Gallup Journey October 2011

Page 14

PuttingRed the Pieces in Place Skies Guest Ranch and Tours


arah Miller is building a puzzle. Life presents itself like this sometimes. We’ve usually got a good idea of where some pieces should go. High priorities and responsibilities don’t change – they’re the corners and the borders. They provide the framework for the image in the center. At times it comes together easily just like we’ve envisioned. And at other times, the pieces we have just won’t fit where we think they should and we have to start somewhere else. Miller’s puzzle is an intricate design. Her framework is made by the many places she’s lived, the amazing memories she’s collected over time, compassion for abandoned animals, her family, teaching, and a love for the Land of Enchantment. The image that is forming as she puts her pieces into place is in the beautiful El Morro valley on land smattered with juniper and piñon, some goats, a rooster, a gift shop and rustic campsites. This is Red Skies Guest Ranch and Tours. The Miller family has lived in Candy Kitchen, east of Ramah just 8 miles off scenic Route 53, for ten years now. The area is quaint, but worth a visit. Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is in the area. It’s a non-profit organization that cares for over fifty captive-bred wolves and wolf-dogs, most which were rescued from abusive or neglectful situations. They give on-site tours and travel around the state educating people about the animals. Just down the road, Candy Kitchen Trading

In January 2011, 12.5 acres of land close to the family home was made available for purchase. Though much work was needed to clear the property, build a driveway, and develop campsites, Red Skies was open for rustic camping in June. There is no electricity and the Millers haul water to the area, but each of the three campsites includes a fire ring and wood, a picnic table, access to an outhouse, and spectacular views of the El Morro valley from 8000 feet. The patio, nearby gift shop, and available guest cabin help to complete this relaxing, outof-the-way, vacationing environment. But this is only a piece of what the Millers have to offer through their business.

Post provides hardware, food and other goods for locals and visitors alike. Nearly a year ago, the idea for a guest ranch and tour company presented itself to the Millers. Budget cuts had eliminated Sarah’s local teaching position and a longtime commitment to cat rescue made leaving the area impossible. So they looked at what they had to work with – the beautiful area in which they lived and a love for travel, with special affection for destinations in and around New Mexico – and thought, Why not share our love for the state with others?

A visit to their website,, reveals a list of breathtaking destinations and personalized services that Red Skies provides to those who want to travel without the headache of planning it all themselves. They will plan day trips to the nearby Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, El Morro and El Malpais National Monuments, as well as extended fishing trips and tours to places like The Cat Walk, Chaco Canyon, Bandelier National Monument and other favorites that are worth sharing. Puzzles can be fragile and pieces are sometimes disturbed. Due to recent events, Sarah is running the business alone, for now, and homeschooling her adolescent son. She is also the primary caregiver of approximately one hundred feral and abandoned cats!

CommunityOldofSchool Creativity Gallery


hen we venture south and begin driving east on Route 53, there is something more than the towering ponderosas, unique rock formations, and lush green countryside that welcomes us to the El Morro Valley. This intangible quality is seen in the warm greetings between the wait staff and diners at the Ancient Way Café, and felt in the sincere interest locals take in a visitor’s journey to the area. There’s an overwhelming sense of community and concern that is such a big part of an area only a few square miles in size. A wonderful example of this togetherness, this unity, is the Old School Gallery. The way it has functioned in the community as a hub for activity and creativity is so unique and inspiring that I asked Genevieve Humenay to let me in on its secret. Humenay is the Executive Director of El Morro Area Arts Council, which is the non-profit entity behind Old School Gallery. According to her, the secret is support. EMAAC (pronounced eemack) has a solid base of membership and an incredibly involved board of directors, allowing the organization to be and do exactly what founding members had hoped for almost fifteen years ago. In 1997, a small group of creative, community-spirited artists desired an art gallery that would serve as a community center. EMAAC was formed and, in 1998, began renting an old, vacant schoolhouse, now known as


Old School Gallery. This has been a community-owned, member-driven endeavor from the start. All of the direction, ideas, and momentum come from the roughly 200 members, many who are locals, but some who have traveled through or lived in the area and were inspired to be part of the creative spirit here. While there is a wealth of artistic talent throughout the El Morro community, talent alone is not enough to make things happen. “When you have the support to create, you actually do it!” Humenay proclaims.

EMAAC, Ancient Way Café, Inscription Rock Trading, Ramah Farmers’ Market, El Morro Feed and Seed, and El Morro National Monument. Building relationships and working together with like-minded organizations is something that is exciting for the whole community. The positive energy in this place is palpable. In November, over two weekends, EMAAC will present Noises Off, a comedic play within a play by Michael Frayn. Under the direction of Sophia Tripodi and Joe Birdsong, the talented troupe of actors will reveal what goes on behind the scenes, when out-of-control egos, memory loss, and passionate affairs turn every performance into a high-risk adventure! Theatre has been where the energy seems to be going in recent years, according to Humenay. Next month’s performances will be especially poignant with the Old School Gallery stage dedication to the memory of Rocco Tripodi on Sunday, November 13 at 5pm. Not only was he the father of Sophia, but he was also committed to the enrichment of the El Morro community through theatre and performing arts. His years of dedication are an inspiration to the ongoing and vital theatre program at EMAAC.

The positive energy in this place is palpable.

El Morro is a small and isolated place where, she points out, “nothing happens besides what we create ourselves.” It appears that the members of EMAAC have been very busy! In addition to ongoing programming, including poetry readings, book clubs, chanting circles, yoga, zumba, etc., there is a variety of special events, plays, festivals, concerts, and workshops planned each quarter.

Saturday, October 1 is the annual Ancient Way Arts Trail and Ramah Farmers’ Market Harvest Festival, which promises crafts, music, food, contests, and entertainment from 10am to 5pm. It has come together with the collaboration of several local entities including