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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Weekend Getaway…
Rancho Magdalena Bed & Breakfast

By Sofia Lee Moran
Photos by Don Mickey and Sofia lee Moran

As we headed toward Magdalena, New Mexico over thousands of acres of wild, unpopulated land we were certain that the Rancho Magdalena Bed and Breakfast must truly be in the middle of nowhere. This realization pleased us tremendously, since we were looking for a quiet getaway far from the stresses of our city life. We also wanted a taste of the real old west - the real New Mexico - here in the land of cattle-drives and Billy the Kid.

The historic cattle and mining town of Magdalena lies approximately 60 miles south of Albuquerque, in central New Mexico. This small, tri-cultural village (Hispanic, Anglo, and Navajo) of less than 1,000 people has the heritage of being “The End of the Trail” for the Magdalena Cattle Driveway, where, in the late 1800’s, the cattle came from as far as Arizona to meet the train in town. This rail spur line from nearby Socorro also served the area’s miners, who shipped rich lead, zinc, and silver ore to eager buyers across the West. This commerce made Magdalena one of New Mexico’s most important commercial centers, and supported many profitable establishments. The town’s most prosperous years were between 1884 and 1925, when many fine homes and businesses were built.

Today, Magdalena is becoming popular once again. Magdalena has endless vistas, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, historic buildings, and is appealing to artists and business people alike seeking a quiet way of life. Though still primarily a ranching community, Magdalena also supports at least six restaurants, and a growing list of fine galleries and art studios.

From the air, the red-roofed ranch buildings of Rancho Magdalena and the adjacent fly-ash runway were easy to spot. Located three miles west of town and just south of US Highway 60, Rancho Magdalena is the perfect quick get away for pilots, as it borders the Magdalena Municipal Airport (N29). There are tie downs near the public buildings, and by the private hangars belonging to the Rancho Magdalena. A short walk will take you right to the Bed and Breakfast.

Lori and Lee Scholes own and operate Rancho Magdalena, and will be ready to greet you before you reach the door of their lovely Inn (or will meet you at your aircraft if they know your ETA). Lori and Lee are warm, friendly, intelligent hosts who make you feel as though you've known them all your life.

Rancho Magdalena presently has three guestrooms to choose from, with expansion planned over the next years. The decor of the rooms is tasteful and quaint. Each room has its own private entry, accessed through the courtyard. Each room has a bath, queen bed, kiva fireplace, and fresh flowers, all for our comfort. There are books and games in each room, and the queen beds are a guaranteed place for sweet dreams. In keeping with the relaxed old-west atmosphere, there are no phones and no television in the guestrooms (although both are available in the main house if you really must!). There is no smoking in the main house or outbuildings. I found this B&B to be absolutely top-drawer. The bath water was hot and relaxing, and Lori has been meticulous to pay attention to the needs of a woman; which included English soaps and moisturizer for that lizard skin one acquires living in the desert.
After settling in to our comfortable room, we set about exploring the ranch. We quickly met several of the ranch animals, who live just outside the front door of the ranch house in several indoor/outdoor stalls and shaded corrals. The first critter eager for attention was Binky, the dwarf Hereford, followed quickly by Stanley the goat, who also likes to spend time hanging out with the chickens and registered Texas Longhorn cattle. A variety of gorgeous horses (Belgians, Percherons, Mustangs, and a retired racing thoroughbred with her newborn) await equestrians flying in or driving in to the ranch. Rancho Magdalena has access to over 130,000 acres of the Cibola National Forest, as well as their own large riding arena for organized events. When Lee and Lori are working the ranch wagons, they welcome guests to hop aboard for a hayride.

Rancho Magdalena is a terrific location for group events. Lee and Lori have hosted chuck-wagon cookouts, campfire sings, family reunions, and Matanzas (a traditional New Mexico pig roast). Lori and Lee can also assist in setting up side trips, picnics, appointments with local artists, or other events.
Local award-winning artist Tina Lucero Salazar has a studio a few feet away from the Rancho Magdalena. There she weaves in the time-honored New Mexico style. She is a fourth generation Chimayo weaver, creating the traditional pure wool and naturally dyed weavings. They are available for purchase. Her work is an exquisite feast for the eyes and she is listed in the recently published book "Chimayo Weaving-the transformation of a tradition" by Helen R. Lucero and Suzanne Baizerman.
After we finished exploring the ranch, Lori offered to take us for a sightseeing drive. It didn’t take long for me to be aware of all the sites and most of the history in and around the Magdalena area, thanks to Lori, who is the perfect tour guide. She pointed out the Very Large Array Radio Telescope (featured in the recent movie “Contact”). The facility is located 23 miles west of Magdalena on Highway 60, and has a visitor’s center that is open every day from 8:00 am until dusk. Lori went on to mention that rattlesnakes and lightning are the two most common dangers in the area.

Later that evening, Lori and Lee offered to escort us to dinner in the nearby town of Datil. Datil is about a half an hour from Rancho Magdalena, and offers a peek into a Bonanza type town (Population about 45). Datil has been around since the late 1800’s, mainly a stock town and resting-place for cattle drives. We had dinner at the Eagle Guest Ranch, which was a combination gas station, restaurant, convenience store, meat market, taxidermy, and local hangout/saloon.

At the Eagle Guest Ranch you can buy nuts and bolts, eggs, cheese, arrowheads, antlers, visit the stuffed heads of Mr. Oryx, Mr. Boar and Mr. Bear (just to mention a few), have a shot of whiskey, and down a Green Chile Cheeseburger, all while filling up the car’s gas tank. Loretta Kitchen is in the kitchen cooking up burgers, steaks and fries, and has been doing so for the past 19 years. Jonnie Ritter was our waitress. While serving us with that reliable waitress familiar know how, Jonnie told us of her recent engagement, proudly showed us her ring, and gave us the population count of Datil (which she is able to manage on her fingers while she clears the tables). After a great dinner with an abundance of food we returned to Rancho Magdalena.

Standing in the darkness outside our cozy room listening to the silence of the wind, I finally truly understood why on earth people would want to live in such remote desert isolation with snakes and cow patties. In these remote parts, a neighborhood covers hundreds of square miles. Life at Rancho Magdalena is so tranquil, and time stands absolutely still as nightfall stars blanket the sky and the occasional coyote-song lulls you to sleep.

After a restful night, we awoke to a dazzling sunrise breaking over the nearby 10,000 foot tall Magdalena Mountains. Shortly after sunrise, Lori served up an excellent breakfast. Coffee was hot and strong, and the orange juice was freshly squeezed. She served fresh cantaloupe and honeydew melon with her special Dutch baby pancakes and bacon. Lori and Lee then join in and provide stories and history of the area, once again making us feel right at home.

Flight planning for the trip home from Rancho Magdalena is a snap, thanks to Lee’s FlightSoft computer planning software and Internet weather forecasts. Lee also shared a few tips with us on operating from the relatively high (6,727’) airport, and gave us some recommendations on convenient nearby fuel stops (there is no fuel at Magdalena Muni), including Belen-Alexander (E80) and Socorro (ONM).

To arrange your own “real New Mexico” getaway at Rancho Magdalena you can contact Lee and Lori Scholes at, or call them at 800-462-5489 or 505-854-3091. You can also write or fax for a brochure or more information: Rancho Magdalena, P.O. Box 1112, Magdalena, New Mexico 87825; fax 505-854-3092. For more information about Magdalena, New Mexico visit

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
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©2001 Southwest Regional Publishing, Inc.