Northwest to O’Keeffe Country
See the Cottonwood tree lined river beds, sandstone cliffs, and stunning colorful mesas that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe to leave New York City to make New Mexico her home. This day trip from Santa Fe heading northwest will be one you’ll always remember.
Home of Georgia O’Keeffe’s restored adobe hacienda and studio, Abiquiu gives you a glimpse of the landscapes O’Keeffe made famous. Guided tours are the only way to see inside her home and studio which looks the same today as when she lived there. Book far in advance as tours are often full. http://www.okeeffemuseum.org/abiquiu-tour.html
Located in the Rio Chama River Valley of the Carson National Forest between Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch is an eerie white limestone rock formation known as the Plaza Blanca – the “White City.” Its 60-foot-high obelisks and otherworldly spires have been the subject of many photographs and works of art over the years, including Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1940 painting entitled “The White Place.” More recently it was a locale for the 2011 movie Cowboys & Aliens starring Daniel Craig.
The Plaza Blanca’s unusual landscape invites contemplation. To many, the towering white stone pillars and gnome-like hoodoos feel almost spiritual in nature. Apart from O’Keeffe, another famous celebrity enamored by Plaza Blanca is actress and Santa Fe resident, Shirley MacLaine, who believes that sites like this aren’t simply “exotic places” on the Earth. She believes it has transformational power, a place “to heal physical, emotional and spiritual pain.” Bring plenty of sunscreen and water.
The rock formations are on the grounds of the Dar Al Islam mosque and Islamic education center. The Center welcomes visitors to their land and no prior arrangements are required.
Ghost Ranch was a frequent retreat for Georgia O’Keefe and for a short time, served as her home. It is now owned by the Presbyterian Church. The Ranch gave O’Keefe the freedom to paint what she saw and felt. Visitors can look around and identify many of the scenes she painted. Red and gray hills like those across from the roadside park south of the Ranch headquarters were frequent subjects. Pedernal, the flat-topped mesa to the south, was probably her favorite subject. “It’s my private mountain,” she said. “God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it.” There’s abundant hiking throughout the area.
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
This Roman Catholic Benedictine Monastery is situated in beautiful Chama Canyon surrounded by miles of government-protected wilderness, thus assuring and promoting solitude and quiet for the cenobitic life. It is accessible by Forest Service Road 151, a 13 mile dirt road off of US route 84 about 1 mile north of Ghost Ranch and 1 mile south of Echo Amphitheater. The original monastery was designed by George Nakashima, the famous Japanese-American architect and woodworker. The chapel is renowned for its beauty. The Monks operate a small brewery producing three beers. Our favorite is Monks’ Ale. It the only monastery-run brewery in the United States. http://christdesert.org
Three miles north of Ghost Ranch on NM 84 is natural rock and sandstone cliff formation creating a natural amphitheater. Visitors can take advantage of covered picnic areas and hiking trail that ascends at a moderately easy pace.
Further up US 84 in Los Ojos, you can visit the showroom of Tierra Wools. This weaving studio & showroom is part of a weaving cooperative that is more than 100 years old. See a glimpse of a time when the Rio Grande weaving tradition maintained village artisans through long cold winters. Back then, Rio Grande weavers quenched a deep thirst for color, harmony and spirituality by weaving for family, church and community. Today, Tierra Wools continues that legacy, providing a place for local weavers to hone their age-old craft and explore new frontiers in designs and techniques that are rooted in tradition. http://www.handweavers.com/
Nestled in the valley of the New Mexico Rocky Mountains lies the small railroad town of Chama. Crowds may be smaller there, but the attractions are grand! For the history buff, art lover, nature enthusiast and cultural explorer, the Rio Chama Valley offers boundless opportunities. Chama is the southern terminus of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.