The D. H. Lawrence Ranch
After Questa, the view opens up as you descend into the valley, with mesas stretching far to the west. Just south of San Cristobal, a turn to the left (County Road B-009) leads five miles on a rutted road to the ranch where English writer and provocateur D. H. Lawrence lived in 1924 and 1925 with his wife, Frieda, and the painter Dorothy Brett.
Though there’s not very much to see here, it is as good a reason as any to drive up a back road and into the fragrant pine forests (though not too early in the spring—the dirt road near the end is rutted and shady, leaving it iced over often through March).
The 160-acre spread, originally called the Kiowa Ranch, was a gift to Lawrence and his wife from Mabel Dodge Luhan—generous indeed, but a rough life nonetheless, as you can see from the barest-bones cabins the artists occupied: Brett’s is barely big enough for her small bed and a woodstove.
Lawrence soon returned to Europe, but Frieda stayed on. After the writer died of tuberculosis in France in 1930, she eventually decided to exhume his body and have the ashes returned to New Mexico. This plan sparked anger among Lawrence’s other friends, including Mabel Dodge, who characterized Frieda’s planned site for the ashes as “that outhouse of a shrine.”
Tales abound about how Lawrence’s ashes never quite made the trip, whether by accident or sabotage, but visitors to the ranch remain undeterred. Some of the earliest to pay their respects to the place include Tennessee Williams and Georgia O’Keeffe, whose dramatic painting The Lawrence Tree depicts the view from the base of a gnarled pine in front of the Lawrences’ cabin, farther down the hill.
The aforementioned shrine is indeed small; aside from what may or may not be Lawrence’s ashes mixed into a concrete slab, the modest building contains a guest book with wishes left by previous literary pilgrims, plus an official-looking certificate declaring the ashes to be genuinely Lawrence’s.
To reach the ranch coming from the north, turn left at the second sign for County Road B-009 (the first is in the town of San Cristobal); coming up from Taos, look for the historic marker on the right side of the road, immediately before the turn.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition