For many people, hiking conjures up images of dense forest overgrowth, rocky crags, and maybe the occasional stream or waterfall. But for us, a good hike can be much more than that. Especially when it’s a desert trail.
Some time ago, in New Mexico, we decided to explore all of the natural wonders Ghost Ranch has to offer. While the Ranch offers facilities for spiritual health and wellness, a museum, and a restaurant, there are eight noteworthy hiking trails as well. We tackled the most popular, Chimney Rock. In the three mile round trip Chimney Rock Trail, you hike upwards to a peak elevation of over 7100 feet and return back using the same trail going downhill. The hike offers breathtaking views of the Piedra Lumbre basin. Within lies the man-made Lake Abiquiu, which on a clear day perfectly reflects the azure skies above. Contrasted against the red rocks, it is a desert sight to behold.
As its name suggests, Chimney Rock is a dominant sight on this trail. If you’re able to get out early and beat the heat, you won’t have to jockey with other groups of hikers. You can spend your time admiring one of nature’s true wonders— desert flowers. Because of few leaves or the development of deep roots that allow them to get as much moisture as possible, these plants have adapted to the extreme desert heat. The rock itself towers into the sky, and at its peak you can gaze out over the desert plain, sparsely dotted with vegetation.
Gazing out at the wilderness from the top of mesas is a sublime experience. It’s hard to believe that just a two-hour drive south will take you to Albuquerque, a city of over half a million people. Once you experienced the calm of the wilderness, it should come as no surprise to learn that Ghost Ranch is where Georgia O’Keeffe found inspiration for some of her finest work. After a chance stay at the ranch during a visit with friends, O’Keeffe made a point of returning to that particular slice of New Mexican wilderness for years. Eventually, she bought a plot of land and an old adobe home. She fixed up the home, and fought for her solitude— even after the ranch was sold and transformed it into the spiritual center we know today. O’Keeffe drew inspiration from the surrounding desert and the peace it provided.