What are the first images in your mind when I mention the words ‘Ghost Ranch’?
See through people ready to haunt you or does your imagination fill up with colors of sandstone yellow or red rocks? Maybe its images of a famous woman who roamed the desert in search of her next painting of the beautiful landscape?
If any of those images came to mind, then you are thinking of the famous Ghost Ranch located in Northern New Mexico in the beautiful Abiquiu region Northwest of Santa Fe in the culturally rich Rio Arriba county.
My visit to the Ghost Ranch last week packed more a punch than what I was ready for. I have been by the Ghost Ranch to visit before but this particular visit I had my mind blown away.
Upon my arrival, I strolled the grounds and the visitors center. There’s a café, a fully stocked gift shop with unique gifts with famous shots of the area and its famous visitors. Goodies for a full day’s hike and all the other sundries needed for the perfect visit.
I enjoyed a delicious (and healthy) lunch with the staff and visitors to the Ghost Ranch giving me an opportunity to speak with those running or visiting the ranch. We ate inside the original “Mess Hall” to the ranch. A spacious room with picnic type long tables. A warm and delicious meal that is prepared by hand. Due to the camp like set up at the Ghost Ranch, lunch and dinner are served at specific times, creating a dining experience unlike most places. Everyone at the ranch dines together, family style.
After my lunch, I roamed the property waiting for my awesome host, Anna, Marketing Manager of the Ranch. Outside of the dining room building I walked into the Ranch and explored the creek that has running water making the faintest yet most relaxing sound, which made me want to find a soft beautiful sand in the soft sandy terrain to take a nap. As I strolled by the creek, the crafts room and some of the original lodging casitas, I found a beautiful labyrinth which I couldn’t help but walking to help center myself to see, feel and be part of this magical land.
After my meditation at the labyrinth, I continued deeper in the canyon and found other buildings that looked like meeting spaces, the crafts room, and then I came to the fence where I was to decide if I wanted to take a simple 2 mile hike to Chimney Rock or a 5 mile hike to the top of Kitchen Mesa. Sadly, I didn’t have time to take either, I returned through the property back to the visitor’s center as my tour was about to begin.
After meeting for a small film on the Ghost Ranch and Georgia O’Keeffe, a small group of us loaded a small touring bus. Heading towards the farming area of the property we ventured though an arroyo (small canyon, riverbed) and ended up north of the property to which our guide with in the first 10 minutes pulled off the side of the road and started to show us land formations along with the paintings produced by O’Keeffe. To know that she ventured into the desert and painted the landscape breaking all the rules of traditional and conventional rules of painting.
Within the hour or so tour, Diane Aremberg, our tour guide, showed us about 10 different locations (with images of the paintings), points of inspiration, including Georgia’s House and told us some of the most remarkable stories about O’Keeffe’s time at the Ghost Ranch. Stories you will not find in broucher or book more so than what have been shared orally for the past 80 years.
This tour is highly recommended to those that are fans of the famous painter but more so to everyone else to experience the mind-blowing terrain that is the Ghost Ranch.
After the Georgia O’Keeffe Art Tour. I roamed through the museums to see Native American artifacts from Paelo times to more recent Puebloan times to more current famous pots by the famed Santa Clara Pueblo, Maria Martinez. I also saw the world famous Coelophsis, the New Mexico state fossil.
After dinner with a group of amazing travel writers, Anna took our group to meet with Diane who was going to teach the group to paint. Diane was very nice and full of knowledge of not just art but the Ghost Ranch.
The Ghost Ranch Museums are dedicated to advancing research, education and public engagement in Anthropology, Archeology and Paleontology. Come to understand the rich history of the Chama River Valley. See contemporary works hosted as part of the New Mexico Textile Arts. Or see dinosaurs and other fossils found in our very own Ghost Ranch fossil quarries.
The Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology celebrates cultures both past and present, that utilized the Piedra Lumbre Valley at some point in time.
The Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology focuses on fossils that date to the late Triassic (about 200-220 million years ago), including the state fossil of New Mexico, Coelophysis.
Dr. Martha Yates, Manager of the Ghost Ranch Museums and Cultural Programming, worked for many years with the US Forest Service as the District Archaeologist on the Coyote Ranger District (Santa Fe National Forest). She was also a Wildland Firefighter for the USFS. She is a teacher and guide and leads Ghost Ranch excursion road trips to archaeological sites of the Southwest.
I can’t express to you enough the all of the amazing things happening at the Ghost Ranch today and every day. Individually or as a group, for fun or for work, Ghost Ranch is the ideal location to learn, explore, appreciate and love.
Some more details and history about the Ghost Ranch:
The Ghost Ranch has been a hot bed for activity for thousands of years. From the days of dinosaurs and pre-historic mammals to Navajo and Puebloan Indian tribes who roamed the valley to the Spaniards who will come and settle the land on to the cattle rustlers and wranglers including the dudes and their ranch.
Surrounded by vast vistas, table-topped mesas, tall cliffs, the Rio Chama bordered by huge old cottonwood trees, mountains and more beauty around every bend in the winding road.
“It is not a country of light on things, it is a country of things in light.” – Georgia O’Keeffe.
Arthur Pack, one of the country’s first environmentalist, bought the Ranch and sold a piece to one of the nations (if not the world’s) most famous painters, Georgia O’Keeffe. Scientist from around the world sought refuge and took respite time here from the stresses of building the world’s first nuclear bomb at Los Alamos.
If this isn’t impressive enough, a few other famous guests have included Charles Lindbergh (who used to land his plane in what is now a farming field in front of the visitor’s center), photographer Ansel Adams and numerous actors including the Duke himself, John Wayne.
Arthur Pack and his wife Phoebe gave the Ranch to the Presbyterian Church in 1955 and even though Georgia O’Keeffe wanted the Ranch for herself, she eventually became friends of the first director of Ghost Ranch, Jim Hall.
When the Archuleta brothers, cattle rustlers, were hiding their stolen goods in the box canyon alongside Kitchen Mesa, they discouraged their neighbors from looking around by spreading the rumor the land was haunted by evil spirits. “Rancho d los Brujos” as the ranch was once called, “Ranch of the Witches”, naturally evolved into Ghost Ranch.
The turn-off to Ghost Ranch was marked by an animal skull long before Arthur Pack bought the ranch in 1936. When Georgia O’Keeffe came looking for the Ranch, she was told to watch for the skull on the fence post. O’Keeffe made a drawing of an ox skull and gave it to Arthur Pack; he promptly adopted the artwork as the logo for the Ghost Ranch.
When Pack gave the Ranch to the Presbyterian Church, they used a sketch of Chimney Rock as a logo. By 1971, partly as a result of O’Keeffe’s encouragement, the familiar skull design was firmly established as the office logo for the Ghost Ranch.
For more than fifty-five years Ghost Ranch has been a national education and retreat center and since its beginnings, the ranch has been deeply involved in supporting communities and committed to the preservation and protection of the environment.
Over 200 classes are offered each year in subjects ranging from Memoir Writing, Adobe building and Paleontology to Plein Air Painting to Yoga. Come by for a day or spend a week in any of the amazing rooms for rent or bring a group for meetings or retreats.
Day to weekly hiking excursions, kayaking or painting, horseback riding to writing or to just chill and relax. There’s something for everyone.
The property hosts a few museums like the Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology which displays Native American tools, pottery and ancient artifacts from Paleo Indian culture dating over 10,000 years ago through ancestral Puebloan times to present time pottery and weavings from local Pueblos.
Next door is the Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology displays the fossils of the Coelophysis, a dinosaur discovered at Ghost Ranch in 1947. Ghost Ranch is the site of one of the best-known paleontological digs in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Coelophsis Quarry is a National Landmark as designated by the National Park Foundation.
For more information please visit the Ghost Ranch Website to get a listing of all the amazing events and programs they offer.