By: Steven H. Atherton
Beautiful Landscapes, Sunsets, Wildlife, Fauna, Fossils and Stones
One thing about Grace Ranch that is difficult to explain to people if you have not been here or taken the opportunity to hike, bike or ATV around, is the austere, wild beauty of the place. While it is true that we are pretty isolated, it does not normally “feel” that way because of the number of people who are here and the fact that downtown El Paso is only an hour away. On the other hand, if you get out and about, particularly if you are on foot, you will see the many natural treasures of our high Chihuahuan Desert.
The most accessible treasure to visitors is, of course, our beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and night sky dazzle in our rugged high desert landscape. This is Big Sky country and we have the photos to prove it. Big Sky means that there is not a lot of shade so, particularly in the warm months, you want to have water and a hat to protect you from the sun. At night you have to be wary of rattlesnakes, coyotes and other predators. Still the intrepid hiker is rewarded for the effort.
The Borrego Tanks (or what we call the stock tank) on the southwesterly side of the ranch is the primary reason that we live amidst an abundance of wildlife. Photos taken from our game cams show bobcat, deer, javelina and coyotes. My children and I frequently hike to the stock tank because they love to climb the Cottonwood trees, explore make belief jungles, build wooden forts and observe the wildlife. We also enjoy biking, hiking and rock hounding along the various paths and dirt roads. When coupled with our trips into town, the toll of wildlife that we have observed is amazing: mountain lion, bobcat, coyotes, javelina, deer, badger, owls (i.e. barn, great horned and burrowing), hawks (i.e. Red tail, Cooper, Harris), a Golden Eagle, Peregrine falcons, Sand Hill Cranes, Great Blue Herons, flocks of night hawks, a great variety of song birds and waterfowl, kangaroo rats, rabbits, gigantic insects, tarantulas and, of course, many different snakes, including the dreaded rattlesnake (i.e. Diamondback and Mojave).
Similarly, while much of our plant life is visible from the roads, heading off into the bush will be rewarded with beautiful flowers and unusual plants. Myself, I am always astonished at how the flora and fauna changes so markedly in very short distances as you traverse exposed ledge, dip into deep sandy soils, cross tightly compressed soils and then into washes. Moreover, as water is scarce and rain infrequent (but often torrential when it comes), the transformative effect of water is very evident at Grace Ranch. Flowers burst into bloom, frogs leap about, grasses and wild flowers you would not know were there suddenly appear. Every season is different for those with eyes to see in the desert.
Rock hounding is another pastime in the desert. My children enjoy finding the fossils of the once abundant sea life at rock outcroppings throughout the area. Washes, road ways and pipelines are excellent places to find all sorts of beautiful rocks and my children have developed quite the collection. Our ranch foreman Bob is an old rock-hound so he not only finds them, but he can tell you good places to look and identify that which you have found.
In sum, natural wonders abound at Grace Ranch, but you have to visit to discover them. We’ll be happy to show you around or you can do your own exploring. Just remember that nature can be cruel, even though it is beautiful so always be aware of your surroundings and take appropriate precautions (i.e. sturdy shoes or boots, lots of water, a hat, a walking stick, a weapon, a flashlight and appropriate clothing). We hope you will come and explore with us.