Back to Ghost Ranch

After another busy week of meetings and phone calls about the project, I took a moment to look back to where it all started.

“On June 15, 2006 after giving his finger prints to the Social Security office in Helena, MT in order to insure that he would receive medical care, Chub stumbled in the office for another dialysis treatment.  He knew that he would almost certainly be captured and he was right.”

Three years later after hundreds of hours of interviews his story took shape in a place where magic has happened on more than one occasion. The following article ran in my weekly column in the Examiner Enterprise out of Bartlesville, Oklahoma about the trip during which the first thirty thousand words were written.

Ghost Ranch

This week I’m taking you to a place whose history includes cattle rustlers, ghosts and high stakes poker games along with atomic scientists, dinosaurs and the famous artist Georgia O’Keefe.  Red Dawn, The Gambler, City Slicker, Indiana Jones and Wyatt Earp are just a few of the movies filmed in the area. This spectacular place offers visitors unsurpassed scenery and wildlife that take center stage in life there. There is plenty of camping and adobe cabins for rent as well as a lodge and meeting facilities. The site is operated by the Presbyterian Church as an education and retreat center and is open to the public all year round. It’s off the beaten track, about two hours north of Santa Fe, New Mexico on US Highway 84 between markers 224 and 225. You follow a long dirt road that dead ends in a canyon and you have arrived. The place is called Ghost Ranch and here is some of its history:

Dinosaurs roamed the area in prehistoric times and paleontologists have found the largest collection of dinosaur bones in the world in this area.

In 1730 the Spanish settled there only to be killed by Comanche in 1747.

U.S. soldiers established a military outpost in Abiquiu eight mils south of Ghost Ranch in 1846 and in 1892 the Archuleta brothers built the first house on the property. The brothers and their gang used the canyon to hide stolen cattle until 1903 when local ranchers had finally had their fill and hung most of them.

1933 Arthur Pack, an editor for an East Coast magazine, bought Ghost Ranch after visiting the area for a story. Pack built a dude ranch for the rich and famous and soon many celebrities were regular guests, including Charles and Anne Lindbergh, the Johnson family of Johnson & Johnson and the person who would show the world the astounding beauty of the area, Georgia O’Keefe.

In 1941 Ghost Ranch became part of history again when scientists from Los Alamos who were working on the Manhattan Project started coming to the ranch for rest and relaxation. For security reasons during this period the ranch was placed off-limits for the everyday visitor until 1947.

In 1955 Arthur and Phoebe Pack donated Ghost Ranch to the Presbyterian Church in hopes that the church would make good use of this magical and mystical place. I would say they have succeeded. Hiking, horseback riding, stargazing and exploring the past are just a few of the activities that are available to visitors. But don’t bring your cell phone or your ATM card- they don’t work in this remote area that feels like a step back in time.

Over the years thousands of kids have come to church retreats here and had their horizons expanded by the experience. Peace Corps members and National Guard troops have been trained at the ranch and Georgia O’Keefe even had her ashes scattered over the property when she died in 1986. The Packs would be very happy.

Ghost Ranch is a great place to visit and the 16 hour drive out there is worth every minute too. For more information call (505) 685-4333 or visit


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