Walsenburg and La Veta Colorado, Living Between Two Very Different Worlds

For the past five years, just over 40 million Americans moved each year, or about 13 percent of us. Most moves are local, either within the same county or within the same state. Within-county moves accounted for 65 percent of all moves in 2019, while moves between counties in the same state accounted for 17 percent, according to the federal government’s Current Population Survey (CPS) data.

We moved from one of the northern most counties of Colorado (Larimer) to one 50 miles from the New Mexico border in 2014. Larimer County’s population has grown over 30,000 residents since then, while Huerfano County may have gained 200 residents. The only reason Huerfano has not lost residents since 2014, when it reached less than 6,400, is the beauty of the rural areas west of Walsenburg.

When we moved here from a nice suburb of Fort Collins, I experienced extreme culture shock, and most of the residents we talked to could not believe we had chosen to leave Fort Collins for here. I gravitated to hanging out in La Veta even though we lived in Walsenburg while having our solar home built in the foothills, halfway between La Veta and Walsenburg. I did not find Walsenburg residents particularly friendly to outsiders, and La Veta people seemed a little more welcoming. I later learned that most long-term residents here don’t like newcomers and don’t think they’ll stay, so they choose not to invest in friendships with them. I’m sure you see the self-perpetuating prophecy in this. La Veta was not super friendly either, but at least I did meet some nice people there.

Six years later, I continue to try and understand this area and its resistance to newcomers and new businesses. At first it really bothered me, especially when our next door neighbor offered friendship at first and then decided to hate us within six months for no apparent reason. After a few years I didn’t care as much because we were so happy in our solar perch with phenomenal views in every direction. As of today I only have one close, local friend and she is wonderful.

We have had to adjust to many differences between city and rural life, but being able to order almost anything on the Internet has made all the difference! I would say if you are very independent of mind and truly celebrate natural silence and beauty you may end up loving it here. However, trade offs must be made. None of our restaurants are stellar and most are closed down now. No pizza deliveries here! You need to like cooking and have a few different avocations than city people, avocations like hiking, camping, gardening, photography and the arts.

As far as the differences between Walsenburg and La Veta go, Walsenburg has one of the highest crime rates per thousand in the U.S.

“The 2016 crime rate in Walsenburg, CO is 628 (City-Data.com crime index), which is 2.3 times higher than the U.S. average. It was higher than in 98.0% U.S. cities.”

Just about everyone I have met there has been robbed. I cannot find a crime rate for La Veta, but it’s very low. The main difference you will find in Huerfano County is that land prices east of La Veta average around $5,000/acre or less, and those in the higher mountains can be well above $50,000/acre.

Springtime view from our solar perch!

The apparent draw to this area, including ourselves, is that you can still find inexpensive rural land with tremendous views for reasonable prices. Just remember there are very few decent jobs here and most of this county is above 7,000 feet, which can challenge the breathing of many lowlanders.

Want to learn more about moving here? I kept a journal of this process:

Why we decided to move here after first checking out Ecuador (!)

The difficulties of renovating our old home and leaving our old life behind.

The culture shock of very small town living.

Building a passive solar home in a rural area,

and so many other challenges & adjustments to be made when you choose living rural.

Check it out here:

A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Walsenburg and La Veta, a tale of division between two great Colorado towns

Walsenburg city limits signEver since we decided to move down here to southern Colorado in late 2013, I have been studying these two towns. Although only 16 miles or twenty minutes apart, they do differ greatly in style and substance. When we moved here to rent, while building our solar home in Navajo Ranch, I preferred to live in La Veta, but it cost so much more than Walsenburg, that we were happy to find a very hard-to-locate rental near downtown Walsenburg.

Yes, I did have a hard time adjusting to life in Walsenburg. The best way to describe my feeling was culture shock. Coming from a thriving and popular city like Fort Collins, I felt initially let down. And yet what I eventually discovered is that what I found most different here, like few traffic lights or traffic, felt both strange and better. I mean who wants to spend the rest of their life standing in line in traffic? I did struggle at first with the lack of places to buy anything besides groceries. My other difficulty was making real connections with town people. I found most friendly, but also quite hesitant to welcome strangers into their life.

View of La Veta valley from highway

One day when I felt lonely in our first summer in Walsenburg, I drove over to La Veta to shop and hopefully meet new people. There I found most folks I met more friendly and open to talking to a stranger. I felt like I fit in a bit better. Eventually I started attending exercise classes in La Veta and made a few friends that way. As I spent more time with “La Veta people” I learned that they rarely went to Walsenburg for anything except groceries. Most knew very little about the small town 16 miles east of them. I also learned that La Veta people are much more likely to go elsewhere in the winter, usually to warmer climes.

Because we live halfway between Walsenburg and La Veta we must choose which way to go whenever we need something. Now that my La Veta friends have left for the winter, I feel more motivated to get to know more Walsenburg people and a recent “Lunch & Learn” put on by the Spanish Peaks Business Alliance seems to be pushing me in that direction.

Here is my dilemma: Why do most of the people in Walsenburg not hang out with La Veta people? There seems to be some sort of great divide between these two towns, which I don’t understand or appreciate. I believe the folks in these two towns could really help each other out if they would start working together to improve the economies of both towns. Those of us who are relatively new here notice this ‘great divide’ more than the locals. I would love to do something about it.

There must be some way to get a grassroots movement going to introduce Walsenburg people to La Veta people so we can all work together for the common good!

memoir of retirement 2016Please feel free to check out my memoir about choosing to leave a lively, popular Colorado city behind (Fort Collins) to move to rural southern Colorado. We built a passive solar home for our retirement and love it! So many feelings when you make a major life change like this! This book is available in paper or e-book through Amazon or direct from me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com