J and D's Corner

Our Photo Attic - Stuff from Here & There

We Visit "Old Baja" w/Some of the Skypark Gang

Many of us have steered clear of Mexico of late because of the ever-increasing fees and paperwork snarls instituted by the Mexican authorities.  However, the idea of a visit to historic Meling Ranch overcame our distaste for the process and three Skypark aircraft headed down on Memorial Day weekend 2004. 

After a stop in Mexicali for customs & immigration formalities (nice folks there, but:  $50 for the airplane, $20 for each passenger, over an hour elapsed time fiddling with paperwork, get the picture?) we were off for the Ranch.  Located in a small valley in the foothills of the Sierra San Pedro range about 100 miles southeast of Ensenada , the ranch is at 2100 feet, high enough to cool nicely in the evenings.  A lovely flowing stream, pure gold in arid Baja, pops out of the ground only a few hundred yards uphill from the ranch and provides dependable year-round water.

While it is a working ranch, the Meling clan has hosted guests since the 1940's.  Family Matriarch Aida Meling ramrodded the operation up to her death in 1998, after which the ranch closed down for several years.  Now Aida's daughter Duane has taken up the Herculean task of bringing things back to "normal".   The following pictures convey some of the ambience of the place.         Click on the thumbnails for the full-size picture.

Meling Ranch

Airstrip runs R to L at top of picture. Rising terrain dictates one-way operation, and a go-around could be dicey!

Airstrip at Meling

This is the view from the "normal" approach direction, "Runway 03". Note the distinct rise, and the hills behind. Length is about 2400 feet and surface is good packed dirt.

Skypark Airforce at Rest

No tie-down facilities. Bring your own ropes & anchors if you feel you need them. We just used chocks.

The Ranch "Courtyard"

A grassy courtyard is ringed by four buildings containing guest rooms, a kitchen/dining hall, the swimming pool, plus other structures.

Guest Rooms & Patio

Each guest room structure has its own patio, elevated from the courtyard. Nice place to veg out and enjoy the sun or shade.

The Stream

The stream pops up out of the sandy canyon bottom just upstream of the ranch complex. Supposedly, a few trout reside downstream but we didn't see any.

Water Central

This pump takes care of all water distribution chores, including filling the pool, irrigating, and filling the drinking water tanks up the hill. Yes, all from the stream, and it tastes great.

Power Central

Electric power is supplied by this well-used 37kw Diesel plant, which is run from around 3pm to 10pm. After that, it's oil lamps, but who stays up that late anyway?

Dining Hall

Food is served family-style in the dining hall, a separate structure with kitchen attached. Be prepared to eat like a ranch hand...no dieting here!

A Bit of Philosophy

And Duane is guided by it....

The Cook?

Nope, just Paul. Much of the cooking is done on these two wood-burning stoves, which were US Army surplus from aught-something (as in pre-WWII)

Duane at Mealtime

Each meal is announced by the ringing of the bell, sometimes accompanied by a "Soooowe - soooowee" hog call. And believe me, they come 'a runnin!

The Gang At Work

There were 11 in our group, plus a couple of other guests and an assortment of ranch hands & relatives.

Holly, Duane & Bob

Don't let Holly's expression throw you. She was deeply involved in a piece of pineapple cake at the instant the flash went off.

More Cake?

D: "Don't take my picture when I'm getting seconds"

Native Construction Material

The earlier buildings were done with classice adobe brick. Most have been faced with flagstone or other material to protect the adobe from the weathering which is plainly visible here.

Some Repairs Needed

This adobe building obviously is at a cusp. Either it gets fixed soon or it is history. Right now it serves as the woodshed.

Dawn from our Porch

Days at the ranch start quitely....and pretty much stay that way.

Everyone Rides

One of the major activities is crusing the property on horseback. A few dogs always accompany you, but sometimes the little ones want a break.

D on Horseback

Getting on & off took a little effort but once on...well, it was 'back in the saddle again'.

Pat & Paul

Old ranch hands themselves, Pat & Paul were right at home at Meling.

D Climbs the Hill

The horses were well-trained and accomodated our rudimentary riding skills with no problems for either party.

Relaxing in the Pool

The swimming pool is filled directly from the stream and is unheated, so while it felt great after a ride no one stayed in the water too long. Air temps were min-70s while we were there but reach the 100's in summer


No TV, no video games, but the kids have room to run and dogs to play with.

More Playmates

This sheepdog-mix was always ready to play or to run with the horses.

The Graveyard

Seven generations of Melings, plus Johnsons and other married-into names, are present in the family graveyard.

Early Graves

Some of the earlier graves were unmarked, and very likely their exact occupants are no longer known.

View from the Graveyard

From its hillside location, the graveyard has a nice view of the ranch complex. Airstrip is in the background.

Ham on the Hoof

In addition to cattle, the ranch raises a few pigs, goats & chickens to supply their needs.

Grandmother's House

Currently boarded up and awaiting restoration, this home features a classic wrap-around porch.

Work No More

There was an assortment of defunct equipment and vehicles to poke over.


This old International panel truck finishes its last years as a storage shed.

Cream, Anyone?

This old hand-cranked cream separator has seen better days, but makes an interesting decoration.

Relaxing at Mealtime

After a long day of running, taking it easy at the dinner table makes sense.

More Relaxing

The damp flower bed makes a cool place to snooze. This Great Dane mix is only about 3 months old, but when she grows into those paws, look out!

More Relaxing

Playing with sister and the dogs all afternoon made a nap before dinner imperative.

More Relaxing

Pat & Paul made it through dinner, but I don't think they are up for the midnight show this evening.

Are We Going Out?

Maybe next trip.

Don't expect the Ritz, but Meling Ranch is definitely the place for anyone seeking a taste of "Old Baja".

NOTE (April 2006):  As indicated, the above dates from 2004.  At that time Duane did hint that long-term operations were somewhat uncertain, so do check the status of the Ranch rather than just dropping in....unless you're just passing by, of course.  Try the website http://www.melingguestranch.com/sundown.php

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