The sun rises early on Storm Mountain. About five in the morning the first hints of light peek in through the window. Within thirty minutes the sky is aglow with a gorgeous show of pinks, oranges, and yellows in the east. Just in case everyone is sleeping so peacefully in the cool mountain air that they don’t awaken in time to see this glorious start to a new day, a local rooster announces that it is time to rise and shine. Other than the sweet crowing of his cock-a-doodle-do there is no other sound in the little valley encircled by rocky peaks. It is a glorious way to begin the cycle of life anew. The air is clean and invigorating. Anything seems possible in this lovely place.
The wildlife enjoys the cool beginning of the day. It’s not unusual to see a couple of ten point bucks lounging just outside the bedroom window. Rabbits frisk along the driveway. Elk often visit the basement door. Hummingbirds zip about playing tag with one another. Butterflies flit among the wildflowers that cover the sloping hills. Dogs walk leisurely along the roads, not so much guarding their homes as exploring to see what might be about. It is a delightful pastoral scene.
The people who live on Storm Mountain are hardy individuals. There are few rules in this mountain neighborhood. Lovely log homes sit side by side with makeshift buildings that appear to be thrown together with leftover scraps of lumber and building materials. A park ranger lives in harmony with a man who is preparing for the end of the world. The residents really have to want to be here for it is a hidden place, not visible from the main highways. Just getting up to the mountain top area takes a bit of gumption for the gravel road that is the only means of access is filled with switchbacks and bumps and holes that cause the vehicle to rattle and the teeth to clatter. Somehow the difficulty in reaching the summit where the people have built their homes only enhances their love for this place where the rest of the world and its problems seems to be far far away. Here everyone gets along and simply enjoys the serenity of living in the mountains.
When winter comes the roads are often impassible for those who are not accustomed to driving over snow and ice. It takes confidence and skill to navigate to and from school or work when the temperatures keep things frozen for weeks at a time. Sometimes there is so little rain that the threat of fire is a worry that occupies the residents’ minds. Other times there is so much rain that the rivers below Storm Mountain rage and overflow destroying the bridges and roads that connect the people to the rest of the world. After a major flood two years ago there was no way for the citizens of Storm Mountain to get out. They were literally isolated when the bridge to the neighborhood was washed away by the waters and the main highway from Loveland to Estes Park collapsed in both directions. They had to abandon the homes that they so love in a military helicopter, leaving their livestock and pets behind. Their return was delayed until power was restored and the roads and bridges repaired. Still they came back without hesitation. They have no desire to leave this place and to join the rest of us in the rat race. Like adventurers of old who left civilization behind in search of better lives, the residents of Storm Mountain cherish the solitude and communion with nature that is the very fabric of this incredible place.
My brothers found this hideaway in Drake, Colorado several years ago. They purchased a raw plot of land and began to build a dream. The home that they erected stands high on a bluff looking down at the valley below. It is built of logs and stone and designed to hold their extended families and their friends for years to come. It is a place where the cares and woes of daily life seem to instantly melt away. The pace is slow here. There is no reason to rush. There is no need to dress in finery or to worry about appearance. Everything harks back to a time when our ancestors were more in unison with the land and the rising and setting of the sun. The days are measured not so much by accomplishments as by an understanding of our place in the universe. At night the stars fill the sky with their brilliance and here we understand that we are part of something far bigger than the sum total of our lives. Storm Mountain gives us perspective as we remember that it is in the simplest of things that we find the most peace and sense of well being.
In the summer season the days are a bit warm. Few people have air conditioning here and my brothers’ cabin is no exception. We open the windows and run the fans much as we did when we were kids and central air was still the domain of the very wealthy. At night a coolness settles over the land so that we sleep with a heaviness that too often eludes us back in the city. There are no planes, or cars, or sirens to awaken us. There is only the gentle humming of the wind and the occasional bark of one of the dogs.
In the fall the days and nights grow colder. The fireplaces and heaters take the chill off of the houses. People encase themselves in warm jackets and pull out their heavy blankets. The animals become even friskier and sightings of bears and goats become more frequent. The bugling of elk fills the air and they grandly strut along the hillsides and in the yards. The aspen trees shimmer with their golden hues. It is a feast for the eyes that signals that winter is on its way. The tourist towns below begin to shutter their doors. Everything slows down. The citizens of Storm Mountain prepare for the coming chill.
Winter is harsh and requires skill and knowledge from the mountains’ inhabitants. They have to know how to safely navigate the roads and what to do to keep warm. The quiet of the season becomes even more intense than normal. There is a loveliness in the fields of snow but there is also a danger. The people of Storm Mountain have to be prepared for long stretches of isolation. I suspect that they actually welcome those times. It is in their personalities to enjoy being alone with nature.
Spring takes a long time coming but it eventually brings the thaws that promise new life and a rebirth of flowers and green fields. The seasons and the cycles are so much more apparent here. They determine how the people will live and what they will do. Here it is nature that forces its will on men who have to learn to adapt in order to survive. The people understand all too well that they must live in harmony with the weather and the creatures who share this space with them. They have a reverence for the earth that is sometimes forgotten in the vast cities outside of their quiet domain.
I have visited Storm Mountain on three different occasions. I never tire of its serenity and its wild beauty. It is a place where the soul is set free. Here the meaning of life becomes more apparent. It is a church where the presence of God is palatable.