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The Long Journey to the Luxurious Wild

Vermejo Offers Distance That Gets You Off the Grid and Close to Adventure

Article by Daniel Gertson

Photography by Kevin Cole & Daniel Gertson

Originally published in Boerne Lifestyle

The first thing you realize about Vermejo is how remote it is. It’s more than three and a half hours from the nearest commercial airport in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you go private and fly into the closest town, you still have an hour’s drive ahead of you. Oh, and you’ll have to do the last eight-ish miles without pavement. See? Remote. The second thing you realize about Vermejo is that the distance you travel to get there is worth it.

Situated in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico, Vermejo is an all-inclusive wilderness resort that spans more than 550,000 acres—nearly double the size of San Antonio and more than half that of Rhode Island. It’s part of Ted Turner Reserves, a preservation project the media mogul began to care for more than 2 million acres across the United States.

Archaeologists say indigenous groups first settled here around the Year 400. Tribes and cultures came and went, as did the Spanish and Mexican empires. In 1902, William Bartlett, a Chicago businessman, purchased more than 200,000 acres to use as an outdoorsman’s retreat and built the three central buildings on the property, two of which still stand today—Casa Grande and Casa Minor, now known as the Turner House. In the 1920s, it changed hands and became known as the “Vermejo Club,” a private escape for the political and cultural elites like Harvey Firestone, Cecil B. DeMille, and Herbert Hoover. Over the decades, cattle ranchers, hunters, and fishermen used the ranch until 1996, when Turner bought the property.

Turner had a different vision for the land, one that looked more like the distant past. He phased out cattle operations and introduced an aggressive slate of conservation programs to restore the original flora and fauna. This work includes forestry, wildlife management, and stream restoration efforts that continue today. Thus, the remoteness and intimacy are intentional.

Once you do get here, you quickly begin to appreciate the solitude. A “full house” is only around 100 guests, so the population density always remains tangibly low. That’s wonderful when you’re hiking, touring, mountain biking, or riding a horse through the pristine wilderness. It’s incredibly tranquil when Kevin—one of the expert hunting/fishing/photography guides on staff—has you out on the water fishing in the early morning, the sound of the gentle chop against the boat or the river babbling by. The shooting sports complexes are the only loud places on the property. Other than the bar or dining room, perhaps.

The kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Giovanni Lanzante, who—along with his outstanding staff—prepares three gourmet meals each day on a menu that changes daily. Come hungry for modern American with a Southwest flair; think local fish and game, ranch-raised bison, Hatch chilis (of course), produce from the on-site greenhouse, and a carefully curated selection of beer, wine, and spirits. If you want to make a special event of it, you can picnic by the lake, take happy hour on a mountain peak, or revel in the six-course “Opulence” tasting menu.

The ranch resort may lack neighbors, but it’s not lacking anything else. The staff, accommodations, activities, and scenery make you feel like you’re right where you belong.  If the first two things you notice at Vermejo are the remoteness, you realize the third and fourth things when you leave: how much you can’t wait to go back and how grateful you are to have experienced this place that may be remote but is also charming, historic, wild, and beautiful.

tedturnerreserves.com/vermejo | 877-288-7637

  • Casa Grande