Woke up one October morning to a deck covered in fresh snow, which signaled that things were about to change.   There’s something rather majestic in looking out from the East Mountains and seeing snow covered trees and mountains as far as you can see.

It’s easy to find YouTube videos on how to winterize your house, car, or even RV, but there’s nothing on how to winterize your psyche.  We’ve had four snowstorms before Thanksgiving so it’s no longer surprising to get up in the morning to 13F degrees. Karen grew up in New York and I lived there for seven years, yet I think its the 30+ years in Los Angeles that our bodies remember.

I tell myself this is part of the journey to becoming a Mountain Man.  Mountain Man-ess  includes knowing your way around Tractor Supply, Ace, Western Feed & Grain, and Harbor Freight Tools along with the normal Costco, Home Depot and Walmart.  The days of Whole Foods, Restoration Hardware, and any of twenty restaurants or bars are over.

I’m reconciled with this new life, made all the more appropriate because we chose it, no arm twisting took place, and I was pretty much alcohol-free during the real estate closing process. Man-up to Mountain Man-ess is my new mantra.

Karen has adopted a three-layer “lounging” outfit strategy while buying four different types of electric heaters in the pursuit of the perfect portable furnace.  She’s become even more proficient at building a fire faster than a speeding bullet. For my part,  I no longer have to be told to go get more firewood (not from Home Depot, by the way). Bogart and Squirt have matching sweaters, of course:)

OK, enough with the weather!   It’s everything else that really defines our new, life-style.

For example, we only venture down from our mountain hideout for supplies.  About once a week, we roll down the one mile gravel road, then the five mile twisty mountain road to main Highway 14, then the ten miles to the Interstate 40 and then another 15 miles to the eastern edge of Albuquerque.  Then its Smiths, Home Depot, CostCo, Harbor Freight, CVS and either lunch or breakfast at The Owl Diner, made famous by Breaking Bad.  On the way back up we’ll probably make a final food stop at Triangle Grocery, the local mountain food store,  to pick up what we forgot.  Ace Hardware is right across the street so that’s a probable stop, and since both of our vehicles get 10 mpg, we’ll hit the mountain-top Shell before heading home.  You can’t do this trip in less than four hours.

The biggest change in our life style is the amount of time we spend outside.  Even when its cold, this place is beautiful 90% of the time.  And wait ten minutes and the weather will change. Much of my outdoor life is chores related;  cutting, gathering and hauling wood is a big time suck.  The Hoop House project (more about that later) means doing my small part in making it happen, and generally fixing stuff around the homestead which seems to be never ending.

Where else can you walk out your front door, turn left and  hike as far up the mountain as you want, not seeing another soul?  There are still parts of our five acres we haven’t set foot on yet, offering new surprises on each walk about.  Trying to determine what type of animal tracks are in the snow is a new experience.  All part of being a Mountain Man and Woman I suppose.

We live in Sandia Park, a small “community” near the top of  the East Mountains, which doesn’t even have a town.  There are no stores of any kind.  There’s a high school and a fire station. The rest are homes of various sizes and shapes, literally sprinkled around the mountain.  Our neighbors vary widely, from Sandia National Lab folk, to lawyers and other “white collar” neighbors, located next to a farm or ranch with the assorted single/double wides in between.  Driving down our driveway or La Madera Rd (the main road through Sandia Park), it’s not unusual to see a deer, wild turkeys, dogs, sheep, the occasional cow and horse.  Passing cars more often than not wave to each other.  I don’t remember getting a wave driving down Alameda in the Arts District.  As I said, this place is different.

Here’s what mountain life looks like in photos.


View down the driveway after a recent snowstorm. Curtis, our nearest neighbor can be seen in the trees above the driveway.

View southeast. Beginnings of the Hoop House can be seen below right.

Thor’s future home. We carved this pad out of the mountains during the Big Dig phase of the Hoop House project.  Plan is to run electricity down to Thor’s Pad so his batteries new go down.

Hope House right after a snow.

Primary method for heating the second floor (where most of the living takes place) is fire and portable electric heaters. Here the team lounges in the living room.

Larry Jones visited us on his way to a fly fishing trip in Santa Fe, about 40 miles north of us.

This is about as far as Bogart will venture out during a snowstorm walk.  There’s nothing like opening the garage door to 13 degree air to wake one up fast.  In the background LowBuck awaits his next assignment.  After more than a year (or two?) of work, LowBuck is a dream to drive with one little, tiny exception:  his heater doesn’t work yet.  Gloves and blankets are required riding gear: )

Most of the snow quickly melts away. About twenty miles on the other side of that mountain top is Walmart, Smiths, Tractor Supply and Harbor Freight.  Clouds come and go throughout the day.

We take a hike above our house shown below with its white roof.

Up up we go.

Terrain is mostly forest with the occasional road/fire trail carved through it.

Hoop House is beginning to look like a hoop house. View down the path past the irrigation tank.

It’s been a long long time in the making, but its taking shape.

Two story office suite. NGIN world headquarters on the upper floor and “Mr. Fixit’s ” office below.

We escaped the Compound for a road trip across some of western New Mexico’s back roads. The Bullet purred along at 80-100mph is no problem for the Bullet

The dogs are always up for a road trip.  Bogart has his winter sweater on.

We went to the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. Weather and scenery is spectacular.

One of our favorite destinations is the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup NM;, about three hours west of us.  It’s THE place to be in Gallup, primarily because there’s nothing else in Gallup.  The hotel is museum-like with pictures of movie stars staying in the 30s/40s while they were shooting Westerns close by.  We stayed next to the John Wayne Suite.

We went to the Big City for a rare Friday night date. This is the first time I’ve worn a sport jacket (with long pants) in more than a year.   On the way home we needed a night cap at the Lazy Lizard to stead us for the remaining mountain climb back home.  Next day it was back to sweaters and work boots.

Ohh how I remember this! Less than two months ago we were on the beach, just north of Normandy, France. Just thinking about shorts and flip flops makes me smile.

Another day begins on the mountain…


3 replies
  1. Gregg Power says:

    Beautiful. A new adventure around every corner on a long and winding road. Happy Holidays and keep the stories and pictures coming.

  2. Nancy Sundquist says:

    Hi, Fred,

    Remember me, the proofreader from BBDO, Slightly Further West days? (We were fellow owners of the first-year Fiero.) Cindy Rowe was raving about your blog, and I have thoroughly enjoyed your vivid descriptions of Puerto Vallarta (I lived briefly at 442 Calle Mina) and New Mexico, the latter being a possible retirement destination. I look forward to reading the next chapter.

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