O’Keeffe’s Prelude to Solitude
Goodbye Big City
Channel Georgia’s Fierce Independence
On my first morning there, I woke up before dawn determined to follow the light spilling into the Canyons and to watch the shadow of Orphan Mesa fall across the land. There are several close hikes through the ranch ‘campus.’ I began on the Mesa where several guest buildings rise above the landscape, then wound watching fat rabbits skitter into the brush. A large deer strode into view and ate berries from low bushes. He looked up and then sauntered slowly out of view, preferring to nosh in private, I suppose.
Box Canyon Trail
Most Popular of Ghost Ranch Hikes: Chimney Rock Trail
The most popular of the trails is a 3-mile round-trip hike up to Chimney Rock. The Ranch is already at 6500 feet, high enough for those of us accustomed to sea level breathing to feel the impact. Chimney Rock trail rises to 7,100 feet to the top of the butte. The views of Piedra Lumbre basin, and Abiquiu Reservoir are worth it.
Matrimonial Mesa Trail
Follow Georgia’s Routes Outside Ghost Ranch
Georgia set up home in New Mexico and bought a car to explore the region – before knowing how to drive! She fitted it with a front seat that pivoted to use it as an easel and stay in the shade to paint. Ever resourceful, she also carried supplies to dig out of sandy stream bottoms.
White Place and the Black
O’Keeffe painted two places often. She called them the White Place and the Black Place. Although the Dar al Islam mosque and education center now own access to the White Place, they welcome visitors who want to hike and see what inspired Georgia. It’s also a favorite location in many motion pictures. The Mosque is about 15 miles southeast of Ghost Ranch.
In the Bisti Badlands of Navajo country you’ll find the Black Place. Georgia said it resembled, “a mile of elephants with gray hills and white sand at their feet and she painted it often during the 1940’s. It’s about one hundred and fifty miles northwest of her home at Ghost Ranch.
Inspiration Beyond a Ghost Ranch Base
Listen up in Carson National Forest
In the Carson National Forest of Rio Arriba County there’s a sandstone cliff formation known for sound, specifically the echoes off a tall, stratified cliff wall. The Echo Amphitheater faces the red stripe and horizontally stratified wall. Follow the flat, concrete trail from the parking lot but be prepared for the last section up a steep stair to the amphitheater. It’s approximately 60 miles from Ghost Ranch.
Wander Through History at Bandolier National Monument
While there are only three miles of road in the Park, hikers can choose from more than seventy miles of hiking trails. Designated a National Monument by President Woodrow Wilson, Bandolier was named for the Swiss-American anthropologist who spent years studying the cultures in the region and supported preservation of ancestral Pueblo archaeological sites. Bandolier is approximately sixty miles south of Ghost Ranch.
Walk with the First People of the Region
Two pueblo communities are close to Ghost Ranch. Visitors are welcomed when they are open to the public. It’s best to check the websites or contact them ahead of time. Each of the vibrant cultures have their own etiquette. Before you go find out more.
Nambe and Ohkay Owingeh
The Pueblo of Nambe is about fifteen miles from Santa Fe at the base of the Sangre Cristo Mountains. The Spanish interpreted the Tewa language name and translated it to refer the rounded earth and village.
The Tewa language is still used at the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo which is about twenty-five miles north of Santa Fe on the Rio Grande. The name, “Place of the Strong People,” can be traced to ancestors said to have emerged from a northern lake. Visit Ohkay.org for more information.
Georgia at Abiquiu
Georgia loved being at Ghost Ranch but in the early twentieth century it wasn’t accessible year round. Winters could be fierce, freezing what water pipes there were and generators had to be fed for light or heat. In her wanderings she found a crumbling adobe building on a ridge at Abiquiu with astounding views of the river valley below. Today the house where she gardened, raised her dogs, and housed visitors is preserved as if she were about to enter from another room. No pictures are allowed inside but know that her love of minimalism kept distractions and color under tight control. From her bedroom she could view cliffs and watch clouds pass over the lowlands. Tours are available at the O’Keeffe Welcome Center with lodging at the Abiquiu Inn next door. Bodes Grocery Store sits on the ‘new’ highway. During Georgia’s tenure it was a stones throw from her gate.
Hike near Abiquiu
A series of trails first developed by the Army Corps of Engineers runs behind the Visitors Center in interlocking loops. Lake and mountain views punctuate the trail.
The Power of Pedernal
The table top profile of Mount Pedernal looms over the Ghost Ranch basin and it was one of O’Keefe’s favorite subjects. Today you can hike in the mountainous forest area where she had her ashes scattered. She claimed the mountain saying, “God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it.” Now it has her.
Find out more about Georgia O’Keefe’s life in this fascinating book.
It’s a quick read and the author has a lot of fun with her insights.
I hope this has your hiking feet twitching to visit Ghost Ranch! Getting into this part of New Mexico shifted my energy so deeply from feeling city manic to a silence so profound I didn’t want to speak for hours. Let me get woo-woo for a moment. Santa Fe New Mexico is said to have been built on a powerful energy vortex. Ghost Ranch hikes may be every bit as moving. I have a sense it’s part of why Georgia spent her last 46 years here and didn’t want to leave.
There are many ways to get to New Mexico. Consider fashioning your own eco-trip as I did (in this earlier post) when traveling from Los Angeles to Santa Fe. Thanks for spending a few moments with me and know that this post includes affiliate links which help to keep the blog going and are offered at no additional cost to you. Thank you and enjoy!
We’re big fans of taking hikes in the beautiful USA Southwest and now I’m eager to explore Georgia O’Keeffe country and walk in her footsteps. She sure had plenty of inspiration for her art in that part of New Mexico.
I think you’d love it there.
This would be a great trail. We did pieces of it….Georgia’s Museum, Bandolier National Monument. It would be nice to connect the dots.
I agree. I look forward to returning to see more.