Senior Living In The Mountains

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
1 / 2
2 / 2

Twenty years ago we moved to the mountains to live in our small cabin full time. We live here at 9,800’ elevation with our four German Shepherd dogs living fairly remotely. We are now in our senior years and while things have changed as we become older we are still able to handle the rigors of harsh mountain living by adjusting. While the weather is mostly ideal when it turns bad it can be severe. Last winter we had some of the heaviest snows we have seen in our time here plus winds that blew to hurricane force at times. We have spent much of the early spring time cutting up the trees blown over or broken off due to last winter weather. Maintenance of property can be never ending which for us seniors requires continual physical demands.

Living here fairly remotely can be strenuous at times, especially as we have become older. We heat our small  cabin with a woodstove and because of our long winter season we burn up to 10-11 cords of firewood per season. Assembling that much firewood requires considerable  physical labor in cutting the dead trees, hauling, splitting and stacking in preparation of next year’s needs.

Hiking To The Mountain Top

Life for us is not all work and we enjoy the natural benefits which living in the mountains has to offer. Yesterday was one of those recreational times as we live on the last road that parallels the mountain to where we can simply walk out our back door and hike up the mountain. The top of the mountain is 10,500’ elevation and the climb is steep, demanding and very rugged. There are numerous deadfalls and dense stands of small trees not to mention the rocks that make footing treacherous. The closer to the top of the mountain the steeper it becomes. In places it is so steep it is necessary to crawl on all fours to safely ascend further. I would classify the hike that encompasses about two hours to the top of the mountain as extremely strenuous.

Maintaining Physical Well Being

As a senior it seems everything we do whether for recreation or work is strenuous and it is necessary to be relatively well conditioned to accomplish living as we do. We have seen those who have moved to our area and misjudged their physical ability only to become disappointed and ultimately leave. There are much easier hikes available but to enjoy the beauty from the top of the mountain it is necessary to keep fit enough to make that climb.

Disabilities Do Not Eliminate Activity – Only Slow Down Achievement

With very bad knees I was able to still make it to the top of the mountain by stepping carefully and progressing slowly. The view from the mountain top is remarkable and you can see for miles (see photo). Standing on the very top of the mountain is an exhilarating feeling that only those who are able to make the climb experience (see photo of Carol). The panorama and view is worth hiking, crawling and gasping for breath to get to the top. Sitting on top of a mountain sharing crackers and cheese while taking in the expansive view is not only enjoyable but leaves one feeling very small in those surroundings.  

Realistic Expectations For Seniors

Our lifestyle requires a certain determination, stubbornness and grit to enjoy the benefits of this type of life. Before making the decision or attempting to live as we do it might be a good idea to have a physical from a doctor who will be straightforward in letting you know if it is within your ability or not. The cost of the physical is far less than jumping into a mountain lifestyle that may not totally suit you and which you may end up leaving. Mountain living is also mostly outdoor living and cohabiting with wildlife. If that is a concern then maybe another form of living is better suited for you. When we have hiked to the top of the mountain we have seen elk and bear as well as deer. Some people are unable to handle being adjacent to wildlife like that unless they are safely behind bars or there are thick glass walls between them and the animal. .

Nature Makes Its Own Symphony

I enjoy getting up early in the mornings to hear the sound of the birds welcoming the day. They all seem to have a different song and when they are singing it is a beautiful thing as they sing with all their being to greet the day. Same with the elk bugling in the fall. To me those sounds are like the most beautiful symphony ever played. Because of the ability of sound to travel great distances in the mountains I get up early to enjoy the birds and animals because as the day progresses there is the noise of vehicles, generators and the running of chainsaws (including ours).

Seniors Need Not Be Held Back – Only Readjust Techniques

For someone who is on the downhill side of their mid 70’s being able to undertake the rigors of a very strenuous hike to the top of the mountain seems to be a plus for myself or any other fairly well conditioned senior. There were a couple times that I was considering turning back but the desire to be on top of the mountain drove me on as the rewards far exceed the pain of the climb. Living in the mountains is strenuous and almost everything we do requires stamina/endurance, from fishing the trout streams for a meal or prospecting for gold.

Seniors Can Amaze Themselves And Others

There is a special satisfaction in knowing that as a senior we can live a mostly self sufficient lifestyle. Being able to live such a lifestyle in a location where almost everything accomplished is a strenuous activity is encouraging. Us seniors may do things a little slower and the technique may be different but we amaze ourselves with our ability to cope and accomplish tasks. We may be old but we are still capable of doing most of what we have done in the past like climbing to the mountain top, we just do it differently. As the photo on the mountain top shows there is still snow up there; we receive on average 20-24’ of snow per season. Just moving that much snow is strenuous and difficult but we just take our time and do it slightly differently. Sometimes we seniors amaze ourselves but we get the task done albeit differently.     

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their life in the mountains of S. Colorado go to:

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.