Off-grid visionary artist Ra Paulette first entered the public eye as the subject of the 2014 Academy Award-nominated documentary Cavedigger. The 70-something-year-old artist has transformed more than 20 sandstone mesas throughout northern New Mexico into ornately hand-carved subterranean cathedrals—but good luck ever seeing them. Most are tucked away on private property or buried deep in the high desert, their locations known only to a handful of locals.
The easiest, most legal way to glimpse Paulette’s work is to visit Origin at Rancho de San Juan, a newish health and wellness resort about 10 miles from the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, 20 miles from Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, and 38 miles from Santa Fe. The 145-acre property is home to Ra Paulette’s dramatic Windows of the Earth cave sculpture. Resort owner Jill Marie Inanna bought the land in foreclosure a few years ago; now she leads yoga and meditation sessions for resort guests in the cave sanctuary and near-daily tours for non-guests. The 1/3-mile hike to the cave is steep and strenuous; at this high elevation, you’ll be gasping for air by the time you reach the top. Now just imagine Paulette schlepping up that same hill with 20-foot panes of glass or a wheelbarrow strapped to his back—that’s determination!
Inanna, a gentle soul who hikes up to the cave barefoot, encourages others to remove their shoes and dig their toes into the silky sand floor. Once inside the cave, you can chant, meditate, or grab a seat and think deep thoughts—you just can’t take photos inside. Tours are by reservation only and last 90 minutes, although much of that time is spent on the trail up, learning about the geology and vegetation of the area. Admission has doubled since we last visited: It is now $50 for adults to take a public tour, which is limited to 16 guests. Two-and-a-half-hour private cave tours with a “sacred sound experience” cost $728 for up to 14 people. Reservations essential.
34020 U.S. Hwy 285, Ojo Caliente, NM; 505-699-1052.