We drove up the long driveway of Casa Del Gavilan in the dark right before the moon rose above the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico. The lights of the sprawling hacienda-style mansion, now upscale B&B, helped us make our way to our treat of a stay. From the moment the innkeeper greeted us as we stepped out of our car to the moment we left to pick up our son at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch next door, relaxation in the midst of New Mexico’s stunning beauty was on the menu.
The mansion, built in 1910 by J.J. Nairn, a wealthy industrialist from Connecticut who wanted a getaway to entertain guests had an eye for aesthetics and New Mexico architecture. Thick adobe walls painted a brilliant white, and the rough hewn viga rafters and posts capture the essence of the old southwest.
Throughout each room, the blend of southwestern art and Victorian antiques create a haven of comfort and loveliness where Nairn family history is told in framed black and white photos.
These days, guests have several hang out spots from the more stately living room with its large leather couches and stone fireplace with the state symbol above the mantle and Remington sculptures of bucking broncos capturing the wild west, to the game room where games, magazines and books invite guests into an evening of entertainment like the days before TV.
Although there aren’t TVs in any room, WiFi is. With your own device, you can be entertained in the 21st century. Still, don’t get sucked into cyberspace. You’ll miss out on what makes Casa Del Gavilan so special.
Instead, grab a complimentary soda or water from the well-stocked refrigerator and a snack from the basket in the kitchen and head outside to the courtyard where summer flowers create a color palate of reds, yellows and purples. In the evening, do what I did and sit in an Adirondack chair enjoying a glass of wine (I brought it with me) and the shimmery stars. Without streetlights, the night sky is fabulous.
Although the mansion has updates, it’s easy to imagine guests when Nairn frequented here. They too probably walked along the corridor that led to the guest rooms, each decorated in its own way.
Our room with a queen bed and a private bath had Art Deco touches blended with antique furniture and a western motif. Outside our room, a saddle and stripped blanket on a shelf festooned with bones and rocks echoed the decor.
Without a TV, I browsed the bookshelf in our room eventually settling on an illustrated memoir of someone who grew up in England during the time Nairn built the house.
Before breakfast, I woke up early to walk down the driveway to enjoy the morning sun and wild flowers that dotted the landscape. Periodically, a jack rabbit joined me.
Breakfast, served in the dining room was a chance to meet the other guests, several with Philmont connections. Either they were dropping a son off or picking one up like we were.
Each day, breakfast varies. Ours was a wonderful egg, green chilli and cheese casserole, fresh fruit and sausage. Without TV to interrupt, our conversation was leisurely before each of us eventually left the table to finish packing up and head out on our way.
Casa Del Gavilan’s gate is literally minutes from Philmont Boy Scout Ranch just outside of Cimarron, a small town frequented by southwest legends like Billy the Kid.
Philmont is worth a visit for its gift shop and small museum. The place bustles with scouts getting ready to head out for days long backpacking trips or just getting back–dusty, tired, but still pumped up of stories of adventure, like needing to get stitches on top of a mountain due to a whittling mishap. “A lot of blood, Mom. A lot of blood.”
We could see Casa Del Gavilan from Philmont’s parking lot-shimmering like a beacon in the midday sunlight. My son’s scoutmaster was a bit jealous of our stories of R&R. As the troop hiked 14 miles down the mountain on the last day, they wondered what that sprawling white building was down below. I was happy to tell them. It’s paradise with a very, very comfortable bed.
Cost per night by booking through Casa Del Gavilan’s website is $118 to $185 depending upon the room size and number of guests. You can also book by calling 575/376-2246. Try Travelocity or Expedia for a deal.
Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein