Ghost Ranch

The town along the road to Ghost Ranch is Abiquiui (pronounced ah-bi-kyu), where the artist Georgia O’Keeffe had a home and studio. Her adobe complex is circled by adobe walls. I had tried to get tickets online a month in advance. At the Abiquiui Welcome Center, I was told that there are only six people allowed on each tour and the waiting list to tour the buildings was about six months long, so I understood the long wait.

I parked on the side of Saint Thomas church that dominates the unpaved dirt square, and walked to the center of the square. The streets were deserted; no one in sight. Suddenly a car sped around the corner and pulled in front of the church in a cloud of dust. A man ran out of the car and into the building. Moments later the bells pealed the hour. He must have been running late!

Abiquiui library

Just past the town of Abiquiui lies the sprawling canyon now called Ghost Ranch, between dramatic cliffs of red and yellow. The area reputedly got its name from cattle rustlers who hid their herds there. An animal skull marked the turnoff into the ranch. In 1928, it changed hands as the result of a poker game. Sold several times after, it became a dude ranch for visitors.

Georgia O’Keefe fell in love with the landscape and purchased it in 1940. She lived there (as well as in Abiquiui), and it became known through her paintings of the striking scenery. The ranch is now an arts and retreat center owned by the Presbyterian Church and is open for hiking and tourists. Many movies have been filmed there, including old westerns, one of the Indiana Jones films, and City Slickers.

In 2017, I took a Silversmith class at the Ghost Ranch and spent a week there. The jewelry lab was open late into the evening, so I took advantage of the open access to tools and equipment. Early each morning I hiked up the cliff trails, watching the colors changing at the start of day, the shapes of rock and wood and cactus against the vivid blue sky. A few times I joined a yoga session to wind down at the end of the day.

Although the course was excellent and there were other art offerings of interest, I’m hesitant to take another class there. Apparently, it’s been a gathering place for families that have come every year for decades, often involved in religious activities, and the social interaction was kind of strange if you didn’t belong. Fortunately, I made a friend, a man who had come for a personal retreat during a change of life, also there alone, and we’d find each other for meals and conversation.

Down in the valley

Labyrinth

A storm is on the way.

Most of the buildings blend into the landscape.

Meditation Center

My Silversmith class

My last stop in New Mexico was a hot springs soak at Ojo Caliente (Spanish for Hot Eye). Prices had gone up considerably since I was last through this area, but it was an opportunity I had planned on and couldn’t pass up. I spent a relaxing afternoon moving between the pools of different temperatures set against the red rock outcroppings, winding down from the pace of the road trip.

One more post on this New Mexico road trip to come.
Santa Fe road trip: LeadvilleSanta Fe landmarksWalking Santa FeBandelier National Monument, New Mexico towns, Ghost Ranch, Antonito

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

38 thoughts on “Ghost Ranch

    1. It is a stunning landscape, nice to spend some time there. The class was excellent, but there are so many different kinds of equipment needed, I haven’t continued on my own. I enjoyed learning the skills and making some pieces.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A “ghost ranch,” indeed! I can imagine it being a meditative retreat for those wanting to get away from the big cities and to enjoy Nature’s beauty in an isolated area. The rocks and cliffs have a mystical charm to them, and they remind me of “vortex” sensation I felt in Sedona. A great place for you to relax and have a peaceful stay!

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  2. I really love these landscapes! We drove up to Ghost Ranch to see the scenery that had inspired O’Keefe but I didn’t even know it was possible to visit her home, and we didn’t go into Abiquiui – I wish we had now, seeing your photos of the church and library. Your cactus flowers are beautiful and vibrant, the twisted trees amazing and the moon shot is wonderful too 🙂

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    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed those images. They spoke to me. There wasn’t much more to see in Abiquiui than the church and library! It’s a quiet place, but I have read that some artists have set up homes in the vicinity.

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  3. We didn’t make it here on our roadtrip, but I think maybe I’m okay with that. It’s pretty scenery for sure, but the rest of it sounds like maybe it’s not quite my style. How fun that you got to take a class, though!

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  4. What an incredible place and so inducive to artistic endeavours. No wonder Georgia O’Keeffe called the area home. I only knew her by name and, after reading your article, decided to find out more about her. What a fascinating character who lived to a ripe old age. Love the shot of your friend painting alone, glad you found some good company amid the strange vibe.

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  5. The landscape of Ghost Ranch appears to be completely pristine. No wonder artists are attracted to the area. Our own neighborhood of horse properties in Colorado was once a single ranch of thousands of acres, lost in a poker game at some point in its history. Land seems to be a common bet back in the day.

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    1. I’m sure much of the U. S. west were spacious ranches back in the day, when anyone could claim the land. It would be interesting to learn what all would have been wagered in those wild west poker days!

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  6. I’ve been eyeing up the (Santa Fe) Ojo Caliente (no pun intended 👀) for a future spring break trip, but it seems like it would be awfully cold, despite the warmth of the pools. One of the things I remember about my first road trip out there with the husband is that, while it never rained on us, we often saw storms happening in the distance in NM. Montana is not the only Big Sky country!

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