Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico is many things to many people. This is not uncommon for a an area that transcends many eras and was occupied by so many different types of inhabitants. To be sure, just as with the American southwest in general, pueblo tribes inhabited this region which is located northwest of Santa Fe and southwest of Taos New Mexico. This is a beautiful land with colored red rocks and unique rock formations, many of them with given names. This is the land of today’s Ghost Ranch.
The name Ghost Ranch became attached to this particular location from the many stories that evolved of ghosts and legends of hangings in the ranch’s history.
Geographically, Ghost Ranch is located in the scenic and remote Piedra Lumbre basin of northern New Mexico. The area we call Ghost Ranch encompasses about 22,000 acres of color and vast expanses at an elevation of 6,500 feet.
Inhabitants of this region, after the pueblo Indians resided there, were of course the Spaniards and after them the Mexicans. The first Spanish family that lived at today’s Ghost Ranch were named the Gallegos. Their ranch was named Arroyo Seco Ranch and they survived at this location during the early 1800’s with water from the Rito del Yeso which had a small flow year around. This was the start of permanent settlement in the Piedra Lunbre basin. Settlement there was not easy because of the remoteness and the water needed. In fact, while the Rito del Yeso did flow, it was more of a trickle than anything else.
From the early 1800’s to the present, the place named today Ghost Ranch went through many transformations. From ranching to dude ranching to spiritual and artistic uses, and as a renowned educational conference center, Ghost Ranch was a home to both the famous and not so famous.
The beginning of the modern story of Ghost Ranch goes back to the year 1936 when the acreage was purchased by a man named Arthur Newton Pack. Pack was the co-founder of the American Nature Association. On a side note, just two years prior to Pack’s acquisition of the ranch, Georgia O’Keeffe, the well known American painter, began spending her summers there. She would continue to do so and would also maintain a home a few miles to the south in Abiquiu as well. Eventually Arthur Pack would give away Ghost Ranch to the Presbyterian Church in 1955. During the years that Pack and his wife Phoebe lived there, they came to appreciate both the beauty of the surroundings and the spiritual feelings the ranch seemed to inspire to those who visited it. Over all the years that the Presbyterian Church has owned this property, they have worked very hard to establish programs, facilities and the grounds in general into a world renown conference center and study site. Today, Ghost Ranch schedules issues of local and regional significance into their programs in hopes of exposing participants to new cultural, historical and religious ideas. The ranch’s location in northern New Mexico provides the atmosphere that makes the programs offered there a unique experience for all.
The Ghost Ranch website lists the programs offered. Fees listed for the various programs indicate that lodging and meals are included. Some programs are also offered on a day basis. The Ghost Ranch website has all details on dates, costs and what is included with the registration fee. Lodging at Ghost Ranch consists of comfortable housing accommodations reflective of its origins as a working ranch. All lodging is in easy walking distances to the classrooms.Walkways are via dirt paths or walkways. The library with it’s over 16,000 volumes is open twenty four hours per day. Also available are hiking trails and trail rides.
Another quite interesting offering I’ve enjoyed is the tour bus that will take you to certain remote locations on the ranch of which Georgia O’Keeffe used for some of her paintings along with some history about this well known American painter. It’s been noted that some of O’Keeffe’s favorite subjects to paint were the hills across from the ranch headquarters and Kitchen Mesa at the upper end of the valley.
Also on the grounds of Ghost Ranch are the Museums of Anthropology and Paleontology. Ghost Ranch is about a one and one-half hour drive north of Santa Fe. Whether you’re planning on registering for a class or just visiting northern New Mexico, you will enjoy a trip to Ghost Ranch.
(Photos from author’s private collection)