APHA
Wanderlust—Travel & Adventure

Gathering in the Gila

Experience the wilderness of New Mexico’s Gila National Forest from the best perspective—on the back of a horse.

Article and photography by Abigail Boatwright

Hours from any city, smartphone or GPS connectivity, Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch is an outpost on the edge of the largest range of wilderness in the continental United States. But guests visiting this New Mexico treasure aren’t huddled in tents eating army rations. From the time you arrive at the ranch until you leave, you’ll experience abundant hospitality, chef-prepared meals, comfortable lodging and quality time with good horses—all while surrounded by awe-inspiring natural scenery.

Going Off the Grid

Meris and Seth Stout started Geronimo Ranch about 12 years ago with Meris’ parents, Diana and Harry Esterly. The husband-and-wife team set up the accommodations, built an infrastructure to harness solar energy, hired a small band of staff and carefully acquired the right horses and tack to make guest rides safe and enjoyable. They also planned every step of the sometimes all-day trail rides they lead around the Gila (pronounced HEE-lah) National Forest.

Meris and Seth Stout started Geronimo Ranch about 12 years ago with Meris’ parents, Diana and Harry Esterly. The husband-and-wife team set up the accommodations, built an infrastructure to harness solar energy, hired a small band of staff and carefully acquired the right horses and tack to make guest rides safe and enjoyable. They also planned every step of the sometimes all-day trail rides they lead around the Gila (pronounced HEE-lah) National Forest.

To get to the ranch, you’ll take a winding road through desert mountain ranges, grassy meadows and sentinel stands of ponderosa pines. Cross the Continental Divide, heading west as you travel deeper into the Gila National Forest. Once you arrive—elevation 6,500 feet—you’ll likely be greeted by Meris, waving and wearing a wide smile as she welcomes you home for the duration of your visit—one of several snug, immaculate cabins, decorated with equine accents and comfortable furnishings, along with a gas fireplace to keep you warm.

Seth’s the appointed tour guide, helping guests orient themselves with the property as they learn about the ranch’s dedication to life off the grid. Nearby, large pastures house the ranch’s 29 horses, and several colorful Paint Horses add flashes of chrome to the mixed-breed menagerie.

Guest trips can be customized for length—most stay between three and seven days—and with multiple trails available, you could ride every day for a week and see a different part of the Gila Forest each time.

Scratch-made meals feature fresh, seasonal ingredients—an impressive feat, considering the chef, Fred Locklear,is working with solar/generator power, and the closest grocery store is 2 ½ hours away. Seth and Fred make a weekly supply run, and Fred whips up delectable creations—Santa Fe chicken, potatoes au gratin, spaghetti squash, salad with homemade dressing, apple crisp with homemade salted caramel ice cream—for up to 16 people at a time, three times a day.

Scratch-made meals feature fresh, seasonal ingredients—an impressive feat, considering the chef, Fred Locklear,is working with solar/generator power, and the closest grocery store is 2 ½ hours away. Seth and Fred make a weekly supply run, and Fred whips up delectable creations—Santa Fe chicken, potatoes au gratin, spaghetti squash, salad with homemade dressing, apple crisp with homemade salted caramel ice cream—for up to 16 people at a time, three times a day.

“We like to horseback ride on vacation when we can,” Terri said. “We planned our vacation around coming here. And then figured out the rest of it.”

A father named Stuart Poltrock from Michigan, his 16-year-old daughter Maggie and her 17-year-old friend Ava Brown were visiting Geronimo for the first time. They wanted to find a guest ranch that wasn’t snowed under in the spring to go riding; going “unplugged” was an added bonus for Stuart.

“It was really nice not to have any distractions,” Stuart said. “I couldn’t do any work, so I had to think differently. It was great to spend time with Maggie. We just had a good time.”

The three girls ride regularly; the adults less so, but all were excited about their time in saddle the first day.

##

This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2019 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

SHARE THIS

smugmug-ico
View Galleries on SmugMug

CORPORATE PARTNERS