Life In The Colorado Mountains

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Mountain Life

We have lived full time in the Sangre de Cristo mountains at 9,800’ elevation for twenty years this month. In those twenty years many things have changed and some things have pretty much remained the same. What has changed is that we are twenty years older than we were when we first became full time residents. What has not changed is that we still do many of the same tasks that we had to do initially like property maintenance and cutting, splitting and stacking 9-12 cords of firewood for our long winters. We still heat our cabin with a wood stove but that too may change as we are looking at more efficient and easier methods of heat since cutting that much firewood year after year is getting harder. An inescapable conclusion is that the time went by very quickly.

Mountain Life With Canines

Even though we live remotely we currently have our three German Shepherd Dogs to keep us constant company. Our 14 year old girl just passed away and we miss her terribly. We do not deny our fur family anything and in fact they are spoiled rotten. Three of our dogs have passed away over the twenty years but all have had long very healthy lives. They have developed various minor maladies over the years but by working with our veterinarian closely they have not been slowed down because of any medical condition. What has not changed over the twenty years is the consistent level to which we pamper our fur family members. We have several games we play with them to keep them alert and challenged. They in turn alert us when animals or intruders come near the house.

Avoiding Canine Gastric Problems

Our fur family has their own elevated dining table (where they have their own space for their three meals each day. We divide their daily food requirement into three meals as we want to avoid the possibility of stomach torsion. That is a condition that needs very quick veterinary care and we live an hours drive from the clinic. We don’t know of any studies that would indicate one or two large meals per day could cause stomach torsion but we discussed same with our veterinarian who agreed three meals spread out over the day is a good precaution. After our fur family eat they immediately go to get a large drink of water. Since most of their food is kibble we have seen how it swells up in size and don’t want to risk a potentially fatal condition. We also have two who gobble down their food quickly so we feed them with slow eat bowls and the third is already a nice slow eater.  

Time And Tide Wait On No One

My Air Force roommate used to say frequently that time and tide waited on no one. I’m sure it is not an original saying but it is true and 20 years for us has passed quickly. What has not changed for us is that time definitely continues to move on and 20 years later when we look back we realize just how fast.  In that time we have slowed down and have to work harder to perform tasks that we used to do without much effort. When we take on the physically demanding chores on our homestead we don’t complete them nearly as fast or easily as we used to. In fact if a casual observer would watch us working they could perceive that we were having a grunt and groaning competition. The final result is that we get the job done as we always have but without a doubt it requires different tactics, techniques, more time and more effort.

Mountain Life Can Be Tough

Carol and I were recently discussing all those individuals that in the past twenty years have moved to our area and then have left for various reasons. There is less than a handful of people left from the twenty years we have lived in this community because most have moved away or passed away. A full time lifestyle in the mountains is not an easy lifestyle which is reflected by those no longer here. People have come to try it and then for various reasons leave for city life or less strenuous living. We seem to be the anomaly for sustaining a long permanent full time mountain residency. Even though the weather is often harsh and living our lifestyle can be physically demanding we have enjoyed every minute of our life here in the mountains.

Alternative Entertainment

While we lack the amenities of  city life we have the wild animals and challenges of the four seasons to keep us entertained and occupied. In our twenty years of living here we have seen (some up close and personal) mountain lion, bobcat, lynx, wolves, bear, deer, elk and a host of smaller animals. Our canine fur family is probably the most entertaining component that we have experienced and every day they seem to do something that has us smiling or laughing out loud. I can’t imagine life like ours without our canine friends and we enjoy the regular visits of the wild animals. I would recommend that anyone living full time in the mountains seriously consider having one or more canines to provide companionship, protection and entertainment for the long winters and semi isolation periods.

Canines Are Part Of The Experience

In summary our twenty years of being full time residents in the mountains has been highly rewarding but demanding. The stories we have with the wild animals that share the mountain with us are priceless. Reflecting back on the last twenty years reveals that maintaining a mountain lifestyle is strenuous, hard work, and clearly different than most other lifestyle choices. Our canine family friends are not just part of our lifestyle but integral to our happiness.  What has not changed is that we still have clean air to breath, pure water from our well and enough exercise to keep us healthy. Life in the mountains is good but it’s not for everyone according to our experience and recollections. On reflection we would not change our life here for any other lifestyle.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their fur family and mountain living go to their blog at:

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