Posts Tagged With: Colorado

Building Stuff

Since our last post, God has sent us on another path that we didn’t expect. We felt that our path was to start to focus on fundraising for the retreat, and considered this new direction a diversion. It frustrated me because I saw the original path of moving forward with the retreat and I felt we weren’t on it. Now looking back, we understand why God took us on this diversion. The key point to this is that we considered it a diversion, but in God’s eyes, it was always the path He set forth for us. CJ was open to new direction sooner than I was, because she could see the big picture to why God took us in a different direction. CJ helped me to see the big picture, so I eventually realized that I was putting God in a box by being closed off in my thinking (inflexible) that the path I had in my head was THE PATH that God had laid out for us.

Building our Garage


Building the Foundation

That path was for me to learn the trade of building construction. My experience in construction was limited to remodeling projects for four houses, and it was nothing to the scale that I would need to know in the construction of the retreat’s buildings. When God guided CJ and me to the house we currently live in, we knew we would eventually need to build a garage and more storage. Therefore, this past fall we set out to have a garage with a large storage area constructed next to our house. Our original plan for the garage was to hire an experienced contractor to oversee me doing a vast majority of the work. Well that thinking was naive, because my experience was not in starting something from scratch. I quickly realized that I was over my head, and our contractor ended up doing most of the work and I was his laborer.


Completing the Roof

We broke ground on the garage in late September and we should finish phase 1 of the construction by the middle of January. Phase 1 includes a completed roof with the side having only the plywood. We are holding off on any more construction until spring time frame. By that time we should have some more money saved up to complete the garage. In addition, the next phases of construction are steps that I can do a majority of the work at least that is what I’m hoping.  We believe that the garage project was in God’s plan, because I learned a great deal about constructing something from scratch, which included learning the County’s permit process. All of this experience will pay big dividends when we develop the retreat property.

Building Relationships

Through the garage construction, I started to build relationships with the County inspectors and a number of the local building material suppliers. Getting an “In” with both parties will set the stage for our next building construction on the retreat. I’m hoping that some of the relationships grow beyond just being only business oriented and become friends.

In addition to building the garage, God moved our focus from marketing and fund raising for the ministry to building relationships in Salida from both a personal as well as a professional standpoint. Our friend, Judith, who succeeded me in leading the Outside ministry at our old church in Austin, moved to Salida at the same time as CJ and me to be part of the ministry. When the three of us first know we were moving to Salida, we had this preconceived idea of the type of church we would be a part of. That type would be a contemporary non-denominational church, which is what we were a custom.  The reality is that type really does not exist in a small town like Salida, with all but one of the Christian churches being denominational churches. We prayed about which church God wanted us at, so we when we were up to explore last February CJ and I visited the only non-denominational church in town. We walked away that day feeling it just didn’t seem like the church that God wanted us at.

So, the first Sunday after we moved here, we prayed and talked to each about which church we were to visit first. Our plan was to visit as many churches as needed to find the Church that felt right. The first Church that we visited was Cross Roads Church in Poncha Springs, which is the town we actually live closest to. While we were in Colorado in February, I saw this church when we drove north on one of our exploring drives. I noticed on the sign, it was part of the South Baptist Convention.  So, when we decided to visit it first, we had our guard up already because CJ and I had bad experiences in the past with denominational churches. Cross Roads is a small rural church with about 50 members, so coming from a church of 5,000, it would be a big adjustment. Well, when we went that first Sunday, we noticed right away that the members average age was in the 60’s, which also would be a big adjustment coming from a church with an average age in the mid 30’s.


Cross Roads Church

Even with all the perceived red flags against this small rural church, we left the first service not felling like wow we have to find another church. It was quite the opposite. We experienced a bible-based not doctrine-based (which many of the denominations preach) sermon that we all liked. That same week the pastor called us and wanted to have lunch with CJ and me. The pastor and his wife seemed very nice and were open with us. We also got the sense that they actually cared about getting to know us more. We both left the lunch feeling that they weren’t feeding us a line, but were authentic and genuine and at went along way with us.

We felt a draw to go back the next Sunday, so we did. Outside of liking the pastor and his wife, we weren’t sure why at the time. Some concerns that kept running through our heads, was that we are some of the youngest there and that the service was traditional not contemporary. We also kept saying to each other, “we’re active outdoors people, and we are supposed to find a church that had that type of demographic”. This church was far from that, they are ranchers or construction workers from families that have been here for generations. So why did we sense that God wanted us there? If we stayed, at this church how would we connect with the outdoor community that lives in downtown Salida? Judith even visited several other churches to see if she was called to a different church, and didn’t get the feeling that she experienced from Cross Roads, so she came back. Is God trying to break us again of our preconceived views of His plans? So many unanswered questions to why Cross Roads Church…

Soon after we started attending Cross Roads, we slowly started to plug into the church activities. It would have been easier for us to build relationships with people that are very similar to us. However, God had other plans in store for us, by placing us at Cross Roads, it has required us to stretch ourselves and build relationships with people that we may not have much in common. In doing that, our mind and eyes has been opened a life style outside of the outdoor community.  However, entering into the new relationships, we had to constantly pray that it’s not about us and to be careful not to focus on what can they do for us or the ministry, but to focus on getting to know and loving our new friends. As a result, we have been able to develop friendships with a number of people, by focusing on who they are and where they are in life. Some examples of the fruit that has blossomed from these relationships are, we have a new friend that helped us with garage by pouring the concrete floor, and another one helped me fix our car. For many people that include us, it’s much easier to serve than to be served, so we were very surprised in a good way with the generosity so soon.

Pumpkin Carving Party at our House

We also learned that Salida area including Cross Roads Church seem to struggle with isolation. They aren’t big on doing big group outings or events, which is part of a healthy authentic church community. They do however offer help on an individual basis, like the two examples I described above. Both CJ and I have a passion for building community and maybe God has us here to help this church build a more vibrant community within the church as well as the church becoming an integral part of the local community. God calls all of us to love each other and help the less fortunate.

The key take away from this blog is that when we are praying for God’s path to get us from point A to point B and we can develop a preconceived vision of the path (fixed path). So when God calls us off our preconceived path, we think it’s a diversion. The reality is that it’s not a diversion at all, but God’s actual path for us. So in following His path for you be prayerful, trust Him, have faith to take the steps, and to have an open heart (be flexible) to whatever direction He takes you.

Categories: Colorado | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Official Process

In our last blog, we told you that we finished and mailed out the 501(c)3 application, well this blog describes and gets you up to date on all the boring legal work that was done in order for the application could be submitted.

Preparing Documents

After my visit to Colorado in mid-May, CJ and I finished the final drafts of the By-Laws, and Conflict of Interest Policy, that would be up for vote and approval at the first Board meeting. I won’t get into the detail of each document, but these are two of the most essential documents for the operation of a non-profit and are required as part of the 501(c)3 application.

We also completed a draft work plan that includes a seven-year financial forecast and facilities implementation plan. It also incorporated the new path that God has directed us for SWR to purchase its own land instead of leasing it back from CJ and me, which was the direction we originally thought. Based on what I learned on my site visit earlier in May, we revised the financial forecasts to account for SWR being “off-the-grid” from an electrical source standpoint. To provide clarification to the Board roles, CJ and I also drafted up the responsibilities for each role, since all but one of the Board members have not been on a Board of a non-profit before.

Board of Directors Meeting                     

On May 31, 2012, SWR had its first Board of Directors meeting. At that meeting, I presented an update on the status of the 501(c)3 application, the draft work plan, the various roles on the Board, the estimated project budget, and the official document, Articles of Incorporation, which was submitted to the state of Colorado back in February. We also walked through the By-Laws and Conflict of Interest Policy and discussed each line item in the documents. The Board was then asked to vote on the documents, with both being unanimously approved with minor revisions.

We also discussed the various committees that SWR should create. CJ and I saw the need for three committees initially that would focus on the financial, marketing, and facilities aspects of the operation of the non-profit. The committees will concentrate on the details of these aspects so the Board as a whole can stay out of the weeds.  The Board approved our recommendation for the committees as well as for the committee members. The next Board meeting will be scheduled in the fall.

It was hard to write something exciting about the legal process in developing the retreat, but the work described here is very complex and it took an extensive amount of time and effort to complete. God guided us through each step and we thank Him that it’s done!!! I promise that my next blog will be more exciting. 🙂

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I know this post is going to be out of chronological order with several of the future posts, but I don’t care! I just wanted to let you all know that the 501(c)3 tax-exempt Application was placed in the mail yesterday. WOW, what a long and tedious process! So now the IRS has 90 days to send us a letter to let us know one of four possible options for our application; 1) we are good to go and we have provided them with all the needed info for their review; 2) we need to make some minor changes or need to provide some addition info; 3) they are going to appoint an agent to our case to help us with some big changes; or 4) forget it. According to my conversation with the IRS, option 4 is extremely rare, so we are extremely excited about how GOD has been working in this process and about what GOD has in store for us in our next big step in this adventure!

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Once we signed the contract on the Austin house, CJ and I reflected on how smoothly the process had gone and how we saw God’s hands at every step.  With the Austin process coming to an end, we realized that we needed to get the Salida process started.  I contacted our realtor in Colorado to ask him about rental houses in downtown Salida.  However, since he lives in Buena Vista, which is about 25 miles north of Salida, he referred us to a woman that specializes in Salida rentals. I contacted her, gave her our wish list (i.e., location, type of house, etc) and let her know that we would be moving July 1st. When she asked if we had any pets, I told her yes…5 (3 large dogs and 2 cats).  You could almost cut the silence with a knife followed by a great big “OHHHH”. She said that it was going to be very difficult to find someone willing to rent their house to someone with so many animals. She also told us that many of the places don’t notify her until a month before move in, so many of the houses up for rent at that time were available June 1st. She said she would keep her eyes and ears open for a place that would take our pets with available of July 1st.

We waited for several weeks for our rental contact to call us back. We didn’t want to seem pushy or impatient, but after no response and concerned with the lack of time we had, I finally called her.  She answered but didn’t seem too excited about finding us a place. All she had to say was that nothing had come available and that she would call us when something came up. After more waiting, I called her again and left a message, but more days passed and no return call.  So we prayed about the situation and took the lack of response as a sign that maybe we weren’t to rent in town. By this time it was mid-May, and the reality of us being homeless as of July 1st really started to hit us. Both of us started to feel a sense of urgency.

We originally sensed the direction that God wanted us to go was to rent a house in town (in order to connect with community) and buy land which we would then lease back to SWR. Well, not finding a rental house prompted us to check our budget again, and we realized that we actually wouldn’t be able to afford to pay both rent on a house and a note on property. We took this as a door closing, not on SWR but on our original understanding of how we were to go about this.  We knew God had a plan, we just weren’t sure what it was. So, we continued to pray for a clear vision of the next step in His path for us.

After much prayer, CJ felt led to start looking at houses for sale in the Salida area.  My initial reaction was negative: (1) because it was not in the direction that I thought God was leading us (towards land for SWR), and (2) I had never bought a house in an area that I hadn’t lived in for a while (I’ve always felt it was important to get the lay of the land before making a commitment to a certain location). Well, we continued to pray about this direction and soon I realized that I wasn’t trusting that He was going to provide. My fear was that if this endeavor didn’t work out, we would be stuck with a house in an unfamiliar.

With CJ getting the idea to look at houses for sale, the rental market being non-existent, and me trusting Him, we had a strong sense that God was redirecting us to buy our own home and then have SWR buy the land at a later date (which actually makes better sense from a tax perspective). In faith, we dove in head first. I called our realtor about pulling all the house listings in Salida, Buena Vista and the areas in between. The next day he sent us the MLS listings for all the available houses. Sifting through them, it quickly became clear to us that for what we can afford, living in town wasn’t an option. The houses in old town Salida within our budget were too small (like 800 sq. ft small) and/or needed a ton of work. This was discouraging, given that we felt very sure that God wanted us to connect with the local community and town living was the best way to do that.  However, with that door closing , we then focused our efforts on the houses in the rural areas. While we were reviewing the listings, our realtor contacted us about a rental house that would be available when we needed it and that would also allow our 5 pets. The catch was that it was in a subdivision in the northwest part of Buena Vista, which is about 40 minutes north of the Salida community that we felt God was leading us. So we discussed what this could mean and we prayed about it. Two questions came up in our discussion, is God directing us away from the community we thought we were to become a part of and towards the community in Buena Vista? Alternatively, could this rental be a distraction and an easy way of relieving our fear of being homeless? After prayer, we both sensed that we were to continue to move forward on the path we were on until a door closed. I talked to our realtor about what we were sensing and he said that the rental could aslways be a fall back if we couldn’t land a house by July 1st.

As a side note, even though our realtor knew that we weren’t ready to buy land, he also sent us MLS listings of available properties in the areas between Salida and Buena Vista. In this area, property appears to be on the market for some time, so it wouldn’t hurt to start looking.  All properties were a minimum of 35 acres due to the lesser development restrictions on larger lots regarding water rights and such.

Well, after reviewing over 40 MLS listing for houses and properties, we found two houses and two properties that we thought had a lot of potential. The houses were located very close to each other in a prime location along US 50 about 8-10 miles west of Salida and about 8 miles east of the Monarch Ski Resort. The houses were also located about 10-15 minutes south of the two potential properties for SWR, which are located about 3 miles west of US 285 in the area which we envisioned between Buena Vista and Salida.

Now that we found some houses that warranted a closer look, we needed to fly up and see them as soon as possible. Our window of opportunity in finding a house within the typical month timeline necessary for loan processing was quickly closing. I had to go it alone this time because CJ couldn’t take more time off of work at that time.  She was really bummed that she couldn’t go, but was ok with me going alone because she trusted my prayerful judgment. 🙂

I don’t want to make this blog too long , so my adventure back to Colorado will be in my upcoming blog.

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Highlights from April

As promised, here’s the next installment of our recent adventures.

The last we posted, we had not yet listed the house but were continuing to work on home projects and ongoing SWR related business in hopes of relocating at some point during the summer.  As for the house, our goal was to have it on the market by end of April in order to meet the prime selling season.  However, on a day trip to Round Top, Texas in early April, CJ was discussing the sale of the house with our friend, Kennette, and she mentioned how much she loved the community.  By the end of their girl’s day, she let CJ know that she would be very interested in looking at the house despite the fact that we still had 101 projects to complete.  When she came by for the walk through, Kennette was amazed by the fact that the floor plan was the exact floor plan of a home that she lived in when her daughter, Bentlee, was small.  What a surreal “Diosidence” (a term coined by our Spanish speaking friends in the Dominican Republic referring to a Godly non-coincidence).  Needless to say, she fell in love with it immediately!  This was a dream come true…and yes, our God is really THAT good!  But here’s the rest of the story…..

In preliminary conversations around the sale price, we discovered that what our friend was hoping to pay was a good bit less than what we expected to list the house for.  However, we also learned that she would not be retaining a realtor (the seller typically pays for the buyer realtor’s commission) so that difference certainly helped fill the gap.  After much prayer and deliberation, I was still unsure as to what we should do given what I expected we would need in order to relocate.  Then CJ made a comment that made me see things in a completely new way.  She mentioned what a blessing our home had been to her and our daughter, Alli, when she was a single mom. She also shared that she would love for our home to be a blessing to another single mom and her daughter. I sensed that was a sign that God was leading us to sell our house to our friend.

We looked at the numbers and figured that we could sell the house at a price very close to our friend’s pre-approved amount. We figured that since she wasn’t going to use a realtor that we could save at least 3 percent, and transfer that savings to our friend by reducing our asking price. We discussed this proposal with our realtor, and he agreed as long as we did all the negotiating without him, to avoid a conflict of interest. Our realtor just handled the paper processing that would be required of the buyer’s realtor. Once our friend and we agreed to a price, we met with our realtor to sign the contract. God’s hands were all over each step of this process. We are so thankful that he worked it out that we did not have to go through the difficulty in keeping the house show ready with five animals living in it while showing it.

We were able to set the closing June 1st; however, that would have left us very little time to find a house in Salida.  Our friend said that she couldn’t get out of her current lease until July 1st, so we worked it into the contract that we would lease the house back to her for the month of June. This was clearly another Diosidence! It worked out that we would have two months to find a house in Colorado, and that our friend would have income to cover her mortgage for the month she wouldn’t be in the house. GOD is Great!

In between doing all the house stuff, I was able to expand the SWR website to make it more like an actual website not just a blog. The site now includes the following pages: Home; About Us (Mission, Statement of Faith, History, and Board of Directors); Adventures; Recent Posts; Contact Us; and Donate. CJ was also able to help me finalize the content that was uploaded to the website. Most of the pages are now self-explanatory, but the Adventures page may not be as clear. The Adventures page describes the various types of trips that SWR will offer, the possible trip duration, and the level of SWR involvement in a particular trip. So if you get a chance, check out the site. We would love to get your feedback on the site.

So, that’s our April adventures following God’s path.

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Our Trip Continues….

After a few big days of exploring the area from a property standpoint, CJ and I decided that Saturday would be a day of play. I headed up to Monarch Resort for some snowboarding, and CJ and Judith had a great day hanging out, checking out the local shops, and sightseeing.

The weather at Monarch was absolutely beautiful with the sun shining and temperature around 30 degrees. The snow conditions, however, were a bit on the icy / crunchy side due to the last snow fall being only 6 inches two days prior. My experience with Colorado ski areas is pretty limited….I’ve only previously visited Wolfcreek near South Fork (southern Colorado) and Purgatory in Durango (western Colorado). In comparison, Monarch’s facilities and slopes are more like Wolfcreek, being solely a ski area, not a resort style facility. There were no condos or other “ski in / ski out” accommodations adjacent to the slopes. I found the lodge nicer than Wolfcreek, although there were fewer slopes and less snow. However, this may not be a good year to compare, due to the lack of snow throughout Colorado.

I’ve never snowboarded by myself before, so wasn’t sure how long I would last. Unfortunately, Monarch doesn’t offer half day lift tickets, so I needed to buy a full day pass regardless. When I arrived at the ticket counter, a young boy approached me asking if I would be willing to purchase a ticket with him on his two for one ticket deal. At first I thought he was scamming me, but the guy at the ticket office confirmed that it was legit. So I ended up paying half price for a full day lift ticket! Out of all the people milling around, that young boy chose me…God is awesome! He knows our deepest desires, even my struggle to pay full price if I were only going to board a half day.

As for Judith and CJ, they spent a great day in fellowship and enjoying the local scenery. They drove up to Buena Vista to check it out, looked at some properties that CJ and I viewed the day before, then headed back to Salida for lunch and shopping. As CJ puts it, ”there just isn’t enough time to explore all cute and quirky shops in downtown Salida”. Not only does Salida have a great food scene, but they also have a pretty extensive art district. Our girls were pretty excited to find Ploughboy, a farm fresh and local grocer that has everything from meats, cheeses, and produce to refillable milk jugs and homemade brandied applesauce, just to name a few items. When I met them back at the hotel, they were both tired and happy. We decided to make it an early night, so we headed to Amicas (our favorite wood-fired pizza joint) for pizza and a glass of wine. I think this was Judith’s first pizza in years and she was thrilled to finally find a place that made gluten free pizza crust and non-tomato based sauce. We were all happy campers!

On Sunday we visited River Valley Community Fellowship for worship. The church met in the local theater, which was previously the town’s steam plant. The old plant was very nicely remodeled into a theater for the performing arts…cool architecture and very comfortable seats. The people were friendly and the worship / message was authentic and spirit filled. The theater was packed with about 100 – 150 people, which is much smaller than our church in Austin (Gateway). It felt a bit like small group, with the pastor’s wife asking for prayer requests / praises prior to service. I found it amazing that she knew everyone’s name. As people stood and shared their struggles, she would ask those close to the petitioner to surround them as she lead us all in prayer. Certainly, if we chose this church as our home, the size of the church would require some adjustment. But although it’s not what we’re used to, we sense that a smaller church venue is where God is leading us.

After church, we stopped for brunch at a restaurant just down the street from the Church, called Laughing Ladies. One of my favorite breakfast meals has always been eggs benedict. However, when I gave up beef and pork I couldn’t eat it anymore. So when I saw that they had salmon eggs benedict, I jumped on the chance to try it and it was delicious. Both CJ and Judith agree with me in saying that the food again was awesome!

After brunch we wished Judith farewell as she headed back to Pueblo and we headed back to the room for some down time. It was nice to relax, watch some TV, and play game after game of “Words with Friends”….CJ is addicted. Around dusk we looked out the window and noticed it was snowing. This was the first time since we arrived that we saw snow coming down…although you see it on every mountain vista. We were energized!! The snow pulled us from our movie coma and prodded us to go for a walk. Since we don’t see snow very often in Austin, it seemed like Christmas to us. Of course, to the locals, it’s just another snowy evening. I kinda like the sound of that…next year at this time, we’ll be locals.

Monday morning we woke up to a beautiful day. We packed up and headed north to Buena Vista to meet Bruce Kramer for breakfast. He was a major player in the YoungLife organization for over a decade. His role was to help in building existing camps and finding locations / developing new ones. He’s now retired from full-time ministry and has his own custom home building company.

The meeting began with Bruce asking a few questions and us then sharing our story / path to this point. He told us that he loved our passion and excitement for our ministry, but he did caution us on the mundane and bureaucratic efforts that are required in running a retreat. We had experienced some of that leading the Outside Ministry at Gateway, but it was a good reminder. Another major issue that he raised was in respect to finances…he indicated that it’s important that the operation be self-sustaining, with donations being requested for initial investment and capital improvements, such as buildings. Understandably, it’s been his experience that people have more of a tendency to rally around a physical improvement than around daily operating expenses. Luckily, this was already our vision as we’ve been developing the financial plan.

As the meeting was drawing to a close, Bruce introduced several other options that we had not yet considered. Instead of building a retreat from the ground up, we may want to partner with another retreat/camp or outfitter. In doing this we could possibly have some funding for start-up, an established client base, and experienced personnel. Sonshine Wilderness could be a separately run arm of the existing operation…residing together under the larger umbrella. He also mentioned taking over another retreat location as an option. Certainly, whether it’s a retreat facility or not, any land that has pre-existing buildings would be a huge plus in terms of cost reduction due to utilities already on site. Overall, the meeting was extremely enjoyable and very productive. Bruce gave us lots of ideas, guidance, and affirmation.

So as we continue our journey, we ask that you all pray with us for God’s vision to be revealed. Are we or aren’t we to partner with an existing entity? If so, which one? Pray that it becomes clear and that our eyes are open to the steps forward. In addition, we also need prayer on stripping away any pride and / or need to control and replacing it with humility. Above all else, we want to let go of our own expectations and walk in God’s will, whatever that looks like. Thank you all for sharing this journey with us…..

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Another Day Exploring

Friday dawned bright and beautiful in Salida Colorado, and CJ and I woke with a sense of peace. We may not know what God has in store for us, but we are eager to follow wherever He leads.  With a new desire to enjoy this journey, no matter what the day had for us, we set off to meet with the County Zoning Director to better understand the zoning and permitting steps required to develop property in this area. The director, Don, was very amiable and seemed to have a genuine williness to help. He explained that based on the size of the land parcel (i.e.,less than 35 acres), certain restrictions or covenants may apply.  We also learned about the steps / permits that we need to obtain and from where in order to develop and / or build on a piece of property in Chaffee County.  Overall, the visit was informative and time well spent.

After the meeting, we found a really cool coffee shop in downtown Salida, Cafe Dawn, that had great ambiance, good coffee and a friendly staff (as we’ve found everywhere in town).  And did I mention the free wi-fi?  We used this opportunity to chill and finish the blog of our first day. Phillip, the owner, took time to visit with us and we discovered that he once lived in Austin…..what a small world!  When we told him our intentions of moving to Salida, he merely smiled and said he enjoys living here but the pace is slow. Many locals call it “Slowida” instead of Salida.  I think CJ likes the idea of a slower pace, but I’m not so sure how she’s gonna adjust.

After a little down time, we grabbed a quick bite and headed north (about 25 miles) to Buena Vista to the Remax office.  We were very blessed that our Austin realtor, Tom Sunstrom (he is awesome if anyone is interested), connected us to a fellow realtor that works in the area. Unfortunately,  when we called him on Thursday, we discovered that he was in California through Monday.  Luckily, he pointed us to another gentleman in his office that could meet with us this trip.  Kent was very helpful, printing off a number of listings, all properties over 35 acres with no covenants or restrictions. He seemed to know what we needed before we did.  One thing we’ve noticed about everyone that we’ve come in contact with is how genuinely helpful they are.  Kent was no exception.  As we were leaving his office, he followed offering help in anything we may need, whether it be a good restaurant or auto repair.

From the long list Kent provided, we selected eight properties that we wanted to check out. Some of the properties were out of this world and out of our price range, others were not exactly what we had in mind.  Once we explored each one of them, we weighed the pros and cons of each. Two properties in particular stood out.They had many of the characteristics that we were looking for: location, terrain, views, etc. Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually reach the lots due to the snow on the private road leading to them. However, despite not seeing these properties personally, we saw enough of the neighboring area to know they are great possibilities.  We also really like the proximity to Salida (15 minutes from downtown) and the Monarch Ski area (within 35 minutes).

After many miles driven, we headed back to the hotel to meet a friend of ours from Austin that is currently living in Pueblo. Judith drove in to hang with us this weekend….what an amazing treat. We decided on a local steak and seafood place in the historic district, Currents, for dinner and fellowship. Add this one to our list of must tries. Since we’ve been in town, we’ve eaten at the top 3 recommended restaurants (per trip advisor) and we have not been disappointed!.

Another day is in the books, and a day of play is planned next….

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Lay of the Land

CJ and I arrived in Salida Wednesday evening very tired but excited about what lay ahead.  With the change in elevation (Salida sits at 7,000 ft), I had a difficult time catching my breath so I spent that first evening just adjusting to the altitude. But no worries, I’m breathing like a local now!

The hotel we’re staying in is run by a very hospitable eastern european couple. It’s very clean and well mantained and the only hotel in town that allows pets. They have a sweet little pooch and two birds that greet us in the lobby.  The more we explore Salida the more we sense that a majority of the businesses are locally owned and operated. In every restaurant we’ve entered, the staff seem to know a good number of the patrons personally.  It has a very hometown feel….one of the many reasons we fell in love with Sailda in the first place. 

So the main purpose of this trip was to get a feel for the surrounding area. Before we came, we did some research on potential properties and planned to check those out first thing.  Our exploration yesterday started in the area west of Salida, which we think is a prime area  — 10 minutes from the Monarch Ski Resort and 20 minutes from downtown Salida. The first parcel was a beautifully treed 18 acre property with tall aspens, cottonwoods and pines. The property also borders the South Fork of the Arkansas River on one side and the San Isabel National Forest on the other.  It sits just off US 50, but still felt very secluded. We weren’t able to walk the property due to several feet of snow, but from the road it got high marks and we were really excited about the potential.

The second property we checked out was about double the acreage and half the price. It’s west of Salida as well, but east of Route 285 and much closer to town. Route 285 travels north / south in the valley dividing two mountain ranges.  This second property sits on the eastern mountain range whereas the first property is on the western mountain range (very different vegetation and feel).

The drive to the second property was up a very long / curvy road and the countryside was covered with pinon pines. These pines don’t get very tall…honestly, they look alot like the cedar trees in Texas. Not the most attractive. However, the property was located at the end of the road and  backed up to public forest land, which would insure that it wouldn’t be developed. Not to mention, it already had electricity run to the property and the most awesome veiw of the Arkansas River valley.

From there we decided to explore the area northwest of Salida. What we discovered was that the terrain and vegetation was very similar to the second property, short pines and more open land (great for ranching…but maybe not so great for a wilderness retreat). It appears that the taller trees only grow in the river valleys or above an elevation of around 8,000 feet.

After a morning dedicated to driving around and searching for properties, we were famished!  We headed back into town and found a neat little restaurant called the Boathouse Grill located in a really cool building built in 1903. The food was good but the atmosphere was better….it was situated right on the river and had beautiful views. Just another way God has been showing us His love.

After lunch, we walked along the river, talked about our morning, and plotted next steps.  We decided to check out a few more county roads that we had seen on the map in the vicinity of the first property. One of the roads in particular peaked our interest because it appeared on the map to head deep into a mountain valley. So we packed up our gear and headed west again. However, shortly after we turned onto the road the County winter maintaince stopped, which meant that the plowing stopped.  There was about a foot and a half of snow and very little area to turn around, yikes!  Despite this hiccup, we both thought the road was heading into an area that would be great for the reatreat and worthy of further investigation in the future. The only downside would be the need for us to plow the road ourselves (if we do indeed head in this direction), which would likely be a be a major expense.

During our morning drive we noticed a few other parcels for sale along the same road as the beautiful 18 acres.  So after our snowy dead end, we decided to head back to the hotel to do some online research of those properties. We weren’t very successful in finding information on those particular lots, but we did find more info on the first property.  Unfortunately, 12 of the 18 acres are designated as “open space” and 3 utility easements cross the remaining 6 acres of developable land making this property much less attractive. 

In saying this, I ended yesterday a little discouraged.  At this point I’m not sure if my expectation of what the retreat should look like is the same as what God has planned.  Both CJ and I feel so drawn to the areas with larger trees further up in the mountains but we’ve had little success in finding property.  However, our goal for this trip was to merely get the lay of the land.  In God’s timeline, there’s still plenty of time to find the perfect property…I think my discouragement may be rooted in my excitement pushing me ahead while God is saying, “One step at a time, my son”.  CJ, on the other hand, left yesterday feeling a sense of re-direction in terms of our vision.  Our original thought was that we would need much larger acreage (35 to 40 acres) in order to handle the capacity we had set.  However, after seeing the properties, we’re talking about downsizing and building something much smaller and more intimate….say maximum of 30 people. Hmmmm, what do you think?

So my hope for today is that I find excitement in another day walking in God’s will…a fruitful day, another step towards God’s bigger vision.  We ask that you pray for us, that our expectations are removed and that God’s will is made clear.

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