Before, the everyday grind was getting to us: bumper-to-bumper traffic, work emails, cranky overscheduled kids with too much homework, cellphone brain fog, the new puppy keeping us up at night. Now we have new and unexpected troubled times taking over our days and topping off our stress levels. In the ostensibly “normal” times pre COVID-19, breathing in fresh mountain air and hearing the wind in tall trees seemed like tranquility far out of reach as my husband and I wearily piled into the Uber to head to LAX. To travel to this destination was just what we needed: a long weekend at Vermejo. And now, from experience, I can say a few days at this magical place is still the perfect escape.
Located in Northern New Mexico on more than 550,000 acres (close to the size of Canyonlands, Zion and Redwood National Parks combined), Vermejo is a former cattle ranch and the flagship property of Ted Turner Reserves. This hospitality company is grounded in his deeply held belief in the healing powers of nature. With the motto “save everything” as the driving force for all of Turner’s guest properties (of which there are currently four), Vermejo is truly unique. It not only boasts world class and beautiful accommodations, but does so with a true commitment to conservation and the restoration of native ecosystems in some of the most pristine wilderness in the country.
Charcoal ovens dot the landscape at sunset.
Travel Health and Safety
The resort is also committed to the health of all its guests. They have implemented regulations to assure social distance practicing on this spectacular expanse of land. This includes health questionnaires and electronic and in-room check-in. They have spaced out dining facilities, sanitized activities equipment, face mask requirements for guides just to name a few. The property is also flexible in its cancellation policy and is operating at a reduced capacity.
An abundance of wildlife, like this brown bear, is part of the ecosystem at Vermejo.
Once You’ve Settled in
If you are lucky enough to travel to Vermejo undoubtedly you will feel as we did. We were transporting into a different world. With the Sangre De Cristo Mountains rising above as a backdrop, we were to witness breathtaking sunsets. We witnessed the rolling green hillsides and sparklingly rivers. Even an abundance of wildlife such as elk, bighorn sheep and bald eagles were present. We hiked to vistas that seemed endless and rode sturdy horses accompanied by an exceptionally knowledgeable guide to a picnic (freshly packed by the kitchen staff). All by a clear glassy lake and tried our hand at fly fishing (no luck but with that view we didn’t mind!). We took early morning yoga classes in a warm sunny atrium within Casa Grande, Ted Turner’s former residence. At this travel destination there is certainly no shortage of activity.
Costilla Lodge at Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve resort.
Fine Dining Destinations
After each day of full outdoor activities, our appetites were definitely on point. Fresh bison and quail are popular menu items, and the extensive greenhouse lends itself to a farm-to-table feel. When one thinks of Ted Turner, images of the force-of-nature business tycoon, founder of CNN and owner of professional sports teams inevitably come to mind. But for Turner and two more generations of family, conservation and steward-ship of earth are the core of their actions. Through efforts such as turning over the properties and thousands of acres of land for the good of wildlife and creating the Turner Endangered Species Fund, at Vermejo alone two endangered species perilously close to being lost have now found their way back to healthy populations: the American bison and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. If you haven’t experienced it, seeing a bison roaming wild is one of the great spectacles of the American West.
While departing Vermejo at the end of our glorious weekend, we were thanked wholeheartedly by the kind, warm staff. Back in my homeland, I feel inspired to keep traveling with purpose and replay a Turner quote in my mind. “When we connect with nature, we heal ourselves. When we protect nature, we heal the planet.” tedturnerreserves.com/vermejo
Top Image: Horseback riding on the spectacular Vermejo property. Read all about the fl agship property of the Ted Turner Reserve on the following pages.
Photographs by Sean Fitzgerald