We moved from Fort Collins to here in June of 2014 to build a direct gain passive solar home in the foothills west of Walsenburg. We rented a hundred-year-old house in town for 13 months while building our own version of a retirement dream home. There would be few surprises when we finally arrived in our new home, but moving to Walsenburg was the greatest culture shock.
When you decide to move to a very small town after living in the city most of your life, false assumptions can be made. After all, you really don’t know exactly what to expect, because you have never lived in such a tiny town before.
The first mistake we made was assuming that rentals would be available in both La Veta and Walsenburg in June. We discovered the end of May there were none we would even consider living in, and we were closing on our house the middle of June! We quickly made friends with Susie, the primary realtor in Walsenburg, and offered her a hefty bonus if she would find us something quick.
We also assumed utilities would be much cheaper in a small town, but we were wrong about that too. We did call the utility departments for both La Veta and Walsenburg before renting, and quickly discovered that only propane heating was available in La Veta. That would add up quite quickly in this cold part of the country, so we began leaning more towards Walsenburg in our selection process.
One thing we never would have guessed is that city water in Walsenburg would cost over $60 a month BEFORE you figured in how much you used that month! This town has lost about a third of its population in the past decade, so their water capacity is far larger than they need or can pay for, one reason why they are welcoming marijuana grow operations at present.
We did find a decent house to rent just in time, but it was so small we had to find additional storage for some of our furniture. The local realtor helped us with that too.
One total win for us was how friendly and welcoming our new landlord Bob was. He helped us whenever he could, and even provided new music for us to listen to as we explored our new home county. He then invited us up to his commune home near Gardner, where he has lived since the 1970s. The people who live in the communes in the northern part of Huerfano county have been so friendly and welcoming!
Another total win has been the quiet beauty of this part of Colorado. The views are phenomenal down here, and the weather is just a bit milder than up north. We love it! It’s definitely big sky country!
Most of the people we have met here have been friendly at least at first, although most seem hesitant to truly welcome new people. Most don’t seem to want to be friends. I’m still trying to figure that one out. I have heard a few interesting explanations so far!
I wrote quite a bit about making friends here in my journal, which then turned into a published memoir. When asked whether it was OK to write about how others have treated me here, I turn to Anne Lamott:
“Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Sunrises are outrageous at 7,000 feet with no neighbors!