Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mountain Living

I don't know what's inspired me - maybe it's the crisp, Fall air that blew in last night. Maybe it was the crystal clear day we had today, or watching the sunset work it's way up the mountain this evening. Regardless - I figured I'd share my thoughts on mountain living - something that's rather new to me, since I've only been here 3 years. I was born and raised near Baltimore, which is on the Chesapeake Bay. Mark was raised in Bethesda, outside of DC. Later on, we lived in Annapolis, making that our first residence after we were married. So for the first 34 years of my life, I spent it less than 100 feet above sea level. We moved out here with little in the way of expectation, not sure how we would like it. But since then, we've figured out a few things!
-Did you know that a mountain view increases your home's value up to $25,000? Our real estate agent told us that when we were looking at homes. Almost as good as a kitchen renovation, huh? We have a gorgeous mountain view from our home - we just need to do some serious tree elimination to see the moutain in the summertime!
-Having a head cold can put a hold on leaving town - I'm serious! When we first moved here, we went up to the next town called Frostburg for dinner. Frostburg is only about 5 miles up the road, but it is about 1000 feet higher in altitude. I had a nice head cold at the time. Well, dinner was great, but on the way home, back down the "hill" my ears wouldn't pop because of the congestion and I wound up with a lovely double-ear infection. So now when I have a cold, I confine myself to the altitude at which I live. Unless I HAVE to travel, then I dose up on decongestants....
-Living in the mountains means you MUST have your brakes checked very, very regularly. And if you ever start to feel a shudder as you brake - get that car in the shop immediately! We learned this the hard way when we had to shell out over $700 for all new brakes in our old Ford Explorer. Just getting out of our driveway and down the neighborhood access road means you either ride the brake all the way down the hill, or go down in low gear. It takes a toll after awhile!
-While we're on the subject of cars - parallel parking on a slope is no fun. And in our town, everywhere you go you're on a slope! Remember in driver's ed where you learned to turn your wheels into the curb if you're facing downhill? Never thought I'd have to use that. Use it all the time now.
-Cutting grass is a challenge. Our yard has such a slope to it that we immediately ruled out a riding mower. We bought a self-propelled mower and have to walk behind it - and we need to wear hiking boots to do it! Needless to say, we've taken some of our yard out of grass production - it just got to be too much. Not sure what the homeowner's association thinks of us for that one - but you can BARELY see it from the road. ;-)
-Okay - this one isn't confined to mountainous areas, but we've got bears. And in Maryland, the only place the bears live is in the mountains, so for us, this one counts. Bears are a constant worry, and a very real one. Last summer, Mark found bear poop in our yard, so we know they're around. What does this mean? No putting out the garbage the night before trash day. No putting the garbage out at ALL unless you know the trash guys are on the way. No bird feeders before November or after March. No compost pile. Watch the woods line as you walk out the door. Keep the small children and little pets close to the house! We haven't yet SEEN a bear here since we've moved here - let's hope that holds up!
-Mountain weather is VERY different from flatlands weather! In so many ways. Driving around, you'll never know if you're going to hit a patch of fog that has settled into a valley - and I mean fog so thick you can't even see the sides of the road. Then, just like that, you're out of it...crazy. Or, if it's really foggy and misty in our town, if you go 15 miles west, it could be perfectly sunny and clear. Or vice versa. You can turn around as you drive away and look back to what looks like the town completely enveloped in a cloud. Thunderstorms are also fun - thunder that reverberates and echoes from one mountain to the next and it seems like it goes on for half a minute or more. Weather that changes with altitude -- take snow for instance. When a snowstorm blows in, we could get 5 inches, but Frostburg, which again, is only 5 miles away will get easily twice that. Or more. Or it will be raining here, but snowing up there and a whole myriad of mixtures in between. Winter is not fun around here if you have to be out on the road. But nothing beats snow in the mountains - the ski resorts love it!
-I guess the best thing, though? Just the views in general. Where else can you walk out of the grocery store, the mall, or Lowes and look up to see a mountain towering above you? And whether the air is shockingly clear, like it was today, or the leaves are changing, or there's a mist, or a gentle snow falling, the exhiliaration the view provokes makes even the most mundane of tasks - like loading groceries into the car - a treat. It makes you linger a moment longer as you take the cart back to the cart corral.
So we've learned a few things in the time we've been here. I'm sure we'll learn a few more in time. One thing we didn't have to learn though, was to just appreciate the beauty. Despite the challenges, it's all worth it in the end, and with all the Fall colors coming, it's the best season in the mountains. Stay tuned for some nice photos in the coming weeks!

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