North Fork Valley Colorado John Fielder Collection
Photo Credit John Fielder

Moving to the Valley

In late summer 2020, we made an offer on a property in the North Fork Valley and moved two months later. Yes I know, you might believe our actions were COVID-19 related (get out of Denver, change in scene, different life, etc.) but it wasn’t. We had been coming to the valley for 10 years. 

Our journey began with a visit to Leroux Creek Inn ten years before, where innkeepers Yvon and Joanna graciously hosted our many visits, introducing us to the wonders of the valley. Its beauty, climate, and people appealed to us. As illuminated and richly articulated by Thomas Huber in his book An American Provence, the valley shares a like landscape and sense of place with the Coulon River Valley in Provence, France. 

A great place to have a vineyard, and make wine.

Buying in the Valley was an arduous process of three years, though we had expert guidance thank goodness from the aforementioned Yvon Gros, now with Schafer Real Estate. Our hearts were broken twice with deals unexpectedly falling through. But importantly, we learned from the experiences. The kind of things you don’t reckon with living in the city.

Our largest learning curve involved water. We learned when exploring properties in the valley we needed to understand and ensure water availability. Each of the four properties we seriously considered had different water sources. One was on a city tap, adjacent to the North Fork Gunnison River. Another had a well supplemented by shares in a local water ditch. A third had a restricted tap with a small local water company, which only serviced 20 taps.

There is a spring associated with the property we purchased. The water rights were significant for domestic, stock, and agricultural uses. With research, I found the spring’s water source documented on a USGS National Water map! The previous property owner had installed an excellent collection, delivery, and treatment system with a 1,500-gallon cistern. We were set. After our move, we learned many in the Valley rely on water hauling and smaller cisterns. I count my blessings daily.

Sewage is next on the list of rural property considerations. Septic systems are used when town sewer systems aren’t available. Most septic systems use a tank with a leech/drain field, where the tank must be emptied (pumped) from time to time. Once again, we benefited from the work of the previous property owner, who provided a large distributed leech field without a tank. The local soils, located on a hill with no local water sources nearby, supported this approach.

More straightforward not dissimilar to urban considerations are electricity, phone, and internet access. Infrastructure supporting electricity (and wired phone service as compared to cellular), is well built out in most rural areas. Though you can end up “off the grid” in remote locations. Cellular is tricky. You should sort out with local residents to affirm availability, and by who. Your existing carrier may not provide the level of service you’re accustomed to. Internet service is also a mixed bag. Much of the valley (and many rural areas) depends on copper wire. Think old-school telephone lines. There can be several internet service providers. While performance is typically adequate, it can suffer depending on infrastructure, provider, and system load. Again, seek advice from local residents and experts.

We ended up with the best internet solution, fiber! We benefit from the services of Elevate Fiber, which has connected certain areas of the valley. For an area to qualify, there must be commitments from local residents at a level making it feasible for the company to provide service. Luckily, our new property happened to be in such an area.

Our last consideration for moving to the valley was having a property either with a vineyard or the space to plant one. While we looked at a few properties with vineyards, our eventual choice didn’t. There was a space for planting one, and importantly, the water to support irrigation requirements.

We are now Valley residents!

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