Blue sky, green chile, adobe homes...and Georgia O'Keeffe. That's New Mexico.
Georgia O'Keeffe is especially known for her large-scale flowers, but her numerous works in abstract and her simple but stark paintings of 'her' New Mexico landscape are undeniably as equally impressive.
In 1929, O'Keeffe made her first trip to New Mexico, and would spend most parts of the next 2o years on a piece of land at Ghost Ranch painting scenes of areas there. Buying a car and learning to drive, she would venture out from Ghost Ranch to nearby but off the beaten track locations, all fondly known today as O'Keeffe Country. In 1949, she made New Mexico her permanent residence, spending summer months at Ghost Ranch and winter months in her hacienda with a garden in the small town of Abiquiu, some 12 miles away.
O'Keeffe died in Santa Fe on March 6, 1986 at the age of 99.
Ghost Ranch today, after being sold several times over, is an Education and Retreat Center owned by the Presbyterian Church. It is opened to the public, offers seminars that run the gamut, as well as lodging, dining, hiking and various O'Keeffe tours.
A couple of travel partners and I spent a day touring O'Keeffe's home and Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu. The striking landscape at Ghost Ranch, which O'Keeffe so loved, begs to be hiked. Surrounded by mountainous vistas and every landscape color you can imagine, it's easy to understand why O'Keeffe chose this area as her home.
Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch
One of two hikes available on Ghost Ranch is the Chimney Rock Trail. It's a 1.5-mile hike (one way) and is a steady climb 600 feet up. If you go all the way to the top, you'll be standing on the open face of the rock above on the far right. There's a bit of boulder climbing, but no ledges or cliffs to fall off of...nothing scary. The result of the climb can be seen in the next several photos.
A trio of mesas can easily be seen from atop Chimney Rock, including this one (Pack's Peak), Orphan Mesa (barely seen in the distance) and to the left of Pack's Peak: the huge Kitchen Mesa (not seen in this photo).
This photos gives a view of Kitchen Mesa (left), Pack's Peak (center) and Orphan Mesa (just past Pack's Peak).
A view of Pack's Peak, named after Arthur Peak who bought Ghost Ranch in 1935
Georgia O'Keeffe's favorite painting subject was the Pedernal, a 10,000 foot tabletop mountain that happened to be the first thing she saw from her Ghost Ranch home in the morning and the last thing she saw in the evening. She called the Pedernal her private mountain, and said, "God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it." She painted it 28 times. In 1986, O'Keeffe died, and her ashes were scattered on the Pedernal.
Above all, O'Keeffe wanted privacy. Her home on Ghost Ranch is not open to the public, as a way of respecting her wishes, even after death. A bus tour offered by the O'Keeffe museum drives past the home, but does not allow passengers to get off. Not much can be seen, but the bus stopped just long enough for the docent to point out a ladder sticking out above the roof of the house. O'Keeffe would climb up the ladder in the evenings to watch the stars.
Georgia O'Keeffe spent the summer of 1934 in this cabin on Ghost Ranch. At the time it was a Dude Ranch owned by Carol Bishop Stanley. O'Keeffe had already caught a glimpse of Ghost Ranch and instantly fell in love with it.
There's another type of cabin on Ghost Ranch property far removed from the cozy bungalow types used for visitors. This one is empty inside and is used as a movie prop. It's best known for its use in the 1991 Billy Crystal movie "City Slickers." While I was visiting Ghost Ranch, a film crew was setting up for a remake of the movie " The Magnificent Seven" due out in late 2016. A couple other pictures from the set are below.
This is a view of the Chama River Valley from Ghost Ranch looking south toward the Pedernal. The dirt road is the main road into Ghost Ranch. The buildings seen in the center of the photo are temporary.
This scene and the scene left were built for the remake of the movie "The Magnificent Seven." I'll go see the movie just to see how they used this scene. No actors were yet present when I was there. The corral below left is permanent and was part of the "City Slickers" set.
One of the tours offered at Ghost Ranch is the Georgia O'Keeffe Landscape Tour. There is both a walking one and a bus one that take you "on location" to several of O'Keeffe's subjects. Not always are we standing in the exact spot, so the angle is a bit off. Here is one example, entitled "Gerald's Tree."
Another great hiking trail offered on Ghost Ranch is the Cliffside Trail that roams across the Matrimonial Mesa at the base of Kitchen Mesa. Views of the Piedra Lumbre basin are breath-taking on this easy-to-hike trail.
The stunning vistas, of course, are not limited to Ghost Ranch. There is a 12-mile distance between the small village of Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. All along that route, Highway 84, are scenic views such as this one that make you pull over to the side to take it all in. O'Keeffe thought the same. She bought her car and learned to drive so that she could get into the heart of places such as these and spread out her canvas and paints. The next few shots were taken along this route.
Abiquiu Lake and Recreation Area was built on land that once was a part of Ghost Ranch. Boating and fishing are popular activities there...or just grab a picnic spot and take in the surrounding beauty.
Georgia O'Keeffe owned another house besides the one at Ghost Ranch. This one, in the small village of Abiquiu, some 12 miles east of Ghost Ranch, was her home where she could have a garden. Tours are available of this house that sits on a ledge overlooking grand vistas as well as the Highway 84. If one knows where to look, it can be seen from the highway. The tours are through the O'Keeffe Museum and actually take you inside the house. The only place photos are permitted are here, outside the front of the house.
The Highway 84 leading from Espanola to Abiquiu can be clearly seen from O'Keeffe's front yard. At one time she made an abstract of it.
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