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Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch is becoming a destination for families

Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch is a 590,000-acre playground that had once been the province of hunters and anglers.

But it is quickly turning into an inclusive family adventure resort with activities for all members of the family, ranch manager Gus Holm said.

Unparalleled mountain biking on miles of single track as well as 2,000 miles of dirt road – some little more than double ruts through the grounds – crisscross the ranch that is home to a vast bison herd, turkeys, elk and wild horses.

“We have 12 high-end bikes that people can rent, full-suspension stunt jumpers, or they can bring their own,” Holm said. “We have about 12 miles of dedicated single track to the north of headquarters. We have maps and a couple of thousand miles of roads that you can explore and travel on the ranch. Part of what makes touring the ranch so nice is the accessibility.”

Activities director James Reidy said one of his favorite rides is up Spring Canyon.

“You ride to the top of the ridge,” he said. “And the vista is incredible and it’s downhill the whole way back. It’s a 22-mile ride and takes me three to four hours.”

This abandoned mine used to supply to the main house at Vermejo Park Ranch.

This abandoned mine used to supply to the main house at Vermejo Park Ranch.

Eco tours are also becoming more popular as visitors have the opportunity to explore for bears, bobcats and raptors of many different varieties, Reidy said. Wildflower tours, especially after the wet spring, explode in a variety of colors with everything from mountain lilies to columbine to Indian paintbrush to persimmon, adding wild splashes to the landscape.

The ranch also is rife with a vast array of historically interesting sites from the prehistoric to the 1800s and early 1900s. Old mines and the abandoned town that supported them remain in their naturally deteriorating state. Brick, beehive charcoal ovens that have been unused for a century still retain the acrid odor of the tons of timber that passed through.

“We set that a la carte for what you want to do,” Reidy said. “We tailor it to what you want you see. History, wildlife, conservation projects, hiking the high country. Horseback ride. We tailor the outdoor exploration to your desires. However you want to structure, it’s based on the preference of the guest.”

Vermejo Park Ranch visitors find ample reasons for photography. (Courtesy of Amanda Howell Photography)

Vermejo Park Ranch visitors find ample reasons for photography. (Courtesy of Amanda Howell Photography)

The ranch even has a special photography tour Aug. 12-15, “Life on the Prairie,” with professional photographer Sean Fitzgerald.

“It’s more of a historical tour of the ranch, Reidy said. “Pioneer-era settlements. The old mining camps. Ghost towns of Koehler and Dylan Canyon, with the Brilliant Canyon Mine. And Sean makes the point to talk with everybody. His passion is infectious. He could take a group of people to a patch of dirt, and Sean will find something amazing to photograph in it – what to look for, not just the technical aspects.”

Because the ranch has had a tradition of hunting, several of the activities are geared toward that, but that makes it entertaining even for first-timers.

On the archery end, the 3-D course has proved to be extremely popular, Reidy said.

“You’re not standing in one static location shooting at a single target,” he said. “We have different presentations at each station, shooting uphill, downhill, or across a little valley. We have eight stations, but (we are) getting 12 new targets (soon). The walk may be about quarter of a mile, and each station has three different pins to shoot from.”

The guides’ goal is to make the newcomer feel empowered, to make the veteran feel challenged and to improve the skills of everybody, he said.

“We’re very teacher-friendly in everything we do,” Reidy said. “For all of our shooting sports, I tell my guides, our goal is to help take people up a notch or two in their skills.”

And when it comes to shooting, the ranch has two areas for shooting clays, but both go beyond the traditional stand in the same place and fire.

The Five-Stand, so called because five shooters are firing at once at different targets, “has six different presentations of clay skeet, so you don’t shoot exactly the same thing,” Holm said. “You take somebody at almost any skill level down there and they can have a good time.”

The sporting clays are geared to somebody with more experience as they shoot 100 rounds over a mile-long course, shooting 10 rounds from 10 different stations, Holm said.

“It’s really fun,” he said. You’re walking through the woods from station to station, and at each station, you’re not only shooting different presentations but also different topography. Up on hill shooting down or shooting in valley shooting up.”