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Where the Road ends and the Trail begins…


Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

— Corita Kent


After a year of experiencing everything digitally, most of us can’t wait to return to the real world. Face to face with people: Count me in! This past weekend provided an occasion for time in nature and time with folks. My friend Christine was having a birthday, and her partner Dick wanted to take her someplace special. Los Pinos Guest Ranch in Cowles, New Mexico turned out to be the perfect destination. As Christine’s friend and a longtime fan of Los Pinos Guest Ranch, I was invited along.

Located in northern New Mexico’s high country, Alice and Bill McSweeney’s guest ranch dates back to 1912. Surrounded by towering pines, lovely meadows and mountains, the place is magical. It’s a state-certified historical site. There’s the hundred-year-old main lodge and five cabins for guests. All built of logs. The cabins have wonderful names such as Poco Tiempo, Manana, and La Jolla. Each has a sitting porch and a wood-burning stove. Christine and Dick chose Poco Tempo. La Jolla would be my home away from home. Though simple and rustic, the cabins are luxuriously comfortable.

We relaxed on sofas in the expansive screened-in porch. More guests arrived: a trio of women from Albuquerque. As the day waned, the temperature dropped. We retrieved sweaters and jackets. Jerry, a neighbor, came to the lodge to tell us about the “musical box,” a relic from the 1890s. Precursor to the record player, this musical box was brought to New Mexico years ago by the McSweeney family. Jerry, now a Pecos high country resident, was formerly a structural engineer working for Sandia Laboratory. With amazing patience and expertise, he spent a year coaxing this relic into operating. To an audience of six ranch guests, he explained the musical box’s history: originally created in Europe (Switzerland and Germany), it was the rage when it caught on in America. Jerry ended his talk and began the short concert.After installing a large metal disc, he turned the crank and– voila! — the Blue Danube waltz was playing. The sound was beautiful, a melody that conjured up the ambience of an earlier, simpler time.

Alice served an elegant candle-lit dinner, and we retired to our cabins. The next morning, after a sumptuous breakfast elegantly served by Alice, Christine and I took an hour’s hike on the Panchuela Trail.  We “rusticated” on the porch with Dick and other ranch guests, then left for the second hike of the day, this time with the three of us. After a short drive to La Panchuela campground, we found the last available parking spot and began the upper trail toward the Panchuela caves. 

Los Pinos Ranch’s plan includes sack lunches for the day. Whether guests go hiking, birding, fishing or just want to sit outdoors and read, they will never go hungry. Because it was growing warm, so we saved the caves for another day. Instead, we sat by the creek for a picnic.

That evening after another luscious dinner, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Christine and cheered as she blew out the candles. We would leave the next morning to drive back to Santa Fe, knowing that we would return to Los Pinos Guest Ranch. If there’s a getaway in your future and you like being in nature, I recommend Los Pinos. (Learn more at http://www.lospinosranch.com)