I was expecting something a little more dive-ish, but the China Ranch Date farm is a marvelous oasis full of history and a great shop. Getting there doesn't prepare you. First you head down a bare desert road away from Tecopa, then turn onto dirt, and end up on dirt snaking downhill through abandoned gypsum mines. We stopped and read the signs about the "Gypsum Queen" and the heyday of the mines. Most are now fenced off to keep out the unwary. (The mines were abandoned after a cave-in killed a couple miners.)
The ranch itself goes back to the 1900s, when a Chinese man planted fruit trees, and has been through several owners since. There are huge old date palms near the original ranch house, and many date plantations throughout the valley, as well as greenery around the Alamagosa River. Lunch is served in one of the buildings, but we were too late for that. However, the shop serves lucious creamy date shakes.
In the shop, you can sample the various dates offered for sale, plus date nut bread. There are also salsas and olives, etc. offered for sale. The shop behind the edibles shop is a wonderful eclectic collection of everything from vintage pottery, mexican blankets, yard decor, kitchenware, clothes, and books. Some are antiques, some are thift-store sorts of things, but all are fun! I left with an 1875 medical book.
My one regret was we were there late in the day. If we had realized it was a jumping-off-point for a collection of trails, we would have planned accordingly! Beautiful vistas of sculpted cliffs are visible from the main parking lot. Stick around for a little while and read all the informative placards. Fremont and Kit Carson camped near here, and the area has a rich history.
We plan to return for a day trip. Their is easily enough here to keep you busy for a full day, so plan accordingly!
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