When you say you want to get away from it all on your next vacation, you’re probably picturing retreating to some far-flung island surrounded by nothing but blue water. But for those of you who aren’t beach-inclined, an ideal remote vacation might be a mountain lodge with nothing around you but wilderness. Luckily, if you’re based in the U.S., you don’t have to travel too far at all to find that solitude. Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve, sits on more than 550,000 acres of private land straddling the border of New Mexico and Colorado, all owned by media mogul and conservationist Ted Turner and reserved for the exclusive use of visitors staying on the luxury property. While the main lodge itself is quite remote—it’s a 45-minute drive to the nearest town, Raton, New Mexico, population 6,000—it’s the Costilla Fishing Lodge that is really, really out there. Set 25 miles farther into the property than the main lodge, Costilla sits at an altitude of 10,200 feet and is nestled into the mountains. Impressively, this secluded structure, built in 2010, has LEED Silver certification, a monumental feat given its difficult-to-reach location.
Originally part of the Maxwell Land Grant, the property that comprises Vermejo today was developed in 1902 by then owner William H. Bartlett, who tapped architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee, the mentor of a young Frank Lloyd Wright, to build three palatial residences in the middle of the wilderness—one of which houses guests today as part of the main lodge area. The original Costilla Lodge was built at the turn of the 20th century as a hunting and fishing retreat for Bartlett’s guests. Turner purchased the property in 1996 with his now ex-wife (and current friend) Jane Fonda, with the pair using it as a private home—AD featured their house in 2005. But as the years went on, he decided to open his ranch for eco-tourism, allowing the public, in very small numbers, to experience the grandeur of the land, not to mention witness the extraordinary wildlife, like the bison, wild horses, and elk, that roam the property freely.
The lodge, which had fallen into disrepair, needed to be rebuilt before guests could be welcomed Costilla. Though the original lodge still stands today, Turner’s team had a new one constructed to provide visitors with luxurious modern comforts while retaining the rustic stone-and-wood aesthetics of the original structure. “We wanted to preserve the legacy and tradition of guests visiting Vermejo from the high country with the spectacular views, feeling, and fishing that had been part of the unique experience at Costilla Lodge since the early 1900s,” says Vermejo General Manager Jade McBride. “The feeling and the design of the new building came mostly from the original building, as the floor plan is very similar, with the kitchen and living spaces on one end and the guest rooms on the other. Except with the project in the hands of Ted Turner, we incorporated all of the sustainable practices possible into its design and construction.”
Local firm Conron & Woods Architects was selected for the task. “Charged with creating a LEED-certifiable 100-year building, we made the unusual decision to source as many building materials from the ranch or nearby as possible,” says Laura Chancellor, who was a designer on the project, and in charge of the LEED certification. “Wood came from the ranch and was milled and dried at small, sustainably run businesses in the local region. Stone was quarried at the ranch or found at a nearby family-run business.” Even the furniture is built from Vermejo wood, handmade for the property by a local craftsman.