A peaceful setting while exploring Vermejo.

My latest solo cross-country road trip through New Mexico gave me the opportunity to discover new wide-open spaces with one revisit to a favorite spot from my first quest many years ago. My adventure included some areas in New Mexico that I’ve never explored and oh, what a journey!

I’m always searching for something more. A deeper meaning of life with lessons along the way. Maybe we all do that as travelers. I just know that I’m different when I’m on the road. I lose myself in the beauty of what surrounds me and reconnect to a deeper part of myself when in nature. There’s an emptiness and a fullness at the same time. I yearn to be on the road – it’s been my greatest teacher.

“The open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.”  – William Least Heat Moon

This journey was also about nature, conservancy, and what Ted Turner is doing for the environment.

Ted Turner?   
Yes, this adventure brought me to what will be one of his legacies – Ted Turner Reserves.

I consider myself to be “in the know” about most things travel and I didn’t know about these Reserves until late 2022 and visiting them was, well, life changing. My adventure was more than eye-opening, it was soulful, it was an awakening, and I know it will stay with me as I continue to learn more about the work that Turner is doing for the environment, which, of course, has an impact on travel and tourism.

One of the common threads belongs to the American Bison. More on that later.

Sierra Grande, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth or Consequences was originally known as Hot Springs, and they renamed it Truth or Consequences (T or C by the locals) after the radio show called Truth or Consequences, in March 1950. It’s a quirky and artsy town with a laid-back vibe.

My first stop was to revisit Sierra Grande in Truth or Consequences as it had been quite a few years since my last visit and since that time it became part of Ted Turner Reserves (in 2013).

The historic 17-room Sierra Grande (built in 1928-29) sits on (104°F) geothermal hot springs, which is a highlight at this wellness resort as your stay includes one 30-minute complimentary soak per day. There’s a full-service spa (services are a la carte) and a restaurant that currently serves breakfast. Go for the blue corn pancakes!

While I enjoyed the Turner Suite for my stay at Sierra Grande, a more private area is the Adobe Casita. It’s a lovely space with a family room, two-bedrooms, two-bathrooms, and a private courtyard with an outdoor hot springs tub. This is the one to stay in if you’re traveling with friends or family.

A few restaurants are within walking distance of Sierra Grande including The Giddy Up Café with their Macaroni & Polenta house specials and they’re also known for Sunday Brunch.

With a limited number of restaurants in the area, you’ll want to add Giddy Up to your list and Outer Edge Pizza. In addition to the interesting pizza menu at Outer Edge, they also offer salads, sandwiches, pasta, and locally produced wine and beer.

Cooked to order Blue Corn Pancakes – a resort favorite (and mine, too!).

Armendaris and Ladder, Southern New Mexico

Save Everything

From Sierra Grande you can explore the two Reserve ranches, Armendaris, and Ladder, and they’re both about 30-minutes away from Sierra Grande on an unpaved road for part of the way. El Paso, TX and Albuquerque, NM airports are about 2-hours away and the closest options.

One of my favorite movie quotes, which Ted Turner mentions in his book, “Call Me Ted,” certainly sums up Ted’s environmental endeavors, the “Save Everything” mission, and these two guest ranches.

“Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”  – Gerald O’Hara, Gone with the Wind

When I’m driving in the desert and surrounded by wide-open spaces…I often wonder what could be out there. Well, I got that question answered on the stretch of road that led me to the first ranch.

Armendaris Ranch, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Armendaris, located in the Chihuahuan desert, sits on 360,000 acres and saying wide-open spaces does not begin to describe this vast land. To say that I was in awe when I arrived would be an understatement. I don’t think I would ever have had this experience if it wasn’t for this visit, and hopefully, there will be a future stay with some friends.

Views of the Fra Cristobal Mountain range are breathtaking, and the dark skies are perfect for stargazing.

Wood beams, Mexican Barrel Chairs, and Pottery for an authentic Hacienda vibe.

If you want to truly relax on your vacation, this is the place, with four guest rooms including a master suite (king), two king bedrooms, and a double-queen bedroom. Did I say it’s spacious?!

There’s a beautiful Santa-Fe style kitchen, Southwestern décor for the dining and living room areas with wood beam ceilings, game room, bar, reading and entertainment spaces, and fitness and massage areas.

The spacious New Mexican Chile adorned courtyard has a fire pit along with an outdoor kitchen, which allows more opportunities to be outside. A stay at Armendaris includes a private chef, host, and activity guides. Adventures available from this location include biking, hiking, and culinary adventures, the Jornado del Muerto historic trail (90-mile stretch on El Camino Real), a Paleontology (Sierraceratops turneri – large horned dinosaur – discovery site), Bighorn Sheep, and one of the most exciting experiences is to witness 1.6 million free-tailed (Mexican) bats on their nightly flight during the summer (June-September).

Did you know? 
Ted Turner is one of the largest individual landowners in the U.S. with 2 million acres.

Ladder Ranch, Caballo, New Mexico

Ladder sits on 156,000 acres and is located by four Rio Grande tributaries. This property offers sweeping mountain views, and historic and wildlife tours. You can even go for an e-bike ride, hike, or visit a ghost town.

The two-story four-bedroom country house is completely different from the Hacienda at Armendaris and equally beautiful with newly renovated bathrooms, a master bedroom and two other bedrooms on the first floor. The inviting porch reminded me of a simpler time of life. The 2nd floor suite is accessible via the outdoor stairs and also has a sitting area and bathroom.

A welcome sign letting you know you’re almost at the country house.

Just like Armendaris, there are tours that can be arranged, and this property offers opportunities to visit petroglyphs, pottery shards, and adobe ruins.

If you want to see wildlife, then early is best, and although I didn’t see bison, elk, or deer at Ladder, I did see a family of javelinas…from a distance.

As mentioned earlier, there were lessons along the way, and nature was my teacher as I learned so much about wildlife, biodiversity, and more about the New Mexico desert despite living there at one time and traveling there many times over the years.

Another interesting point about Ladder is the partnership for the species restoration program with the Turner Endangered Species Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The Mexican gray wolf, the Chiricahua leopard frog, and the Bolson tortoise are just three of the species in the program.

Vermejo, Raton, New Mexico

Snow-capped mountains in the distance lured me closer to my destination and I had a distinct feeling that they were going to be part of Vermejo, an all-inclusive luxury resort on over 550,000 acres. It is much more than a resort and was my greatest teacher on this journey.

When you stay at Vermejo you are part of the true American West with a deep connection to nature, eco-tourism, outdoor adventure, roaming American Bison, elk, and so much more.

Casa Grande Mansion – luxurious, elegant, and grand.

“When we connect with nature, we heal ourselves. When we protect nature, we heal the planet.” – Ted Turner

Upon arrival, I met my personal guide, Jason Arrington, Vermejo’s Groups & Events Supervisor. Little did I know then how much the next 48 hours would mean to me. And those snow-capped mountains were part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range and were even more breathtaking from many vantage points at Vermejo.

Casa Grande (built in the early 1900’s) was my home during my stay. It has 7 guest rooms (with private bathrooms) and beautiful spaces including a chef’s kitchen, expansive living room area, sitting areas, and a conservatory. It’s the main building – actually, a mansion – and filled with character and charm. If walls could talk…. oh, the stories they’d tell.

In addition to Casa Grande, guests can also stay at the Turner House, Costilla Fishing Lodge (45-minutes from the main lodge and great for a retreat), and there are several cottages on the property.

An idyllic setting for our canoeing adventure.

Back to adventure – Jason and I toured the high country, and remember, over 550,000 acres, so a lot to explore and we were only going to scratch the surface. We were also on the lookout for bison as I didn’t see any at Armendaris or Ladder, so my heart was set on getting a glimpse at Vermejo since more than 1200 roam the property.

Munn Lake, one of Vermejo’s 19 fishable lakes, offered an idyllic setting for our canoeing adventure with views of Ash Mountain and Little Costilla Peak in the distance. Nothing says mindfulness like the stillness of a lake.

“At Vermejo, the environment enhances even the simple pleasures.” – Jason Arrington, Vermejo’s Groups & Events Supervisor

Vermejo’s Jason Arrington and I exploring high country and on the lookout for roaming bison.

As we were driving back toward the Lodge, Jason explained that when Bison graze, their high angled hooves cut into the land as opposed to cattle, which then creates a natural aeration and opportunity for wind-swept seeds to take hold thus supporting overall ecology.

I learned that a straight river is an unhealthy river, and a meandering river is a healthy river. I also learned more about the importance of beavers and dams, about Riparian Restoration in the upper Vermejo River watershed, and the restoration of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout to Costillo Creek. I (finally) learned how to cast a flyfishing line (not sure how to choose a fly yet) and I experienced a wobble deck at the shooting range and succeeded in hitting a clay target.

A serious moment for my first time. No Annie Oakley but I hit one clay target.

While I loved visiting the other Reserves, I found inspiration at windy “Inspiration Point,” with views as far as your eyes can see and I resolved to live my life more fully with a sense of adventure in more of what I do.

Hiking, UTV tours, horseback riding, disc golf, and the list goes on. There is so much for adults and kids to experience at Vermejo.

Back to the Bison……they appeared out of nowhere and it was such a thrill to see the herd from a close and safe distance. My eyes met their eyes, and, in that moment, I felt more connected to Save Everything.

Castle Rock Bison Herd Roaming Vermejo

Four Must Do’s at Vermejo

  1. Go for a Hike
    • There are hiking paths and nature trails for exploring meadows, creeks, and lakes. A guide will assist you in finding your best path.
  2. Go Fly-Fishing.
    • First, learn how to cast a fly-fishing line and then find a lake – there are 19 of them!
  3. Experience the Cowboy Breakfast
    • Get up early, grab your hat, and mosey up the trail.
  4. Clay-shooting on the Wobble Deck
    • A first for me and I hit one out of five – not bad for a novice.

Bonus: Wildlife Safari

This Safari offers an opportunity to see elk, whitetail deer, bison, and more animals roaming on the range.

Dramatic Views of the Great Lawn from the Veranda at the Main Lodge.

Getting to Vermejo:

Colorado Springs Airport is about 2 ½ hours from Raton, NM.  Denver, CO and Albuquerque, NM airports at 3 ½ hours.

What to pack:

Closed toe shoes, sandals, long pants/shorts, jeans, hiking boots, backpack, hat, short and long sleeve tops, sweater/jacket (seasonal), bandana, bathing suits, camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, cowboy hat.

Travel Tips and Info:

The Sangre de Cristo Mountain range in the distance and what lured me to Vermejo.