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Inn of the Month: New Mexico's Rancho de San Juan

New Mexico is a land for searchers -- soul and otherwise. Seek and ye shall find Rancho de San Juan, a luxurious four-room, five-suite inn close enough to Taos skiing and Santa Fe shopping but far from the crowds. Two forged-iron quail guarding the dirt driveway are so discreet that first-time guests drive right by. No one minds: a U-turn is a small price to pay for privacy.

The main hacienda lies low on 225 acres. On one side it opens to an entry courtyard domesticated by fruit trees, flowers, and a fountain, and on the other to a vista of distant ridges. Roosters crow from a henhouse that supplies eggs for the dining room, open at breakfast to guests only, at dinner to the public (reservations are suggested).

Air so fragrant with piñon, a sky so blue, land so rugged, casts a spell. For a near-religious experience, the inn obliges with Windows in the Earth (shown here), a shrine carved out of sandstone by artist Ra Paulette. If it doesn't get to you, the Georgia O'Keeffe panorama, viewed from the shrine, will.

RANCHO DE SAN JUAN, Hwy. 285, Espanola, New Mexico; phone and fax 505/753-6818; doubles from $155.

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