Travel File: Ghost Ranch

There has always been something fascinating to me about the southwest.  When my husband and I got married 12 years ago, we decided on a road trip to Santa Fe for our honeymoon.  Neither one of us had been to this part of the country (other than a quick drive through on family vacations) and yet it called to both of us.  There was something about red earth surrounded by mountains that piqued our curiosity.  I believe part of the calling stemmed from the vast difference from anything we knew growing up in California.  To a couple of people used to the beach, redwood forests and dusty bleak deserts, New Mexico’s painted earth, rock formations and clouds seemed like a dream.

ghost ranch entrance

We stayed at a B&B in Santa Fe for three days during that road trip.  Our room was close enough to walk to the square, and subsequently, in close proximity to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum.  It was a stand-out of the visit for both of us.  The artwork and photography that captured the surrounding landscape gave us more substantial reasons to fall in love with the area.  We returned home with these two prints:

cottonwood tree in spring_c

Cottonwood Tree in Spring by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1943

Black Hollyhock Blue Larkspur 1930

Black Hollyhock, Blue Larkspur by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1930

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know now that this part of the country is one of our favorites, and we visit often.  How fortunate that we moved to a part of Texas that is only four hours from Santa Fe! So here is the final chapter of our March trip to the Taos area of New Mexico (other chapters are here, here, here and here).  A highlight was visiting Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu.

Ghost Ranch Hike_title

By the time we arrived, it was late in the day and the clouds were bursting in the distance.  Our drive took a bit longer than anticipated, so our visit was cut short.  We, of course, made the most of the hour before it stormed.

ghost ranch signGhost Ranch Entrance BW blogGhost Ranch pano

In 1929 Georgia O’Keeffe travelled to Taos at the invitation of friends Dorothy Brett and Mabel Dodge Luhan. It was there she first heard of Ghost Ranch and in 1934 she finally visited the Ranch. She was dismayed to learn that it was a dude ranch owned by Arthur Pack and Carol Stanley. However, a place was available for her that night in Ghost House and she spent the entire summer at the Ranch.

Georgia OKeeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe hitching a ride in NM

Ghost House meditation Garden

Ghost House garden gate

General Map - Final Color

Ghost Ranch Agape Center

Ghost Ranch Agape Center

Our hike quickly revealed why O’Keeffe fell in love with the land, especially since she was a New Yorker.

Ghost ranch hike 1Ghost ranch cactusGhost ranch hike 3Ghost Ranch Coelophysis QuarryGhost ranch hike 4Ghost ranch hike 5

From that point on, O’Keeffe spent her summers at Ghost Ranch and winters in New York.   Aurther Pack offered to rent her his own residence called Rancho de los Burros.  But one spring O’Keeffe arrived unexpectedly and found someone else lodging in the home.  She was reminded by Pack that she did not own the house, so in 1940 she invested in a very small piece of Ghost Ranch land: a house and seven acres. Eventually she wanted to spend more time in the area, so she bought three acres in the village of Abiquiu. She spent three years remodeling the land’s crumbling adobe, and after her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, died, O’Keeffe left New York to make Abiquiu her permanent residence.

In 1955, the Packs gave Ghost Ranch to the Presbyterian Church.  At first Georgia was annoyed, but eventually warmed up to the church and new owners. During the last few years of her life O’Keeffe was unable to go to Ghost Ranch from Abiquiu, and eventually moved to Santa Fe where she died in her 99th year.

New Mexico is a magical place; its state motto is “The Land of Enchantment.”  If you get a chance, go be enchanted!

Here are some tips and links if you plan on visiting the area:

The Ghost Ranch website

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

An interesting perspective from Gerald Heard (Philosopher, historian etc.) on O’Keeffe’s paintings of her husband and D.H. Lawrence

O’Keefe’s home in Abiquiu, NM


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