Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Chimney Rock Trail at the Ghost Ranch

Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.

-- Georgia O'Keeffe

In the early-to-mid Twentieth Century, the Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu was used as a summer home by Georgia O'Keeffe, an artist best known for her paintings of flowers, rocks, shells, animal bones, and landscapes, in particular, those of Northern New Mexico and the Ghost Ranch.

The name "Ghost Ranch," or the local name, "El Rancho de los Brujos," was derived from the many tales of ghosts and legends of cattle rustler hangings in the ranch's long history. Over the years the ranch has seen many famous guests, including Charles Lindbergh, Ansel Adams and John Wayne. Even the scientists who worked on the nuclear bomb at Los Alamos took time away from the stresses of the Manhattan Project to relax here.

Located 65 miles northwest of Santa Fe, the Ghost Ranch today is a retreat and education center run by the Presbyterian Church. The 21,000-acre ranch includes several hiking trails that are open to the public - at no cost.

During our visit Kathy and I hiked the three-mile (round-trip) trail to Chimney Rock, one of the most popular destinations on the ranch. Except for a couple of short steep sections, the hike was fairly easy.

Less than half-way up the ridge we saw the first views of Chimney Rock. The trail ends on a relatively narrow mesa just behind Chimney Rock, and provides an up-close, birds-eye view of the towering monolith. You’ll also have commanding 360-degree views of the ranch, the Piedra Lumbre basin and the surrounding mountains.

With the abundance of red rock, the gold and yellow hues of the mesas and odd rock formations, and just the general beauty of the area, it’s easy to see why O'Keeffe was so easily inspired by these landscapes.

Hikers should exercise caution around the loose rock and sand along the mesas. A man fell to his death in 2012 when a rock he was either stepping or standing on broke while hiking the Chimney Rock Trail.

Trail: Chimney Rock Trail
RT Distance: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Max Elevation: 7,100 feet
TH Location: Near the Ghost Ranch museums

Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place - examines the magnificence of O'Keeffe's work through essays by three noted authors. Barbara Buhler Lynes, Curator of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, discusses the relationship of the artist's paintings to the places that inspired her. Frederick Turner contrasts O'Keeffe's fabled aloofness from the well-established art colony in Santa Fe with her intense closeness to the local landscape she so fiercely loved. Lesley Poling-Kempes furnishes a fascinating chronicle of O'Keeffe's years in the region as well as a useful explanation of the geological forces that produced the intense colors and dramatic shapes of the landscapes O'Keeffe painted.

Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe - Georgia O'Keeffe, one of the most original painters America has ever produced, left behind a remarkable legacy when she died at the age of 98. Her vivid visual vocabulary - sensuous flowers, bleached bones against red sky and earth - had a stunning, profound, and lasting influence on American art in this century. O'Keeffe's personal mystique is as intriguing and enduring as her bold, brilliant canvases. Here is the first full account of her exceptional life - from her girlhood and early days as a controversial art her discovery by the pioneering photographer of the New York avant-garde, Alfred her seclusion in the New Mexico desert, where she lived until her death.

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