By Carol Kramer
“It’s snowing in Baja!!!” What was to have been a beautiful drive to the observatory in the Sierra de San Pedro Martir National Park with a view of the Sea of Cortez to the east and the sparkling Pacific Ocean to the west, instead turned into a snow storm in which we couldn’t see more than 5 feet ahead of us. That was nine years ago and Hugh’s and my first trip to the Meling Ranch. For years we had heard about the famed ranch and Aida Meling, the family’s ruling matriarch. We arrived just as David Lang and his wife Sandra Meling were taking over the reins of the ranch from Aida’s children. There was work to be done and many renovations were planned.
We returned after Christmas this year and what a beautiful change. The rooms have been refurbished. Each has its own pot-bellied stove with a night’s supply of appropriately chopped wood outside the door. The pool has been redone and, on a warm day, would be very inviting. The landscaping is charming with flower beds and antique ranch equipment.
What hasn’t changed is the wonderful cooking. We feasted on a chicken dinner the night we got in, and the chilaquiles for breakfast the next morning were the best I have ever eaten. Meals, served family style, always include people from many countries and lively discussions. Staff was friendly and very accommodating.
A few years ago, Sandra got sick. David promised that if she was cured, he would build a chapel on the ranch. Fortunately, Sandra is now better and, fulfilling his promise, David has almost finished the construction of the beautiful little chapel just inside the front entrance to the ranch.
The property, which is still a working cattle ranch includes 10,000 acres of land on which the cattle graze. It lies at the foot of the Sierra de San Pedro Martir National Park known for its pine trees and granite rock formations. This gorgeous park also includes the National Astronomical Observatory of Mexico built in 1971 and home to Mexico’s largest optical telescope, with a diameter of 2.12 meters, and a weight of 40 tons in total. The observatory is the second most important in Latin America. With the lack of light and atmospheric pollution, this site affords excellent viewing of the heavens.
On our recent trip, the sky was a vibrant blue and there were five or six inches of snow covering the ground. We drove up to the top of the mountain where the largest telescope is located. Across the valley is a spectacular view of Picacho del Diablo or Devil’s Peak, the highest point in the park as well as in Baja California with its summit reaching 10,160 ft. It was a chilly 33 degrees. On the way back down the mountain, we were able to tour the new museum located in the park. The Museo de Cultura e Historia Natural opened in August of 2012. This beautiful building full of light and color contains exhibits about the history, geology and people of the area as well as the missionaries, soldiers, scientific expeditions, and the work being conducted at the Observatory and the California Condor Project.
Outside of the park on the way back to the Meling Ranch, we stopped at the condor lookout. In 2002 the San Diego Zoo’s California Condor Project began collaboration with Mexico to re-release condors bred in captivity back into the wild in the Sierra San Pedro Martir. Once down to 22 birds, the condors now number over 405. The Mexico program has been a success. It was thrilling to watch two condors at the top of the granite rocks at the lookout interacting with each other then swoop off their perch to soar over the valley.
In all, our trip back to Meling Ranch was a wonderful experience. You can be sure, we won’t wait another nine years to return.
Visit the Ranch’s website at www.ranchomeling.com