From New Mexico WILD – Spring, 2003
The Newsletter of the NM Wilderness Alliance
Business and Education Flourish at the Edge of Wilderness
By Jim Scarantino
I almost hate to write about this place.
I like to think of it as my secret nestled next to the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. But one glance through the guest register—signed by visitors from Belgium, England, Canada, Japan, and all over the United States as well as New Mexico—shows that I am only kidding myself. The word is out: the Black Range Lodge, in the old ghost town of Kingston, is a one-of-a-kind pleasure.
The stone-and-timber Black Range Lodge was constructed from the remains of buildings that were up and running when Kingston was still a thriv-ing mining town. Located at the foot of the Black Range and a short walk from the boundary of the Aldo Leopold Wil-derness, Kingston was New Mexico's most populated community in the 1880s. Now, only a handful of friendly people call Kingston home.
The Lodge is the pride and joy of Catherine Wanek and Pete Fust. Catherine was a movie producer before she took over the Lodge. Pete comes from a farming background, when he wasn't competing on a world-class level in extreme Frisbee events. In addition to running the Lodge, they also operate a center to educate the world about the benefits ofsustainable natural building construction practices, particularly techniques in the use of straw bales as fundamental building blocks.
The high accomplishments of their work can be seen in the beautiful and spacious guest house on the hill above the Lodge. The balcony offers a panoramic view of mountains and the Percha Creek canyon.
The seven guest rooms inside the Lodge are each uniquely furnished. The entire Lodge is available for rental and can accommodate up to 25 people. The central common area on the sec-ond floor is an ideal space for meetings. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has held more than one retreat at the Black Range Lodge and will undoubtedly be holding more.
Perhaps the best breakfasts in New Mexico are served in the original kitchen of the Lodge. Home-made granola, free-range eggs, trench toast and waffles, all sorts of fruit and jams, and bread baked fresh every morning are provided in limitless quantities.
“We live," says Catherine Wanek, "where we can feel the Earth's natural diversity. We appreciate the way NMWA goes about its work preserving Wilderness—encouraging connections between diverse groups, and finding the way each can contribute to our greater goals of a sustainable life on the one and only planet we have to share."
Pete Fust adds, "For me, there is no debate: we need to preserve as much of New Mexico as we can. By what we see here at the Lodge, the tide is turning in our favor. So many people come here to get out and enjoy this wonderful Wilderness out our back door."
Indeed, the Black Range Lodge is an excellent base camp or jumping off point for adventures and exploration in theAldo Leopold Wilderness and the Gila country, on the other side of the mountains. Some of the fondest memo-ries I will ever have feature the Black Range Lodge: the breakfast chatter before walking out the door for a seven-day backpack, or warming myself at the ornate wood stove after a snowshoe climb of Hillsboro Peak. In any season, the Black Range Lodge is a great place to start or finish your Wilderness adventure.
To get there, take the Hillsboro Exit off 1-25 south of TorC, and head west on NM 152 for about 20 miles to the base of the mountains. For more information, contact the Black Range Lodge at 505-895-5652.