Home Sweet Home… Colorado?

I’m jumping ahead a little bit, but I couldn’t wait to tell our blog audience… We have land under contract in Colorado!  “But wait!” you say.  “You haven’t even traveled to other areas of the country yet!”  Well, Teresa and I discussed this quite a bit.  We realized that we love Colorado.  It seems to have a great combination of climate, mountains, and culture.  But most importantly, it allows us to be a reasonable distance from my parent’s summer home.  (This may not be important right now, but as my parents age, it will become increasingly important).  Worst case?  It should be a great investment.

We’ve spent the past month or so in Colorado.  We entertained a few friends at my parents house and did some local hikes.  We also jumped on a plane out to Chicago to see my grandmother on her 90th birthday hosted at my Aunt’s house.

During that month, we spent about 9 days traveling throughout Colorado, talking with various realtor offices along the way.  We chose to use United Country offices because they generally deal with rural land and ranches.  Teresa and I had a number of discussions along the way, and it took us a while looking at property to decide what it is we liked and what it is we didn’t like.  At first we were looking at close-in city lots and rural lots, but we narrowed it down to rural lots.  We also realized that you can get plenty of cheap, flat land in Colorado if you don’t mind having NO trees and/or NO water.  We decided we liked trees AND water.  We found plenty of remote land well away from other people.  But we decided we did NOT want to become hermits.

So about our 5th day in to our land hunt, we were wandering up this graveled, slightly wash-boarded road which twists and turns up into the mountains.  There are no signs of occupied lands.  Teresa is getting aggravated.  We were actually about to turn around when we finally saw a sign of “life.”

I wandered a little further to see if we could find the for-sale sign.  I was so pre-occupied that I didn’t realized that a little Volkswagen Beatle had pulled up behind us.  I pulled over and they stopped and asked if we needed help.  We told them we were looking for an MLS listing in the area.  They were so incredibly kind, and invited us over to their place to look at some plat maps .  He even gave us a tour of his solar system and modular house.

We found the lots that were for sale, and really fell in love with a particular heavily wooded, 7.3 acre lot.  Turns out “Spruce Basin” is a community of folks living “off-the-grid.”  The lots are mostly over 5 acres, and there are probably about 70 or more folks living full-time in the neighborhood.  Currently, the only utility in Spruce Basin is telephone.  You have to run solar or wind for electricity, dig a well for water, and dig a septic tank for sewage, which is fine by us.  The neighborhood is surrounded by BLM public lands, which would explain why we saw nothing on our drive up.  There is about a 4 mile loop road we can take that goes onto BLM land for beautiful hiking, mountain biking, and possibly snowshoeing if enough snow falls.  The area is very dry, but the lot has Aspens which means water is not too far underground.

If we end up building at the highest point on our lot, this would be our view:

We can walk off of the property and up the road a few hundred feet for gorgeous views of the Sangre de Christo Range.

The area is 15 minutes from Cotopaxi, CO.  I found it humorous that Cotopaxi was once the home to a failed Russian Jewish settlement in the early 1880’s.  Cotopaxi now basically has a sheriff’s office, post office, schools, a pretty extensive general store, a convenience store, a realty office, and a few Arkansas River outfitters.  Cotopaxi is 30 min East of Salida, CO, about 40 min West of Cañon City, CO, and 2 hours WSW from Colorado Springs, CO.  Cotopaxi is also about 25 minutes from Royal Gorge which is home to the worlds highest suspension bridge.

A little about the towns we’d be near:

  • Salida means “exit” or “outlet” in Spanish.  Yet for some odd reason, the town name is incorrectly pronounced Sah – Lye – Duh.  This describes why it is so named.  It has a good bit of culture for a small town.  It sports an active artist community, music, Arkansas River frontage, and nearby snow skiing.  It is big enough to support a sprawlmart.  Here is a nice photo from Salida:
  • Cañon City on the other hand, is a blue collar town, which is a great thing to have nearby.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for the economy), it’s primary industry appears to be incarceration.  One of the nation’s top maximum security prisons is in nearby Florence.  We were glad to hear no one had ever escaped.  The good news is, it has a farmers market, and pretty reasonable shopping options, including some of the bigger stores like Home Depot.
  • Colorado Springs has just about anything else we might need, including an airport with direct flights to many American cities.

We close on our land on July 21st, but we’ll closing while on the road.  We hit the road today to start wandering West and up the coast to Alaska.  We hope to be in Alaska by late August.  We hope to return to our land in late September and start doing some of the prep work for building, including extra surveying (marking property boundaries), excavation, well drilling, septic, fence for our dog, etc…  We hope to get a little old camping trailer (with shower) for living in while we build our home.  After a couple of weeks on our land, we’ll see if we can’t hit some of the leaf change in Maine, following it down the coast till we arrive in Florida, picking up our dog and heading back to the land to finish up the building.  It’s gonna be a crazy couple of months!  See our updated itinerary.

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