Yesterday was so interesting! We visited some new friends who have lived up above 8,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains west of here for the past few years. Loved hearing their stories about living up high.
I know many have romantic visions of life up in those beautiful mountains, but remember this too:
The approach to their house is a windy, dirt road off of a major highway, a road they and their few neighbors must maintain, unlike the county road we live off of, 15 miles west of Walsenburg. Once they came home a few years ago and there was 6 feet of snow on this road. They couldn’t go home!
We heard stories about when the deep snows come, and the big state highway snowplows plow their road closed! That’s why they need to maintain snow-moving equipment themselves….imagine that!
I asked them how deep the snow gets up there, and they decided one picture was worth a thousand words!
WOW! We have had a few snows of a foot or so, but nothing like this! They told us stories of a few snowstorms where they shoveled for eight hours straight. If they didn’t have heavy equipment they wouldn’t be able to get out for weeks!
Their property includes an old straw-bale cabin on a mine site plus 100 acres. Their water comes from a spring nearby, and what delicious water it is! They heat with a large wood stove, which requires a great amount of log splitting to prepare for the winter cold. They have electric service, mainly because the costs of returning renewal energy back to the grid here requires outrageous fees and insurance requirements, and going off grid presents other problems with reliability and initial installation costs. We are stuck here until better energy storage solutions are developed worldwide.
The natural beauty of their landscape is beyond words and, did I mention, they have no water or heating bills… They maintain a number of wildlife cameras and see so many different animals around their home. Bears are so commonplace that they have named a few of them! It’s a wonderful place that requires a lot of work to maintain.
Postscript: This home was lost in the Spring Creek Fire , July 2019.
We recently built a passive solar home right at 7,000 feet and are told by our new friends that we are really saving a lot of money in the winter by absorbing the sun’s heat directly into our insulated slab, which helps to hold the daily sun’s heat within our home overnight.
We hope to add a few of these solar thermal water tubes to our home soon to increase our thermal mass and help to moderate temperature swings both in the winter and summer. Beyond solar, we depend on Cadet forced-air electric wall heaters on thermostats for all of our winter heating needs. They usual turn themselves on during the night and turn off soon after the sun comes up most days. In the summer, the positioning and excellent insulation in our new home keeps us cooler than most without the need for air conditioning. We have ceiling fans in every room.
We have rarely been “snowed in” this past winter, but we did purchase a Subaru and love how well it works on steep snowy roads. Overall, we’re glad we chose a lower elevation, especially since our home survived the Spring Creek Fire in 2018!
12 thoughts on “High in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains: Foothills versus Mountain Living in Southern Colorado”
Glad you and Mike visited yesterday!
Yes, Mary Anne:
What an education in high country living! LOVED IT! Thanks for sharing your life with us.
Thinking of 7,000 feet as “not living high” boggles my mind! The pictures do indeed tell the tale, and it sure is nice to see all the wonderful pictures you post. Gorgeous places to live in any event, and a whole lotta work. 🙂
Yep, 7,000 feet hardly seems like anything now, except when I try to walk uphill quickly! LOL! But I’m adjusting and it feels great!
I was a mail carrier in KY and used a Subaru when it got bad. Those things will go anywhere. You live in some beautiful country and I love how you are doing it so economically.
I know Rena! When we first got it Mike took it out and tried coming to a complete stop on an icy hill, and started right up it again! He came home and said, “That thing is practically a snow mobile!!!”
What a great commentary on living over 8,000 feet high. Really enjoy your writing! Cheryle
Can’t imagine living someplace where you have to have your own snowplow!
And I thought I lived ‘up high and in the snow’! I bow to the masters . . . 🙂
How high are you Diane? We’re only at 7,000 feet and that’s enough for me!
I love the idea of wildlife cameras. That would be such a big plus for me. Our friends live at 8000 feet plus outside Santa Fe and getting there is an ordeal for sure.
Yes Carol, Mike has set up bird feeders and a bath right outside our glass doors…so fun to watch them, plus we sometimes get deer there too!