On The Road

An Actress-Slash-Director’s Dream Road Trip Through the Desert

Where to stay in Utah, Arizona, and Colorado.

By: Laurel Pantin

Zoe Lister Jones is a creative powerhouse. Having just wrapped her CBS show, Life in Pieces, she’s about to release her directorial debut, Band Aid. She also sings. And writes plays. And apparently is a genius travel planner, because her two-week road trip through the American southwest sounds like an absolute dream.

With stops in New Mexico, Dunton in Colorado, Vermejo Park Ranch, Sorrel River Ranch in Utah, and the energy vortex (okay!) at Mii amo in Sedona, she hit all the right spots.

“I wrapped my television show, Life In Pieces, this spring and had a window of time before beginning to promote my feature directorial debut, Band Aid, (which hits theaters June 2nd). I wanted to travel and wanted to immerse myself in nature and had been fantasizing about a road trip for some time. Alongside my husband, Daryl Wein, who lensed the photos below, we set out on a spontaneous adventure.

“The American Southwest has always intrigued me; its rich history, epic landscapes, and indigenous culture were all facets I was eager to explore, and thus began my first-ever tour of the four corners…”

“The four corners is the only region of the US at which four states meet. In light of our divisive administration, this unity, as metaphor if nothing else, felt apt. But beyond allegory, this is a region of the United States that still largely belongs to indigenous American nations, including the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, and Zuni nations.

“In light of the tragic injustice that has occurred in North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is at risk of water contamination due to Trump’s executive order to proceed with construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, this trip held particular resonance, standing at the crossroads of environmentalism and Indigenous rights, both of which are currently under attack.”

“My husband and I began in Santa Fe, making our first stop at the immersive theater experience, Meow Wolf.”

“An established New Mexican artists collective, Meow Wolf has been a fixture on the Santa Fe art scene for some time, but it took Game of Thrones mastermind (and Santa Fe native) George R.R. Martin to finance a theatrical experience of this magnitude.”

“An Instagram wet dream, we spent hours exploring this extensive and irreverent world, opening trap doors, climbing into refrigerators, and playing a laser harp before we set out on the rest of our journey.”

“Our next stop was Abiqui and Ghost Ranch, where we visited the home and studio of Georgia O’Keefe.”

“A fiercely independent pioneer of American modernism, O’Keefe left New York City in her mid-forties to lead a solitary life in this vast and wondrous setting, using the unrivaled vistas to inspire her art. I started to feel a twinge of temptation to do the same.”

“We spent a lot of time in nature on this trip; it’s hard not to. The landscape is otherworldly and varies dramatically from place to place. From the ochre mountains of southern New Mexico, we headed north to the Vermejo Park Ranch, a 585,000-acre preserved wonderland owned by media mogul and environmentalist Ted Turner.”

“One of Turner’s biggest environmental actions to date has been the reintroduction of bison to the United States (he currently owns 50,000, 1,200 of which roam freely at Vermejo). I knew little of US bison history before spending time at the ranch, but learned that they were an indigenous North American species facing extinction until philanthropic environmentalists like Turner took the cause on and began implementing bison programs across the country. (The mass slaughter of bison largely stems back to the mass slaughter of indigenous tribes, who relied on bison in nearly all facets of everyday life.”

“In addition to bison, there are elk, black bears, wild turkeys, bald eagles, bobcats, and mountain lions abounding. The lodges on the property date back to the turn of the century and were once occupied by the likes of Mary Pickford, Cecil DeMille, and Herbert Hoover.”

“What’s perhaps most astonishing about Vermejo Park is that it seems to be just that: a national park, with all of its raw beauty...the only difference is, we were its only guests.”

“As we continued our journey, we drove to Colorado for a blissful night at Dunton Hot Springs, a turn-of-the-century mining town converted to luxury cabins in the midst of mineral hot springs so glorious, there are few words to describe them. It is rare to find hot springs so organic to their environment, surrounded by snowcapped mountains and wildflowers.”

“Next was Utah, to the lands surrounding Arches National Park, a place like none other I have yet had the privilege of exploring. We stayed in a cabin along the Colorado River, with stunning views of the epic Professor Valley, at the Sorrel River Ranch.”

“Here, our amazing adventure guide, Jeff, took us on hikes where we learned about native species and marveled at the ever phallic rock formations that so frequently abound in this region.”

“After exploring these phenomenal lands from the ground, we decided to take them in from a slightly more elevated viewpoint: by jumping out of a plane. I always swore I would never skydive, but this seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and, thanks to Moab Skydive, it truly was.”

“Our last stop was Sedona, Arizona, a place famous, in addition to its raw beauty, for its energy vortexes. The Mii amo Spa was our home for our final few nights, nestled at the foot of a vortex renowned for balancing masculine and feminine energy.”

“After two weeks on the road with my husband, that sounded just right. Additionally, the spa offered such incredible and unique treatments, many of which draw from indigenous traditions, that our journey truly felt complete. (P.S. Try neuromuscular therapy with Bruce.)”

“This adventure exceeded my wildest expectations. To witness how glorious our earth is, and right here, in our own great nation, was awe-inspiring. But it was also melancholy. At a time when our administration is threatening the safety of our national parks and nature preserves for the first time in over a century, we must be all the more vigilant in protecting that which is so precious.

“As Ted Turner states in his book, Last Stand, ‘Our strength as a species resides with our ability to empathize—and in using our good fortune to minimize the pain and suffering of others, including other species. How we treat the earth is the biggest expression of our success or failure as a society.’”

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