching, handing out fliers, etc.," said Elkins. "It's sad, though, because no one really knows what happened. People have their opinions, but we don't really know. If (law enforcement) knows, they're not telling. But I'm a hopeful person, and I have to have hope."

Third-generation Vallecito native Carli Harriman is a mother to two young children and has lived in the lake town for 39 years, her entire life. Her grandfather helped construct the dam in the 1940's.

Harriman describes Vallecito as a quiet and safe community -- a good place to raise kids.

"At first, we (parents) were a little scared," that a predator might be involved, said Harriman. "Now, we're not afraid at all, but it does make you wonder. We are always keeping a look out for Dylan, among the trees, and in culverts and ditches. There's not a day that goes by that he's not in our minds.

"Many people think he's in the lake, but until he's found, there's always hope. As soon as the snow melts, I want to go look some more, because I'd always want someone to be looking for my kids if this happened to one of them."

Lisa Bourque is originally from Boston, but has lived in Vallecito for the past nine years. Together with Denise "Katt" Hawkins, Bourque has spearheaded most of the local efforts to locate Dylan, organizing volunteer searches, setting up prayer vigils and fundraisers, and keeping awareness of the case at the forefront.

Bourque said that since the snows and ice of winter descended on the valley, volunteer efforts to locate Redwine have stalled.

"We haven't done a lot since fall," she said. "All the volunteer footwork has already been done. We looked at the lake bed when it was low, we've looked along trails and all over Bayfield and Durango. Now, the community's just been trying to keep the posters up and keep the awareness going."

Although Vallecito was already a close-knit community, Bourque said Dylan's disappearance has brought residents even closer together.

"But it's like this dark cloud came over the community, and it's definitely changed us," she said.

What those who have been involved in the search are most anxious for, Bourque said, is what locals call the "ice-off," when the thick layer of ice covering the lake melts, and the trails and surrounding landscape are once again snow-free.

"Dylan's family is convinced we need to search the lake again," said Bourque, adding that most of the efforts to concentrate on the lake have come from Dylan's mother, Elaine, and her fiancee.

To Bourque's knowledge, Dylan's father, Mark, has not been involved in efforts to search the lake, and she said that some "things" don't add up concerning Mark Redwine.

"The fact that there were issues with his polygraph has caused many to wonder," she said.

Mark Redwine reportedly failed an official polygraph test but said, in a joint appearance with his wife, Elaine, on the Dr. Phil television show that authorities said the person who administered it was not qualified.

On the show, the couple reportedly blamed each other for their son's disappearance.

"There's a lot of suspicion there, but in the eyes of law enforcement, until they find Dylan there's not much they can do," Bourque said. "I do think we'll get a lot of answers as soon as the ice comes off that lake."

Dan Bender, Public Information Officer for the La Plata County Sheriff's Office, confirmed that the investigation is still active, but said there are no new developments in the case, which is the focus of a five-agency task force involving his office as well as the Durango Police Department, the Bayfield Marshall's Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.

Bender said immediately following Dylan's parents' contentious appearance on the Dr. Phil television show at the end of February, the Sheriff's Office tipline received over 500 calls, and the task force is following up on tips that were generated by some of these calls.

"We do believe there is foul play involved," Bender said. "We're following everything up, and are now treating this as a possible abduction. We have ruled out the possibility that this is a runaway case."

Bender would not confirm or deny that family members may have been involved in Dylan's disappearance.

One of the most active local efforts to encourage awareness of the case is the Facebook page "Find Missing Dylan Redwine," set up by Hawkins and Bourque. The site has had over twenty five thousand "likes," and is the official Facebook page endorsed by Dylan's family and the Vallecito community.

The site posts updates on search efforts and fundraising events, and also lists information on other missing children. It's also used as a sort-of sounding board by Dylan's family and others close to the case, as well as by those simply haunted by the unimaginable horror of a child vanishing into thin air.

Sympathizers post their fears, their prayers, and their hopes.

"I think the general message is that there's always hope. Until we find something else, we need to keep hoping," said Bourque. "Dylan's always on our minds, and we won't stop looking until we find him."

Anyone with information about the case can call Crime Stoppers at (970) 247-1112, and can also call the hotline for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE LOST (1-800-843-5678).

Leigh Irvin may be reached at lirvin@daily-times.com; 505-564-4610. Follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/irvindailytimes