A little while ago I posted a cryptic little comment on Facebook. “I just bought a mountain.”
Then there were several hundred guesses about mountain of what, or pics of the big dude on HBO, or guesses about my secret volcano lair. No actual mountain. Okay, here’s the deal. We just bought a bunch of acres of mountainside several miles from our current home, and we’re going to be building a compound… err… I mean house. Yes. House. Like normal people own. We will be building a “house” there.
We’ve been looking for the last year. This was a real score, but I’ll talk more about that. It will still be called Yard Moose Mountain, of course. We’re still in the same county, across the valley on the other slope. We’re only seven minutes further from the city than we are now.
We scored our current house right when the economy tanked, and a bunch of developers had lost their butts and were trying to move lots for cheap. At that point I was a successful accountant who needed to be close enough to the city to commute (I was just starting my writing career) but we were still living in the little house in the SLC area we’d picked up out of foreclosure on my entry level accountant’s salary and repaired over seven years. We sold that house for way more than we bought it for, and used the money to build this one. (seriously people, debt to equity ratio, learn it, live it, love it).
When we built our current house it was all open fields around us. There were houses near, but we had a little room to breathe. I’m a country boy at heart. I don’t like people all up in my business. We even had a moose come and live in our yard. That’s why we started calling it Yard Moose Mountain. He just kind of camped out under my son’s bedroom window, then he’d wander out and eat our neighbor’s trees, but he never messed with my trees. Good moose.
It was really nice.
Over the last five years our area slowly filled in, until one day I woke up, and realized that rather than living in the country anymore, we were living in a small neighborhood. Sure, it was a nice commuter neighborhood (I’ve got 12 doctors in my ward, no joke) and the people are about as nice as you could possibly ask for, but it was still a neighborhood. We landscaped and put in a fence for privacy, but it has lost its charm. Add to that, I’d retired from my finance manager job a few years ago to just be a full time author, so I no longer needed to be close enough to the city to commute.
Being a failed D List nobody hack pulp writer with an irreparably damaged career who will never be a *real* author and who can’t even manage to get measly five hundred people to a book signing, my income had still somehow gone up dramatically, but we’d not really changed our standard of living (well, except for more guns and minis, but those don’t count). Plus, because I have a pathological hatred of debt I had been making lots of extra house payments, to the point that I’d knocked 27 years worth of our 30 year mortgage payments out in 5. Because screw debt.
So last year we decided we wanted to move, and this time we were going to move someplace where we’d never have to move again. The problem is, I really like the county we live in now. To me it is the best place in Utah. Problem is, lots of rich people agree with me. So property is in demand.
For those of you who haven’t been to Utah you’ve got to understand what it is like. This state is huge. We have vast swaths of desert nothingness (I used to live in Delta!). Out there, land is super cheap. But you’re a million miles from everything, and in lots of those areas the weather sucks, freezing winter winds, and then summer is hot, dry, and windy, when it isn’t on fire, and I really hope you like sagebrush. But it’s big, affordable, and it certainly isn’t crowded.
Almost all of our population lives in a narrow strip of valleys between Provo and Ogden. This is called the Wasatch Front. This is where most of the jobs are. The problem there is that it is a dense city. Despite how the media portrays Utah as a bunch of bumpkins and our women are wearing butter churning dresses and floral bonnets, we’re actually one of the most urbanized states in the country, because everybody lives in the same damn place. It has all the negatives of city and suburban living, with other humans everywhere, lousy traffic, no space, shooting off your porch results in a SWAT call out, and land isn’t cheap. It’s all small lots, I’d guess quarter of an acre average, or maybe an occasional acre sized plot for way too much. Anything bigger gets subdivided.
Now, to clarify, when I say way too much money, I mean way too much by Rocky Mountain state standards. By some parts of the US standards, all of Utah is cheap. The equivalent to our current house in my wife’s home area California would be in the four or five million dollar range, only we couldn’t actually price that out because there are no lots the size of our current lot listed in Santa Clara county.
I used to live on the Wasatch Front. The worst part is that during the winter we experience what is called “The Inversion”. Now, you might be familiar with that winter weather effect, where because of the difference between the warm and cold air, the air in the valley will get stuck there and not circulate out, but in Utah, where we decided to stick two million people into what is basically one skinny valley, for a few weeks every winter we get to have the worst air quality in the world. Suck it, Bejing. If you have asthma like I do, it’s like sucking hot death through a straw.
So, expensive, crowded, and a few weeks a year the air is made of poisonous gas. Yay.
But there are a few sweet spots in Utah near the population center that aren’t desert, but rather pretty mountains, that aren’t all crowded, which are above the inversion, or better, on the other side of the Wasatch where the air is clean and all our pollution gets blown down to Salt Lake every morning. Now these peaceful mountain valleys were originally owned by farmers, who then figured out they could get stupid rich by subdividing it out and selling the land to ski resorts and movie stars.
That’s how you get Park City. Where the super rich go to ski, and Quentin Tarantino might yell at you over a parking space at Starbucks. Oh, it’s snooty, but we shopped for land there too. Last year we even seriously contemplated buying a piece of land there but then Katherine Heigl would have been our neighbor… I’m not making that up. Only I don’t want to raise my kids in the kind of neighborhood where people who make romantic comedies live. Next thing I know they’d be hanging out with Seth Rogan or something.
I don’t want to give you a bad impression of this part of Utah. It isn’t all imported snoots. It is also normal people, who are holding onto their farms in anticipation of selling them for absurd amounts of money to snoots. There are several smaller areas on the opposite side of the Wasatch that aren’t as developed, but still have the perks. Yard Moose Mountain is one of them.
So we started shopping for land in our region, problem is, so is everybody else, because it is still on the long side of commutable to SLC or Ogden. We hired the same realtor who found our current place for us, and gave him our wish list. My wife wanted privacy, and a good view, and no HOA (because HOAs can go to hell, and if I want to put up a concrete manatee as my mailbox, I’m going to put up a friggin’ concrete manatee as my mailbox). My list was I want to shoot off the porch and I don’t want to hear the highway.
If you’re in Utah, and you need a realtor, hire Cade Erickson. You’ll thank me. Dude moves houses like crazy. If what you want is out there, he’ll find it. He sold my last house in ten days for more than we thought we could get for it, right after the housing market fell apart. And when stuff goes sideways during the negotiation, he’s on it. Every oddball county regulation or water right or whatever, Cade is on it.
We looked at a bunch of properties. One nice thing about having your house paid off is that it gives you leverage and the ability to move quickly, so we could afford to be picky. Because I hate debt, I also skipped a bunch of things that were super nice, but would have required me to sell my existing house to finance building the new one, and I’m sorry, I’m never going to do the Sell a House/Rent an Apartment While You Build a House thing ever again. When you’ve got a bunch of kids and work from home that is a pain.
Then a few weeks ago, bingo. This one was one of the biggest plots, priced right, good location, same schools, the works. Score. It was perfect. We made an offer that same day. There were some complications because after we’d put down our earnest money and signed, the farmer selling it had misjudged how much land he needed to keep for himself in order to keep enough water shares. Rather than be jerks about it we just gave back enough acreage so he’d have no problems with his rights (even if they’re further away, you still want to be a good neighbor). It was all final this afternoon.
Questions I got on the internet so far:
How much did it cost?
It cost none of your damn business.
How big is it?
Pretty big. It isn’t the whole mountain. I was being facetious. Utah mountains are very large, and I’m merely a poor D List author (to be fair, in Alabama, this would totally be a mountain). However, my new lot is now 88 times larger than my current good sized lot. So we’ll get by.
Put it this way, first time I walked around it in the snow, I got really winded. And I’m not that out of shape. Next day tried to tackle the tall part with the kids straight up the middle, only to realize that the drifts got to be about four feet deep on the slope. So you’d climb three feet up, slide two feet down.
But the flat part we’re going to put the house on? It is gorgeous.
Will it have a shooting range?
Yes. My goal was to be able to shoot long range off my back porch. I can theoretically shoot a thousand yards. However, the lovely Mrs. Correia wants to put the fortress compound house in the middle. So the way it is shaped, off the porch I’ll only be able to shoot about 500 yards, unless I make friends with the farmer below us, because if I could put some targets across his pasture I could get out to about 2,000 yards. I’m actually thinking about using one corner and pushing up some berms to make a couple hundred yard enclosed bays too.
Can I come shoot?
Only if I personally invite you. Don’t be that guy.
Does it have an abandoned missile silo?
No. Though since I don’t have an HOA I can totally put one in if I feel like it.
Does it come with moose?
Haven’t seen one there yet, but probably. Every time I’ve been there I’ve seen between twenty or thirty deer. We’ve got some small copses of trees on our plot, but there are forested ravines all around us. The moose around here seem to love those.
Will you name it Mount Hoooon/Wendell Peak/Some other manatee based name?
Nope. If it stays Yard Moose Mountain I don’t have to change the family logo or stationary. Wendell understands. Aquatic mammals are fiscally responsible. And besides, he gets a cool mailbox shipped all the way from Florida.
Will it have a secret base inside of a volcano?
If I told you that, it wouldn’t be much of a secret base now would it?
Will the secret volcano base have lava?
Only if the Yellowstone Caldera explodes. Then we’ll have all the lava we could ever want about two minutes later.
Are you moving now?
We’re not moving anytime soon. We are planning on taking our time. We’re going to have to put in half a mile of driveway before we can do anything else (Yes, it will be called Yard Moose Mountain Road). There is no rush. Mostly I just wanted to find a good piece of land and lock it up. The plan is build the new one, then move in and sell the current one.
Anyways, that is one of my big secret cool fun projects that has been sucking up my time. I’ve got a bunch of crazy things going on right now, a few of which I can’t even hint at. This is going to be a really exciting year.