Why would I post three photo's of rocks?? Because just about every rock on our property has some form of moss or lichen on it. We have more than our share of rocks and they cover our property and the surrounding mountain side. These are very primitive forms of life and they grow in some of the harshest known places on earth. They are also so fragile that scientists use them as a form of identifying air pollution. They are multi colored and if you take time to stop and look they are a real kaleidescope of shapes and color.
It is harsh living in the mountains, with the often high wind, extreme weather changes, long winters, and generally overall harsh conditions. Maybe that is why lichen grows so profusely here. As soon as the snow melts the plants pop up right before your eyes. Our growing season is extremely short at 9,750 feet of elevation. Trees that die and fall to the ground take years to start to decay. We spend much of our short summer gathering fire wood and making repairs. We heat mainly with a wood stove so much fire wood is required.
It doesn't matter where you may walk on our property it always involves up hill. Walk down the driveway and sooner or later you will be climbing up hill. ALWAYS!!! When we first bought our property it was rough land with trees fallen down like a bunch of sticks tangled up. We worked to clear an area for the house, and then trim limbs off remaining trees to be able to get through the woods. It was a jumble of dead trees, undergrowth and rocks.
Winter can last up to 8 months like it did this past year. The wind and snow blow on a regular basis; the average of 264" of annual snow fall requires you be outside whether you want to or not. The dogs need to have a shoveled area to go potty, and if you need to get under the house for anything you need a lot of shovel work done ahead of time. The snow thrower will move 90% of the snow but 10% requires a shovel and 4-5 foot snow falls occur several times a winter.
Considering all this plus much more you may ask why we continue to struggle for survival in the mountains. For all the reasons listed in part one and because it is a very real challenge that gives you an absolute sense of accomplishment. When you see the lichen growing on rocks you come to realize that God adapted them perfectly to grow in the most harsh environment possible. Some of his people he has adapted to grow and live in harsh conditions too. I believe we are two of those people. When I stated in my article in Mother Earth News that mountain living is not for everyone I really meant it. If you like the convenience of stores within reasonable driving range, things that always work or being able to get repairman to fix them the same day, or being able to go to a movie, then don't try mountain living regardless of how alluring it may be.
If we need something fixed it could take days or weeks to get it fixed. Sometimes we can fix it ourselves but if we go to the store for a part it could involve a half day or more and often a second trip is needed. If you expect to get out after a snow storm it probably isn't for you. We have been stranded for up to eight days (mostly only a day or two). If you have an emergency you need to be prepared to wait long hours or even days for help or rescue.
So is it really worth it to live in the mountains? Absolutely if you can handle the total quiet, the wild animals ~ some of which would consider you a food source, and if you have patience on top of patience. It is for some people and for some it would be total frustrations and disappointment. Like the lichen on the rocks, some can live, thrive and grow here and some simply can't. If you can't that is really okay because it takes a strong faith, strong body, stubbornness and perseverance. You look at something as insignificant as lichen and draw tremendous strength and faith from it. So mountain living is a harsh reality but the rewards are beyond measure.
Many have moved here only to leave in a year or two because they couldn't cope or failed to be able to appreciate the little things that God puts in our paths to remind us of him. Some have moved here and tried to change the environment only to find out Mother Nature is much stronger than they are and thus they wear out trying to make it work for them. Then there are those of us who work along side Mother Nature and survive and prosper. We are a very small percentage of humanity but we don't try to improve or change nature, but to live along side of it. That is why we have lived here for so many years and are not beaten down by the elements, aloneness, or solitude. It is good living if you can handle it. Clearly not everyone can. So as you look upon these rocks, think and reflect.