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American Spirit

By Jacqueline Zenere

Photography by Olivia Graham | Styling by James Aguiar

07.13.17

Step into the wild at Vermejo Park Ranch, a remote oasis showcasing America’s abundant heartland in Northern New Mexico, to discover fashion’s patriotic side. Worn-in denim meets high fashion on the vast estate owned by Ted Turner, which—after years of renovation—has reopened its doors for wayward pioneers and luxury lovers alike.

Blue shantung silk gown with tiered skirt, $5,975, by Alberta Ferretti at saksfifthavenue.com; Huntington fringe bootie, $450, at Tory Burch, Cherry Creek Shopping Center; Navajo Third Phase concho belt, price upon request, Navajo silver wire row bracelet, $1,350, Zuni turquoise cluster bracelet, $1,200, Navajo five stone row bracelet, $1,200, turquoise cluster bracelet, $1,200, Navajo silver cuff with blue gem turquoise, $1,200, and Navajo silver bracelet with turquoise, $1,200, all at Shiprock Santa Fe and shiprocksantafe.com; Artist Series slab necklace with aqua tourmaline and diamonds, $25,000, at David Yurman, Cherry Creek Shopping Center; similar Zuni and Navajo jewelry available locally at Kemo Sabe in Aspen.

A hallowed stillness hangs in the air when you enter Vermejo Park Ranch, a wildly remote land preservation and lodge across the border from Colorado in New Mexico. Arriving at the ranch requires a bit of an adjustment period for city dwellers. The sound of your voice easily echoes against the giant basin between two mountain ranges; there are unobstructed panoramic views of the American blue sky; your body’s spacial awareness is shifted to the vastness of the park—totaling 585,000 acres—and crisp air feels narrow at elevations of up to 12,931 feet. The ranch is as extensive in size as it is in offerings: a rich narrative of more than 100 years of passed ownership; luxury lodging and tailored itineraries; an abundance of activities to equally captivate a novice trailblazer or a clueless newbie; a conservation effort by current owner Ted Turner; and a landscape so profound it’s a wonder how this park has been able to remain under the radar—for now, at least.

In order to truly grasp the nature of Vermejo Park Ranch, we must revisit its origins via William H. Bartlett, who purchased the property in 1901. Around the time America’s national parks were being mapped, Bartlett set out to create a private haven for family and friends to interact with nature. Over a 15-year period, the ranch was built for about $180 million in today’s dollars. Aside from the main lodge and his home, called Casa Grande, Bartlett built additional guest and staff housing, constructed small dams to augment lakes for fishing and created an impressive infrastructure, given the ranch’s wildly remote location. After Bartlett died, the property was passed to the Chandler family, who aimed to make Vermejo an exclusive club for friends and VIPs, then to Pennzoil for cattle ranging and, now, to Turner.

Squaring him simply as a media mogul would be akin to saying Leonardo da Vinci was only a painter. Turner is the second-largest land owner in the world, has donated much of his fortune to charity, has helped bring the bison population from 500 to 500,000 and spends his fortune not on collecting shiny new covetables, but rather choosing to restore earthly gifts to their former state. Taking Bartlett’s original vision for the ranch a bit further, Turner’s desire to return the land to its natural state is the core value of this place. To summarize, Turner often says: “Save everything,” a short and sweet definition of his mission, speaking not only to Vermejo’s land conservation but to every creature roaming it.