Refined ranch life at New Mexico properties

Visitors hiking the mesas of Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch. Photo Credit: Jeri Clausing
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On its face, Truth or Consequences, N.M., seems an odd place to launch a high-end adventure tours company.

Two-and-a-half hours south of the state's only major airport and in the opposite direction from the popular mountain-tourism enclaves of Santa Fe and Taos, the small, hippie-style hot springs town in southeastern New Mexico has traditionally had little to offer outside of its funky inns and RV parks that have direct taps into the hot springs acquifer that runs underneath it.

But Truth or Consequences, or T or C, is also midway between two of billionaire conservationist Ted Turner's sprawling ranches, which he recently opened up for private, guided activities, from mountain biking and hiking to wildlife and ancient artifacts viewing. It is also the closest town to New Mexico's Spaceport America, the nation's first purpose-built spaceport and the base for Richard Branson's commercial space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic.

Put all those elements together, along with Turner's recent acquisition of T or C's nicest hotel, the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, opening his Ladder Ranch home for private rentals, and a trip to T or C with Ted Turner Expeditions (TTX) offers a chance to experience some of New Mexico's history, future, beauty and wildlife at its untouched finest.

An outdoor dining area at the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa.
An outdoor dining area at the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa.

On a recent three-day trip sponsored by TTX, we started at the Sierra Grande. While most rooms are simple (but comfortable), the highlight is the spa, with large, stone tubs that tap into the hot springs. Each night's rental comes with a 30-minute soak in what many believe to be healing waters, and guests can choose between several private rooms, including one outside.

Over the next two days we hiked and explored Turner's Armendaris and Ladder ranches, which despite their proximity to each other offer distinctly different New Mexico experiences. 

The nearly 363,000-acre Armendaris is in the Chihuahuan Desert, with mesas that offer views in all directions of the stunning high-desert landscape and distant mountain ranges.

The living and dining room at Ladder Ranch.
The living and dining room at Ladder Ranch.

The Ladder Ranch is to the west, at the edge of the Gila National Forest. During our hikes and four-wheel-drive tours, we encountered oryx, bighorn sheep, bison and elk. And no other humans except for TTX employees and the biologists Turner sponsors for conservation programs.

We spent the next two nights at Ladder in Turner's private, turn-of-century ranch home that he carefully updated with his wife at the time, Jane Fonda, to preserve its authentic charm. We were welcomed by a roaring fire and gourmet dinner.

The rate for the ranch house is $6,000 a night for four, and include a private chef and unlimited excursions. Larger groups can also be accommodated in the upstairs annex and nearby hunting lodge, complete with an 1870s pool table from a bar in the nearby ghost town of Hermosa, which is now part of the ranch.

Bison at the nearly 363,000-acre Armendaris Ranch in New Mexico.
Bison at the nearly 363,000-acre Armendaris Ranch in New Mexico.

While TTX has a list of half- and full-day excursions, they can be personalized. TTX expects to soon expand its offerings to include helicopter tours to hard-to-reach places like Hermosa as well as horseback riding.

TTX also runs Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico, which has recently been opened up for guests and adventure tours, as well.

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