Mountain Life and How to Visit Someone with a Monastic Lifestyle

Home building site being excavated with great winter mountain view

For personal and health reasons, we moved from smack dab downtown, in a major urban city, to a secluded mountaintop with very few neighbors… or visitors.  This is our fifth winter away from the city.  We love it.

We left many conveniences behind. You will, too.

Time and effort required to get here

Being up two miles of privately maintained dirt and gravel, with nearly a half dozen switchbacks, has it’s challenges.  When in good condition, it takes about ten minutes just to get to a paved road.  In ice and snow, you’ll need a ride or tire chains – yes, there’s a place down the mountain where you can park.  We always have machinery and equipment to come down and pick you up (or get you down) during in-climate weather.

You are your own first responder

Emergency services are at least a half hour away. The nearest rescue squad is only 3 miles aaway.  But given the rough terrain, it’s going to be awhile before an ambulance or rescue truck makes it up the road.  We are isolated in many ways, and you are your own first responder.  If you have deadly allergies, bring your own Epipen and be sure to let us know in advance what to look out for.

Wildlife can kill you

Dangerous wildlife can eat you, bears and bobcats, a rumor or two about mountain leopards, maybe Bigfoot, poisonous snakes, spiders and plants.  We like to carry a stick at all times, and a flashlight when out near dark, even on our own property.  It’s important to watch out and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

No high speed here. Slow down. Low speed.

Our ‘high speed’ internet comes from a mobile hot spot with directional antenna and we pay for every megabyte… no cable modem or DSL is available. Verizon and AT&T get 1 or 2 bars, but anything else and you’ll have no service.  We still have a landline for emergencies, but it’s out more than the electricity.  (Not to worry, I am a ham radio operator, and if there is any application in todays society, this is it.)

Only a few choices on the tube

No cable, satellite TV, or netflix.  Nothing Streaming.  We rely on several specialized antennas to receive free over-the-air HDTV. In the summer, dense foliage seems to absorb the TV signals, and we only get ABC and CBS, others sporadically.  In the winter, we get about 25 channels from several markets.  I believe atmospheric conditions also affect signal propagation and reception.  We usually get all major networks – but during wind storms, which we get often in the winter, antennas get blown out of line and we have to bundle up to realign them. We do have a Tablo DVR… which we love… and is also available in the guest room.

Private Bath, Mini-Fridge

Our guest quarters are off the first floor workshop.  Our private guest room is fully equipped with a few board games, variety of books, local maps, local tour and attraction info.  Best of all, guests have their own private latrine, adjoining guest room. Includes full size bathtub with plenty of hot water.  (Our mountain water is spring-fed and naturally slightly carbonated.)

Monastic Lifestyle

We enjoy our peace, both among ourselves, and with company. Sounds of nature, squirrels and birds during the day, owls and coyote at night, and our rooster pretty much all the time, are what we hear.  It’s also what we like to hear. We have very few ringers and alerts, at most maybe a vibrate signal.  We really appreciate visitors who are mindful to minimize their own ringers and electronic notifications.

Our typical day:

Sometime between 8am-10am … breakfast. We usually have something with eggs and bacon and some kind of fruit.

Around 10am-noon.  Either this is when we leave to do a daytime trip out of the house, or … ‘alone time’ … Running an insurance practice from home is a blessing, but it takes discipline.  You’ll often find me with a laptop in various places.  I definitely put in 8 hours a day, or more, with work, but it will be hard to catch me doing something most people think of as ‘work’. I am often working, not on facebook. This step could take all day, and is intermixed all the time with other activities throughout the day – depends on how busy work is.

Maybe 1pm-3pm … think about lunch … If we go downstairs off the mountain, it’s usually to gather supplies from town, sometimes for a lunch meal.  If we stay upstairs in the mountain, we’ll often go for a hike.

Like 3pm-6pm … do some outside more outside tasks.  Work on the latest project. Build a shed.  Dig some post holes for more fence, or to bury compost. Clear some brush piles. Make some more flat space, or continue building our paths. Cut down, buck, split, stack, move, or move and restack firewood.  Firewood is an ongoing, year round task.

Think about making dinner 6pm-8pm … We’re nearly always back home from town by this time, the mountain closes at dark. haha.  When television reception comes in, using our 3 interconnected and precisely set over-the-air HDTV antennas, we’ll catch the daily weather and skim the national news headlines… in the background.

Kick around some real TV watching from 8pm-12pm or so.  This is also hardcore working time, often on the laptop doing more work.  TV mostly a background noise, and if it’s on, we’re watching Chicago Med, Good Doctor, New Amsterdam, The Resident, or even Carols Second Act.  (See a theme? LOL).  Or entertainment like Ninja Warrior, nightly news.  It’s really cool to be able to work when I want to, rather than having to go into work 9 to 5.  I’m not going to lie, I do squander maybe an hour a day on the interwebs, not working or doing anything productive.  That’s a lot.

Chew over going to bed sometime after this, by midnight, or usually by 2 am at the very latest.

Be prepared to help

It might seem obvious, but it is worth saying, because it’s not obvious to everyone.  We ask visitors be very conscious of our personal space, and we’ll be conscious of theirs. This is our personal space, we enjoy visitors very much, but we are accustomed to being alone most of the time.  Try not to sit at our dining room table and basically hover over as we sit in our living room, while you screw off on your social media all day, emanating intermittent expletives, perhaps getting mad and spoiling the mood with your negativity. haha  We have a nice guest room, and all sorts of abundant outdoor space, go there.  Try to talk calmly, folks that aren’t used to this and don’t know how might find it helpful to talk softly.  (Although we’re not soft talkers by any means, just a tool to learn how to talk calmly.)

If you come to visit, be generous with either your time or your money: We love to have visitors, but we’re not your maid or personal chef.  If we cook, it’s usually a group activity.  Cooking together really lets folks get to know each other.  In the summer, we do gardening.  In the spring and fall, we process firewood, cutting logs or splitting pieces.  In the winter, we stack and restack the firewood, and put our chains on and off the car.  We have no dishwasher, and we always seem to be cooking or doing dishes.

Leave it behind

This is the perfect place to come for some peace and quite. Maybe a rooster squak or two, and fresh eggs.  A good 2 or 4 or 8 mile guided hike.  If you’re visiting, be prepared for alone time, or make sure we talk about things you want to do, and we’ll plan for it.  Folks often ask what we do on the mountain.  We seem to keep ourselves pretty busy, even though there is lots of nothing to do here.  Sometimes folks ask what we do up here.  I call it perpetual contemplative reckoning.  We love it, and hope you will, too!


Grown up in Cleveland, Ohio, USA., previously lived in Phoenix, Arizona and Tampa, Florida areas, and recently co-located to Asheville, North Carolina area. Trained as an Army MP, but bit of a renegade career wise. Phil has owned businesses in insurance, private investigations, surety bail bond industries, and has experience in computer network engineering, hospitality in-room advertising, asset recovery and repossession, and even a few years traveling most of the lower 48 states, Ontario and Northern Mexico as a commercial over the road truck driver. Career long entrepreneur, property investor and rental manager. Phil loves sharing his experiences of great food, travel, experiences and products.