#DefendTheDunes …and Save the Valley!

• April 4th, 2018 •

I recently listened to the Sierra Club webinar regarding the “energy dominance mandate” for the Bureau of Land Management to put up 11 parcels/18,358 acres in Huerfano County. These nominated parcels are located on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, within the Huerfano River Valley. Most of the press has been focused on all the parcels are no more than 8 miles east of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, with one parcel less than a mile away. Several of the parcels for auction are adjacent to the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, with one parcel directly adjacent to a “roadless area” known for its unique wildness.

In other words, we’re talking about a very large expanse of land (between Muddy Creek and the Huerfano River) that is less than 25 miles south of Westcliffe. If you look on a map, there are only two ways to get to that area via CO 69; either from the north through Westcliffe or south from Walsenberg. The impact that such a massive oil and gas operation would have on the Wet Mountain Valley is staggering. Just the truck traffic alone would make this area rumble. Add to that the introduction of light, noise and air pollution, with winds often blowing from the south, we are bound to be negatively impacted. We need to protect our quiet, dark valley treasure before all we love here is lost.

The potential impact on wildlife is also frightening. The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife has identified that Sensitive Wildlife Habitat overlaps with 10 of the 11 parcels for sale. All of the parcels overlap with important habitat for elk and mule deer. One parcel has significant overlap with a portion of land set aside as a conservation easement through the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

On another note, is how the leasing process was recently changed to almost completely be absent of public comment. The process used to give a 30 day comment period along with a 30 day protest period. Now all the public gets is 10 days, period. The protest period starts the same day that the sale notice and final documents are posted. That time period ended on April 6.

I am concerned that this could be the Valley’s future if we do not take rightful action to stop the September lease sale. If this is of concern to you, please contact these officials and ask them to tell BLM to stop the sale of these oil /gas leases: members of Congress (Representative & Senators), State Representative and Senator, Huerfano and Custer County Commissioners, Governor Hickenlooper.

We mustn’t stand by and be witness to the pillage of the Wet Mountain Valley. I have seen the destruction of pristine areas to benefit the oil and gas industry and it is not pretty. If something of this magnitude comes to pass, there’s no going back and the scars left behind will take generations to restore. We, all the people that call this place home for all the reasons we do, would have much to lose…

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders. Do not let selfish men and greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, riches or its romance.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Debbie Adams, Rural Westcliffe

Editorial submitted to The Tribune on 4/4/18

A Snapshot of 2017

• April 1st, 2018 •

Our snapshot of 2017 has to begin with January 1st when we decided the time was right to shift to “what’s next.” We had found our dream home—to live like we camp—simple, small and serene in a modern mountain cabin in Westcliffe, Colorado. Many serendipitous moments led us to where we belong to savor the sweetness and freedom of our “golden” years. The universe was in tune with total flow to inspire us to jump into a rural lifestyle surrounded by the splendor of nature. This is our place to be at peace on the planet while the world goes crazy. We shake our heads most every day with the news. But none of that…let’s get back to the magic that happened!

The market was sizzling hot to sell our Longmont home in one week for cash and $30,000 more than asking. It enabled us to have no mortgage to live in an 867 sq. ft. cabin on five plus acres of wilderness on the western slope of the Wet Mountains overlooking the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. We simply fell in love with the breathtaking view. We moved at the end of March. Matt commuted to work through May, got a new hip in June and retired in July. He couldn’t be happier! We ponder, putter and play by day and sleep soundly at night. No excuses to not exercise. Read books to our heart’s content. I love cooking in the kitchen and trying new recipes.

Our summer improvement project was to have a steel structure pole barn garage built. We did our best to downsize possessions but we are not minimalists when it comes to our outdoor toys (camper, kayaks, & bikes). The second story loft became a spacious play room with ping pong, darts, free weights, board games and a Bocce court outside. There is ample room to accommodate guests in a comfortable, rustic style. We welcome friends & family to camp on our property to breathe in fresh mountain air, listen to the sound of silence and be in awe of the night sky. We are less than two hours from the Great Sand Dunes National Park, a very worthy day trip.

I feel like we live in a water globe with the open sky above us in every direction. We literally watch clouds go by, wind and weather blow in and out, and the Milky Way arcs from end to end at night. The town, with no traffic lights, is 12 miles away with a decent market, bakery, great butcher and library. If we need more, we drive one hour to Pueblo or Salida, about twice a month. We enjoy solo daily walks at our own pace on miles of quiet, dirt roads. I intend to conquer those roads on my mountain bike. I’ve only begun to explore hiking trails into the Sangres; the moderate distance is 10 miles round trip with substantial elevation gain to the mountain lakes. Spectacular scenery!

I celebrated my 60th birthday in August and joyfully retired from a gratifying 43 year career in photography. Waiting until 67 to access retirement funds but in the meantime I am fortunate with Matt’s retirement to not be concerned with making a living. Not sure what’s next with my craft but I maintain a website and blog at dlaphoto.com and occasionally post on Instagram. Photography will always be a part of my creativity and artistic expression.

We shared good times with many house guests throughout the summer. We took a relaxing road trip to California in November to enjoy a super fun time with the grandkids, Chase (6) and Colette (3), in Solvang as well as visit dear friends along the way. We can’t believe we drove through the areas that were so devastated by the Thomas Fire in December. We flew to NJ and surprised my mom to share the holiday spirit with family for a week. It was wonderful to see everyone; one thing is for sure—we’re all getting older! ;-D

As we settle into our simple life, we look forward to getting out on the road to camp with the Cricket again. We are eager to explore new areas in the southern part of Colorado. We will never be bored with so many places to venture, things to do, and to even just be…and breathe. Ah, Life is good. May we all enjoy the wealth of health and all good things in 2018!

In peace & with joy, Debbie & Matt

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” -Henry David Thoreau

Summer in the Wet Mountain Valley

• August 13th, 2017 •

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” -Marcus Aurelius

It’s been five months since we moved to a small mountain cabin located on the west side of the Wet Mountains, south of the rural community of Westcliffe (pop. 591) in the Wet Mountain Valley. We’ve settled nicely into the flow of a quiet country lifestyle. It’s a mad, mad world out there so we felt it was an opportune time to shift and start anew. We embraced a change to make a dream come true—to live like we camp—small, simple and serene to savor our time on earth with goodness and gratitude.

If you wonder what life is like at 8,500 ft, read on…It is peaceful—with little traffic on the dirt roads to disturb the sound of silence. It is dark—depending on the moon phase, the night is filled with thousands of shining stars. It is breathtaking—to be in awe of a full rainbow or the Milky Way arching across the sky right outside the cabin. It is wondrous—to watch clouds float on and see the weather change as it comes and goes. We’ve got the whole sky, in every direction, above us and nature all around.

We live in a wilderness area but not off the grid. We have five plus acres with a well, septic, propane, electricity and a wood stove. Internet access can be a bit challenging, especially when it comes to streaming programs, but we’re adapting to limited data from a satellite company. We often see deer and have seen a bear and a herd of pronghorn on our property. Bella and Bogey have adjusted and take feline pleasure in catching baby mice. It’s been a very active monsoon season, great for keeping everything green, the wildflowers vibrant and replenishing ground water.

 

We’re getting into nature’s rhythm, often up before sunrise and out for a peaceful walk first thing. Our road rises up to offer a splendid view of the mountain valley. The air is delightfully fresh and clean, you can’t help but breathe deep to breathe in the peace and breathe out the love. This world needs love!

We do what needs to be done, whatever that may be, in the morning before the sun is a-blazing. Temps are comfortable but the Colorado sun is hot. We chill in the cabin mid-day, read at leisure, an afternoon nap for Matt, I play with photos and such on the computer, or play in the kitchen with a new recipe, we play Cribbage or backgammon later, another beautiful short walk in the evening before or after dinner, watch the day’s end and do our best to stay up unless there’s some stargazing to enjoy later in the night. We hope to learn many constellations while we’re still in our sixties.

We greatly appreciated being able to step outside to catch shooting stars streaking across the sky during the peak of the Perseids meteor shower. What was even more amazing was the light show from an enormous thunderhead way to the east, constantly lit up with what I would refer to as heat lightening with no sound of thunder. The lightening was wildly moving about through the cloud. WOW! doesn’t describe it.

 

We drive 12 miles into town once, sometimes twice, a week with a checklist of errands including dumping trash and recycling at the landfill, post office to send/receive mail, refill drinking water containers for 29¢ a gallon, check out books and DVDs from the library, go to the market for a week’s menu and visit other local shops like the yummy bakery Sugar & Spice and friendly butcher at Elevations Meat Market. If we need more than what’s available at the local market, we drive an hour in different directions to Salida, Canon City or Pueblo or 90 minutes to Colorado Springs.

We’re watching our Steel Structures America pole barn with a loft being built this month. We can’t wait to empty the storage unit in Longmont and bring everything home. Our barn, lovingly called Smallville, will house our one vehicle, Cricket camper, two kayaks, five bikes, a spin cycle, an exercise bench with weights, camping gear and most importantly, a new ping pong table with plenty of room around it to play. Game on!

I could go on but it’s time to enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sun set over the mountains. Life is good! As it should be…

“We make ourselves rich by making our wants few.” -Henry David Thoreau

 

Running with the stars…

• June 28th, 2017 •

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them.” – Marcus Aurelius

I do see myself running with them! How can I not with having this view before me every clear night with the right moon phase. When I stood outside as early as 10pm, I caught my breath, with my hand to my heart, from the magnitude of the Milky Way rising right outside our cabin door. My astro photography skills can only get better from here. I look forward to running with the stars in the Wet Valley!

Take my breath away…

• May 5th, 2017 •

I came upon a magnificent, unobstructed panoramic view of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. I was on my mountain bike riding up a country road; rode partly and got off to walk often to catch my breath. It was my first ride at 9,000 feet and when I came upon this view; it took my breath away. I have given myself the challenge to ride that road all the way up without getting off the bike. It may take some time to get there but I am committed to do it before I am 60 in three months!

I went back the next in my car with my camera as it was a very clear blue sky and with the snow capped peaks, it would translate very well in black and white. Now I just have to learn, and then remember, all the names of these peaks that I get to admire every day in all sorts of weather. Truly breathtaking!

 

Living simply…and simply loving it!

• May 1st, 2017 •

I had every good intention to blog about our move to Westcliffe over a month ago but one must be connected to the internet to do so; and that was a small challenge in itself. Issue resolved with Exede satellite with an inevitable change in our online habits of using data…but that’s another post. This post is an update of how we’re living simply and small in our mountain cabin overlooking the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.

On the first night, March 25th, God welcomed us with a most glorious sunset that moved us both to tears of joy that from this day forward this would be our home…a dream come true. Rural living is not for everyone but it is for us as we approach our “golden” years or final third of our lives on planet earth. Our summer road trip to the Pacific NW crystallized our desire to live a low key life surrounded by the natural beauty of the great outdoors and simply be…and that is exactly what we are doing, living simply and simply loving it!

 

We made the move during spring break to give us the time to unpack and nest together. We left the old furniture behind for the young buyers of Morning Dove and ordered new “mid-century” furniture from West Elm that would be delivered on Wednesday so we had three days to empty boxes and clear the living space. Even though we purged possessions before loading up a 20′ U-Haul, we still had a lot of stuff but magically everything found it’s proper place in the new space and the furniture was a perfect fit in the modern cabin.

 

That first week we woke up to three snowfalls but by mid-afternoon, hardly a trace of the white stuff and the thirsty ground drank it up. This area has been in a drought for some time so we won’t be complaining about snow or rain as it’s all good, water is life! Here it is May and the mountains have a solid layer of snow creating a breathtaking view. That’s going to make for some mighty fine wildflowers and happy lakes this summer. We have a pair of binoculars that give us an up-close view of the peaks which we enjoy looking at especially when the wind is howling on them, very cool entertainment.

 

Once we got settled, we hired a local painter to stain the cabin that had unfortunately been neglected for 15 years since it was built so it will always have a rustic charm. We had seamless gutters installed when we discovered how dangerously icy the decks became with melting snow followed by low temperatures. Since we’re building a pole barn, we took advantage of all the crushed granite on the driveway. With the aid of the gorilla wagon we moved a ton of rock to build paths around the front of the five acre property.

A large wood pile, probably been sitting there for over a decade, will make for this year’s wood supply for the indoor wood burning stove as well as the outdoor fire pit we set up. It is the driest wood we have ever seen. Who knows how many outdoor campfires we will actually burn but we very much enjoy fires inside to warm up the cabin.

We live on a dirt road with five other houses and just up the road from the cabin is Navajo Path that makes for a great daily walk, little more than a mile. I try to walk it twice a day—in the early morning and late afternoon. Very, very serene, good time to contemplate. When white puffy clouds are in the sky, I feel as if I am in a water globe with the whole sky above me slowly moving. I breathe in the mountain air…it’s so invigorating especially in stormy weather.

 

It was a traumatic transition for Ms. Bella and Mr. Bogey but they have settled into their new world. Bella is a brave warrior and likes exploring outside, Bogey not so much, but he seems to go feral in the middle of night running around. He may have done the same in Longmont but the house was bigger so it was no bother. Wood floors are much easier to clean up kit gak. They know where the front and back door are and they like hanging under the decks to be safe.

I’ve yet to photograph the night sky but it is amazing just looking at it! We see the Milky Way outside our bedroom window and when we wake up in the middle of the night we are in awe of the dark sky. We have an unobstructed view of the entire sky so we get to enjoy the rising and setting of the sun, the moon, the planets as well as the clouds sweetly rolling by. There is peace on earth…and we have found it in Westcliffe, Colorado.

The mountains are calling and I must go!

• March 20th, 2017 •

Welcome Spring…a season of renewal and fresh beginnings…and so it shall be for us. Since it coincides with spring break, this will be our third move at the same time of year. By April 1 we should be nicely settled into a new home once again. We look forward to what the future will reveal as this next chapter unfolds.

I was once told I was a mountain woman in a past life. Based on the exhilaration I experience when exploring the mountains, I would say that to probably be true. I feel so enlightened and energized when I stand in awe of the magnificence of the mountains whether hiking a trail, kayaking a lake or enjoying the view. I will now get to be inspired every day by the spectacular view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains just outside our cabin door! I shall never tire of that.

The big question for both of us is “What’s next?” of which we know not but we are ready for what it will be…a slower pace of life that is less expensive and more peaceful. It was our whole motivation for moving as we pondered where we could joyfully live with less space and less money in two years. We considered Washington, Oregon, Wyoming and South Dakota but when it came down to it, we wanted to stay in Colorado albeit many beautiful places would be out of our budget. An article came across our path that introduced us to Westcliffe as a dark sky designation. We had never heard of it but our interest was piqued.

We were indifferent after our first visit on October 29, 2016. Not much of a town, not quite sure if we could see ourselves living there. Two months later during winter break, on a whim, we went to Westcliffe and stayed over on December 29 so we could look at some properties on Friday. We looked at four but it was the small cabin in Cuerno Verde Pines that struck us the most—it was a modern cabin with almost everything we were looking for—not quite, but close enough and the view was absolutely breathtaking.

  

We stopped in Salida for lunch and on the way home, talked ourselves out of it, all the reasons it wouldn’t work. On Saturday we changed the frequency to all the reasons it would work and how nice it could be living simply. Happy New Year, let’s make the move now! We met with our realtor, Sandi Storck, and John Creighton at High Plains Bank and without hesitation we said yes to make an offer on January 7, 2017. We spruced up our lovely home in Longmont and put it on the market on January 17; one week later we had six offers with one $30,000 over asking in cash. Alrighty then! Closed in less than two weeks but able to stay put until the cabin closing at the end of March. Our two year plan turned into two months…and so it shall be.

Flow.

And into the mountains I go…to lose my mind and find my soul

The Ides of March, my past and present

• March 15th, 2017 •

As the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC was a turning point in Roman History, only ten years ago, the Ides of March 2007, was a turning point in our own history when our condo HOA ordeal began in Santa Barbara, CA. It was pure hell, which in a short time jarred us to “think outside the box” and consider other possibilities. We opened up a map of the country to ask “where don’t we want to live?” and after eliminating every corner, the only state left from our query was the beautiful state of Colorado. We did our search, bought a nice home in Longmont and moved at the end of March 2009. It has been a great eight years living here with the view of the Rocky Mountains. Our lives are far richer because of the wonderful people we have met and the experiences we had the opportunity to enjoy.

In one week we shall have another turning point that we look forward to with much anticipation of new possibilities while living our life in a small cabin with a big pole-barn. We are excited and open to what’s next, whatever that may be living in the high country at 8000 ft. Westcliffe, (population 565 in 2013), is a beautiful, rural area of the state located in the Wet Valley and was officially designated a dark sky in 2015. We are eager to enjoy living as we had camped in the Pacific NW this past summer—small, simple, serene and stargazing—which seems to be what excites us in our 60s! So it shall be and we couldn’t be happier! We look forward to being active in the area as there are miles of hiking and biking trails to explore which should keep us busy for at least the next decade.

And this has all come to pass because of the Ides of March in 2007; what a difference a decade can make!

Thanks for the memories Longmont!

• March 4th, 2017 •

Wrapping up life and business in what has been our lovely home on the Front Range is a significant process to experience. Moving from California to Colorado eight years ago was a fresh challenge and definitely broadened our horizons. We’ve never looked back and know we were meant to be here, we just didn’t know for how long. It’s been an intriguing period that we have greatly enjoyed along with the peeps we consider friends and the many memories made along the way. We got to travel about to explore the western region and met many wonderful, kind-hearted spirits both here and on the road.

It has been a absolute privilege and pleasure to have been an active part of the community.We shall remember our time here fondly and will certainly be back to visit. This town has grown so much since we first arrived in 2009 and is absolutely flourishing. We just want to say to everyone we have met— “Thanks for the memories Longmont!”

We are 21 days out from making the move to Westcliffe but we have mentally left Longmont. I have wrapped up the photo biz. Most things are boxed up. (It’s amazing how little we truly need to get by). Upstair bedrooms are all empty except for the queen bed in the master. The basement is almost clear except for the ping pong table that is staying with the house and the last of my studio equipment. A storage unit in Longmont is full with all the items waiting for the barn to be built. I am done cooking creatively but fortunately we get to savor the Beet Box from Sugarbeet to have a delicious dinner three nights a week which makes it simple, very tasty and easy to clean up. Everything continues to flow and we are thankful.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” -C.S. Lewis

 

Living in the moment, two simple words: Over & Next

• March 3rd, 2017 •

Ninety-three year old television legend Norman Lear shared a life tip on Wait, Wait…with two simple words—Over and Next and the hammock in the middle is living in the moment. Those two simple words of thought resonated with us and we eagerly move on to what’s next. Living simply in a small mountain cabin with a big barn sounds ideal to us. It thrills us to no end to think we can be in awe of the dark night sky right from our deck! We are fully aware and excited about a whole different way of life in a beautiful rural area of the state. It’s our next phase to enjoy living life in our sixties.

Some people seem to be genuinely concerned with “what will you do and we reply “Why do we have to do anything? We shall just be.” Be active, be healthy, be happy, and be at peace. We’re getting off the wheel. We can choose to listen to the chatter of the world or maybe we shall just listen to the sound of silence and ponder the meaning of life. We will take one day at a time and embrace the unfolding of new experiences, meeting new people, and opening up to what’s next…a wonderful life of reinvention is on the horizon!

“The world is grand, awfully big and astonishingly beautiful, frequently thrilling.” -Dorothy Kilgallen