Lessons from Ashes: A Mountain Homesteading Community Finds Strong Leadership After Wildfires



Recently a post on social media caught my attention. It was a small, remote cabin very similar to ours on a mountainside and about the same size. It was posted with a question of whether you could live there. There were about 400 comments and numerous re-posts. Most comments were from people who loved it and the solitude and peace it presented. Only a few were from people who were committed city dwellers who could not live like that. Several were from people who would like to vacation there but not live there. There were the usual questions about how far was shopping, medical, and groceries.  

Could you live in our cabin? The photo of the cabin coupled with the comments reminded me of our Colorado mountain cabin and the comments I have heard in the more than 23 years we have lived here full time. Because of the wildfire in 2018, our nearest neighbor is now about one mile away. Approximately half of our community lost their homes, so neighbors are more scarce. Self reliance is more of a reality now, because there are fewer full- or part-time residents in the community. Having watched this community grow over our time and now seeing it partially destroyed is heartbreaking. 

Small community problems. Our small community has been a micro reflection of our country. It was deeply divided over a broad spectrum of issues and subjects. People were divided and unwilling to cooperate with each other, making it hard to achieve a common goal. I’m guessing that most still residing in the community have forgotten the many small battles over the years and those who are no longer here and had their investment wiped out in a moment of time don’t consider those battles or issues worth remembering.

Disputes that divide are a waste of time. For those of us remaining on this mountain, our lives are now consumed with issues like snow removal — we get an average of 260 inches per year — finding firewood, roads being kept open, and land restoration, instead of picking fights or finding arguable issues with each other. Due to our length of time in this community, we are finding that skills and insights from our past serve us very well now. We have always been private people and now with even fewer people living nearby, we are less affected than those that crave social involvement.

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