We had our first snow of the winter a few days ago and it made me think about the people who live up in those mountains. In the valleys snow is a nuisance. For those living in isolated cabins and ranches in the mountains it can be much more than just a nuisance. Getting out of some of these places can be difficult when the weather is good. In winter when snow is deep and rivers are high, it is almost impossible. Even here on a main highway travel can be difficult. Our distances are so much greater than our resources that it is not possible to clear away all the snow. The highway Department does its best but there will be patches of snow and ice on the highways until the weather warms up again. Once one leaves pavement most roads are not maintained at all during the winter. For some people this isolation is good. Grant County attracts these people because we have many places where one can go far off the grid. It is easy to find property where there are no neighbors except elk. These can range from small cabins on a few acres to ranches covering square miles of unbroken forest. Some of these places are summer camps but many are year round homes to couples and families. Sometimes these are ranchers who are there because that is where the ranch is. Sometimes they are people who wish to have as little contact as possible with mainstream culture. When I visit someone living in one of these places, I wonder if I could live like that. The good part is almost complete isolation from rules, regulations and inspections. Technically the same laws prevail in the wilderness as everywhere else but there will be many occasions where no one will ever know what happens there. Neighbors will never complain if there are no neighbors. Inspectors will not come very often if it takes a half a day to get there. In some extreme cases people have lived in the hills for years without anyone knowing they were there. The bad part is that the linkage between freedom and responsibility is very strong. If you have a problem out there, it is your problem. If the problem is one that exceeds your resources or abilities, then you have a very serious problem indeed. It is standard practice out here when one goes beyond the end of the pavement to check that your vehicle has a shovel, a flashlight and batteries, extra matches, blankets, some rope etc. Because one never knows. I do not think life in an isolated cabin would be good for me. Not so much because I need company but because I don't. For some of us social living is more learned than instinctive and if we do not practice regularly we lose the skill." Some people can drift off into their own peculiar orbit when they escape the gravitational field of the larger society. And, given enough time, some of these orbits will become very eccentric indeed. But, if desired, it is easy to find a place where one is entirely on one's own. It is not even expensive. Grazing and forest land costs around $500 per acre. Land with no farming or logging value is even cheaper. A basic cabin with wood heat takes little more than an axe and a few thousand dollars. A garden, foraging and some hunting can reduce your grocery bill to almost zero. Add solar power or low-head hydro power and one can even be fairly comfortable. It is not very complicated to live a life free from civilization's endless chatter and most of its rules. But freedom means \"without restraints\" not \"without costs\". Freedom always has a cost. In this case it means that you are completely responsible for your own welfare. Anyone could, but would you? If you are one of those who would, now you know where to go.
This Week:
Solitude and Freedom
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