Thursday, October 24, 2013

Top 10 Survival Tips for High Country Winter

Location: Nederland, CO 80466, USA
Sydney meets a friend at Mountain Man.
And scores a ski suit!
What does it take to live on the mountain? Resolve. Resilience. And a good dose of gumption. Many folks do not last more than a season or two up here. The wind blows them away. For those of us still holding on, it takes gear. Damn good gear. Gear for mountain life.

And common horse sense. Back in the day, the miners climbed these hills, felled timber and survived the winter in canvas tents. Before them, Native Americans camped. They had no Excel, no running water, and no espresso. Some of these folks are still spotted in the wild places of Ward and Gilpin County. They only come into town for coffee.

So, here we are in the Twenty First Century. Riding the waves of change. And most of us have become accustomed to frivolities like hot showers and flushing toilets. We take our day trips down the mountain to Costco and take in our shows at Red Rocks Amphitheater. The roads out are our life blood for food, entertainment, work. Until the hundred, or thousand, year flood washes away towns and most routes East.

Waking up now. Eyes wide open. We like to believe we are tough mountain folk yet we rely on the routes out for all basic necessities. We are not self-reliant. 

And now the roads are re-opening. Back to status quo. But not really.

Winter looms and snowflakes fall. You cannot get more local than your own domain. The Priority is Preparedness. Get ready. Power outages are to be expected. Big snow. Gnarly commutes. Instead of freaking when The Store runs out of bread, think of these times as an opportunity to embrace your inner mountain goat. Pretend you are on a camping trip in your house. 

Top Ten Items for a Stress-Free Mountain Winter:

1. Water. In town, it keeps flowing when the power goes out, although not indefinitely. For those on a well and without solar, you are SOL. Have several gallons or several five gallon jugs filled and stored. Keep the water fresh. Ward and Caribou have year round springs. These times clarify the difference between gray water and what comes out of the tap. 

2. Camp Stove. A good camp stove with ample stores of fuel will keep you in warm oatmeal during the most intense apocalyptic weather event. Many of us have these stored away in our festy tote or backpack. Stock up on some fuel and you will be ready for the power to go out.

3. Wood. It goes without saying. Even if you have a fireplace only for ambiance, a good pile of dry wood can save your life in the mountains.

Yes. Lined Carhartt work pants
and long undies at Mountain Man.
4. Food. Stores of rice, quinoa, and beans provide a good foundation for winter soups and hearty dishes. With yeast and flour you can make bread. Fill the pantry with canned foods and buy your grains and beans in bulk. And for the mountain gardeners, add sprouts and micro-greens to your set-up. Fill the freezer and pantry so as to be panic-free during the next "event". If you have a root cellar, use it. And chickens. Chickens are good too. 

5. Mountain Gear. Blankets, winter coats, gloves, snow pants, long undies, slippers, socks, layers. Shop local at Mountain Man Outdoor Store, Doghouse, Indian Peaks ACE Hardware and the Underground for deals or go big at REI and Backcountry.com. Do not settle for flatlander brands. Go for quality.

6. Solar Power. To charge your devices. So as not to miss the morning feed. Communication is key for the telecommuter. Solar powered cell phone and tablet chargers keep you connected. Solar flashlights. Solar powered batteries for radios, flashlights. 

7. The Arts. Creativity equals survival. Music, dance, yoga, paint, ice sculpture. Have on hand instruments, hard drives, LPs, etc. and a nice set of headphones for all. If the kids are home from school for a week and the grid is off and on, pull out the clay and get busy. Water colors, beads, exotic papers, leather work, felt, yarn. No time like winter to sit cozy by the fire crafting. 

Locally crafted hats, scarves, mittens
and t-shirts at 8236 Gear and Dandelion
8. Five Gallon Buckets with Lids. They come in handy during those challenging times when you need to haul water from the river and your toilet won't flush. Buckets can be used as chamber pots, to grow food, compost, and host vermiculture colonies. 

9. Randomness. Books, matches, movies, lighters, candles, chocolate, fine wine and ale. Board games. Good tea and coffee. Herbal remedies. Ice cream.

10. Good Neighbors. Have them, and be one. In the best and worst of times, come together, process, share food and ideas. Create the community you want to imagine into being. 

The Spirit of the Mountain Folk not only endures, but thrives during challenging times. It snows and we dig deeper. Self-reliance begins with each home being prepared and ready to ride the waves of change. It expands when communities strategize to provide the basic necessities within the village. This builds the local economy. The more we take care of ourselves, the less we rely on the outside world. The better we tend to the natural world, the more we are supported upon it. Be ready. These times they are a changin.

About the Author: Wendy Monroe celebrates this as her 10th winter in Nederland. She enjoys writing, growing food, dancing and consulting on gardens and mushrooms.

Wendy has four children: Sydney, Seraph, Wylde and Avery. If you look carefully, you may see the family frolicking in the forest wearing mushroom hats and making mischief.
You can also catch her on Native Medicinals.
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