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My View: Living at 9,000 Feet

Cherish, Treasure, Appreciate, and Take Care of Our Planet Earth

Julie Stephens"Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse." Desmond Tutu

I equate not taking an active role, or interest, in being a good steward of the earth to not living a healthy lifestyle, and in both cases just being mystified by the results. We cannot trash the earth any more than we can trash our bodies without consequences. Good health is a gift to be cared for and treasured. Likewise, a greener, healthier world requires each of us to do all we can to eliminate the pollution and practices that warm the planet and change our climate. By educating ourselves about what's going on with climate change and what can be done about it, we can make more informed choices when it is time to vote for the people who have the power to make big decisions. The biggest impacts on our planet will be, and will come from, large-scale policy changes and solutions that are influenced by who's in office. The question isn’t whether climate change is happening, or whether humans are responsible, but what can we do?

We can limit the use of fossil fuels, such as oil, carbon and natural gas, and replace them with renewable and cleaner sources of energy, all while increasing energy efficiency. Heat and cool more efficiently: use a programmable thermostat, change air filters and replace old equipment with Energy Star products. Change your most-used light fixtures or bulbs to products that have the EPA's Energy Star label.  Seal and insulate your home.  Recycle.  Use green power such as solar power.  Reduce water waste: instead of rinsing clothes twice—use less soap and use low flow shower head.  Estimate how much greenhouse gas you emit with the EPA's calculator.  The U.S. Department of Energy has an online guide to buying green power.  Check out clean energy resources and financial incentives in your area through the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

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May 20th, 2019

"I'm often asked whether I believe in global warming. I now just reply with the question: Do you believe in gravity?" Neil deGrasse Tyson

Living at 9,000 feet in our remote little mountain village is neither easy nor convenient. The reason we live in this difficult climate and isolated region is entirely because of the picturesque surroundings. Therefore, one would think that all the people who live here care about the environment. Sadly, this is not necessarily so. It is sickening to realize that anyone would pollute our river to get rid of their waste.  Unfortunately, it seems to be so.  It's akin to big corporations polluting our oceans and air to save themselves money in the short run. Try living without clean water.

Why All-Terrain Vehicles and Wildlife Do Not Mix

For many, ATVs are used as tools on working farms and forests, around job and construction sites, and for some, ATVs are used for recreation.

While ATV’s are being used for fun for some people, they cause great environmental damage: noise disturbance, damage to vegetation, increased runoff, soil erosion, and contaminating water. Wildlife suffer from these impacts.

As ATVs are driven across the land, their heavy weight compacts soil. Soil compaction changes the properties of the soil, by squeezing the tiny air spaces out of what would normally be healthy soils. When this happens, water cannot be absorbed into the ground, causing runoff. When runoff occurs, surface soils are washed downhill into water, where sediments have negative impacts on aquatic habitats for fish, amphibians and other wildlife. Soil compaction also limits root growth for plants, including those that wildlife feed upon.

As soils are washed into nearby waters, water quality is greatly disrupted in a numerous ways. Also, when ATVs cross streams, damage occurs to aquatic plants and habitat where frogs and turtles can be found. When extensive damage occurs in a wetland, its ability to function is greatly reduced, meaning that our natural filters cannot adequately clean water.

"If you really think that the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money." Guy McPherson 

Some people seem to think that the earth in general and the mountains and beaches in particular, are for their pleasure without caring about any environmental consequences

"We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it." Jay Insl

"We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to." Terri Swearingen

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The picture was taken at a Main Street store front in Gunnison, Colorado – about 75 minutes from Lake City – where we go for supplies.

Everything happens for a reason. Profound and unprecedented snowfall and avalanche activity this season continues put our little mountain village at risk. After surviving the most prolific snowfall on record, which in turn produced extraordinary avalanche action, we are weary. Yet, the concern goes onward. Summer officially begins June 21st so sooner rather than later, this inane cold, snowy, late spring weather will stop. As we warm up, we are at risk for disastrous flooding.  When the snow up high melts, the wreckage inside the avalanches will descend into the river. It has been stated that some full-grown trees are stacked up over 200 feet deep above Henson Creek. Since Henson Creek runs through Lake City, conditions are certainly ripe for some flooding.  The unanswered question now is, how much flooding? Precautions are being taken to keep the worst case run-off from happening.

To keep the ancient dams from breaking, holes have been created to lessen pressure.  Still, blockages could happen from so very much debris as the snow melts. If debris comes down faster than is humanly possible to keep up with and the dams rupture, that could send an enormous amount of water through Lake City. To be prepared, the goal is filling thousands of sandbags and having equipment in place to pull trees and the like out of the water, intending to avoid buildups. It is both grim and comforting to see: big equipment parked and ready at different water locations, sand trucks coming and going on the highway, our lit up sign saying: “be tuned into code red/flooding alerts.” During a walk with the dogs up in the mountains, we ran into our fire chief.  He was looking for alternative routes to get folks who live across bridges to safety, if needed.

Emergency personnel as well as townspeople are preparing as best we can for what's to come from the run-off.  We wait anxiously and hope for the best.

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." Native American Proverb

Julie Stephens lives with her husband Bruce and their dogs, Joy and Hope, in the tiny mountain village of Lake City, CO. They enjoy living in the midst of nature at 9,000 feet in the most remote area in the US lower 48 states: Hinsdale County. Julie spends her unscheduled days: reading, writing and walking the dogs in the mountains, with camera in hand. Julie’s books available on her website, personal blog, and Amazon author page.

Living Consciously

Julie StephensAs I write it is a few days before Mother’s Day. Smiling, I remember my daughter as a teenager telling me when she grew up she didn’t want to do what I did – she didn’t want to work that hard – love it! The crux is that she did indeed notice what I did.

Most of what is important to me took root with my son and daughter and as far as a Mother’s Day remembrance, they know – I fancy (and I am blessed to receive) beautiful thought provoking, loving messages from the sender, heart-felt love notes, grandchildren’s hands traced on a homemade cards, phone calls and visits and though their dad and I live one of the most remote (picturesque and unspoiled) areas in the lower 48 states, and travel is difficult – we all visit back and forth, because pretty much – people do what’s important to them.

It is our relationships that give real value to our lives. It has taken numerous tries but I finally coordinated lunch next week for five of us girlfriends. We are alike and different and more than a decade apart in age. We share and delight in each other’s joys, successes, travels and sometimes we just let go of what we cannot agree with or understand, as the relationship is what’s important.


My beloved husband’s birthday is tomorrow. I am baking his favorite cake, from scratch:

Applesauce Raisin Cake

• 3/4 c shortening
• 2 c granulated sugar
• 2 eggs
• 3 c sifted flour, minus 2 T
• 1 t baking powder
• 2 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 t salt
• 1/2 t cloves
• 1 t nutmeg
• 2 t cinnamon
• 2 c applesauce
• 1 c raisins
• 1.5 c chopped dates
• 2 c chopped pecans

1. Add cream sugar and shortening.  Beat in eggs, sift together dry ingredients

2. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternating with applesauce, beating after each addition.  If dry, add 1/4 to 1/2 c milk.

3. Stir in raisins, dates and pecans, bake in a grease and flour 10" tube pan at 350 for 1 to 1.5 hours or until tests done.

4. Icing: vanilla and powdered sugar mixed to preferred consistency.

It’s been a few years since I’ve made this. I forgot to flour the cake pan; oh, I hope it doesn’t stick. That wouldn’t be pretty. I am sure it will be tasty and my beloved will be pleased.

We have been together for over 40 years. I was 17 and he was 20 when we met. We work consciously to make our relationships endure and thrive. We are different enough to make life together much more interesting, at times even much more challenging but at our core we are very much alike or we wouldn’t be happy together all these decades later.

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mind·ful·ness /ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/ (Noun) The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something

A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique

Mindfulness means paying attention — on purpose, in the present moment

We must have mostly lived the majority of our 4 decades of marriage this way, or I don’t think we’d be here today, though being imperfect people and with a mortgage and bringing up children and having work and school and all the activities and relationships connected with that time, I’m sure we were on auto-pilot at times.

Mindfulness is not living life on automatic but being sensitive to the freshness and uniqueness in our everyday experiences. Mindfulness is being deeply aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at (almost) every moment – without interpretation or judgment. Focusing on the present moment; trying not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future and purposefully concentrating on what’s happening around us.

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Emily Dickinson wrote: ‘That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.’

Today has been a most satisfying day. I baked a cake from scratch and it didn’t stick even though I forgot to flour the pan. My Fitbit has over 14,000 steps on it, as I walked the dogs on the nature trail 3 times and did Tie Chi. I felt the cold wind and blowing snow – winter doesn’t want to leave and is giving us snow off and on, in May. I heard the geese honk, the ducks quack and the squirrel chatter. I heard the pine needles crunch under my boots and the river sweeping by. I dried our freshly laundered sheets outside; they smell so luscious, like May snow – you can’t buy that! Our son called with our 23 month old granddaughter on the phone and sent a picture of the flowering trees, along their walk. I wrote this blog entry.

There are always challenges in life. There is unfairness and sadness. But it’s been my experience that consistent hard work for the body, mind and spirit mostly pays off. Though as a teenager our daughter didn’t want any part of the hard work I did - our grown daughter (along with her partner) has gone through intense training and home visits to become a foster parent for a child 0-5 years of age. Smiling, I am powerfully touched and proud.

What experiences move and touch you so that you are encouraged to seek it out more intentionally in everyday life?

Because their dad’s birthday is so close to Mother’s Day it always a fun weekend for us as our grown kids celebrate their parents!

Counting our blessings is everything.

Life is good.

Julie lives with her husband Bruce and their dogs, Joy and Hope, in the tiny mountain village of Lake City, CO. They enjoy living in the midst of nature at 9,000 feet in the most remote area in the US lower 48 states: Hinsdale County. Julie spends her unscheduled days: reading, writing and walking the dogs in the mountains, with camera in hand. Julie’s books available on her website; Julie’s Blog; Author Amazon page.

Walking in Nature & With Dogs

Julie StephensMy husband and I live with our dogs, Joy and Hope, in the tiny mountain village of Lake City, Colorado. We enjoy living in the midst of nature at 9,000 feet in the most remote area in the US lower 48 states: Hinsdale County, CO. I love experiencing all four seasons! Life is neither easy nor convenient living up here – but we get to live up here!

Those of us who live in the midst of nature (especially when we have lived in noisy suburbia or cities and have dealt with daily bumper to bumper traffic) know that a walk in nature is THE BEST! While there are studies to prove this – all a nature lover has to do is go walk in a favorite setting and breathe in the contentment. 

On every walk, every gaze out the window, I am always happily amazed at the picturesque beauty with which I am surrounded. This is the view from my writing nook.


Walking in the peacefulness of the mountains, the woods, around a lake, on a country path or by a river, is like a soothing balm from noisy congestion and busyness. Solitude is not selfish; but is as necessary to our mental health, as food and water are to our bodies. It is something we must have on a regular basis.


This was taken on our beloved nature trail behind our cabin. It is not uncommon for us to walk our nature trail several times a day, especially when time or weather does not allow for a longer hike up in the mountains. It’s fun to watch the geese when they return in the spring. Pairing for life is common in geese.

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“Walking is my main method of relaxation. I just enjoy the scenery and the wildlife.”   - English actor Kevin Whately

It has been stated that nature absorbs negative energy – not unlike trees taking in carbon dioxide and producing the oxygen we breathe. Perhaps we feel most peaceful in nature because it simply feels good to be connected to the living world without any conditions or requirements expected of us. Walking provides a significant benefit because it helps to relieve stress. Research shows that brisk walking boosts endorphins; the hormones that improve our moods, lower our stress and make us feel calm and cheerful – giving us health and happiness. Walking also gives us more energy. Wow! Walking in nature is so beneficial and so enjoyable.

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Our Sheltie Joy

Walking in nature with dogs must be super healthy! It has been said that dogs not only fill our hearts with joy – dogs actually make our hearts stronger. Studies show that having a canine companion helps lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and decreased triglyceride levels, which contribute to better overall heart health. Walking in nature with dogs – so fun and healthy, who could ask for anything more!

Dog owners generally walk a lot more than people who do not own dogs.

Dogs help prevent loneliness and isolation, which is a key in preventing cognitive decline and disease.

walking dogs 
Do activities you're passionate about – activities which make your heart and soul feel perky - including things like writing, hiking, walking, being in nature or reading inspiring books…”  - Karen Salmansohn self-help book author

Psychologists have said that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout when it comes to relieving the symptoms of anxiety. Chronic anxiety and stress can have terrible effects on your physical health and may eventually lead to life-threatening illnesses. LET’S GO WALK!

“Physical activity doesn't need to be complicated. Something as simple as a daily brisk walk can help you live a healthier life.

For example, regular brisk walking can help you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve your mood
  • Improve your balance and coordination”

Studies show that spending time in green spaces, around trees, helps to reduce our stress, lower our blood pressure and improve our mood.

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Our Border Collie Hope

What kind of dog(s) do you have? What is your favorite place to walk in nature? Do you walk every day?

Julie Stephens lives with her husband Bruce and their dogs, Joy and Hope, in the tiny mountain village of Lake City, CO. They enjoy living in the midst of nature at 9,000 feet in the most remote area in the US lower 48 states: Hinsdale County. Julie spends her unscheduled days: reading, writing and walking the dogs in the mountains, with camera in hand. Julie’s books available on her website. Visit Julie’s blog and Author Amazon page to learn more.

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