Real estate in the North Fork valley is raising eyebrows. Its fall 2017 and buyers are starting to exhibit sticker shock driven due to ever increasing demand while sellers are quite excited at what buyers seem to be willing to pay to secure a piece of our lovely valley of milk and honey! October real estate stats for the valley are out and have some telling numbers. The median sales price year to date when compared to last year in the North Fork Valley saw an increase of 4.9% through October. Inventory (Month supply of inventory) for September and October 2017 was approximately 30% less than those months in 2016. The number of new and sold listings in October were down nearly 30% when compared to October 2016. Inventory remains a problem! One could contend Paonia is driving the trends in the Valley. The closer one gets to Paonia the more demand and sale price have increased and the more supply has decreased.
What do these numbers mean for those looking to buy or sell property? If you are in the market to buy and our recent price spike has you shaking your head my advice is get your foot in the door or get ready for more of the same. In times like these its good to house hunt with compromise in mind. In all likelihood you will be competing with several other buyers for a piece of property that does not meet your desires or expectations! Just remember the Western Colorado is a very unique little piece of the world and most homes are of the older, less updated variety!. The North Fork Valley has become increasingly desirable and there just isn’t enough property to go around to meet demand. Higher prices and lack of inventory continue to make for a very competitive buyers market. National trends (always a year or so ahead of local trends) indicate similar things are in store for the future. A record stock market, low unemployment, and very low interest rates are fueling the frenzy nationwide and has infiltrated into the North Fork Valley. “Experts” claim this will continue well into 2018. If you are set on buying into this market be prepared to put your boxing gloves on because lots of other people have the same idea.
If you are thinking about selling well congratulations! You are in the catbird seat! Its a seller’s market currently no doubt. While historically winter on the western slope sees a lull in home buying, not so much the last couple years. Home prices continue to inch higher month by month on the western slope of Colorado and more so in the North Fork. My advice for sellers is don’t bide your time for too long expecting the market to keep skyrocketing and don’t try to overshoot the market when you are ready to list your house with a realtor. This trend (bubble) will end. When? One excellent indicator to keep track of is the Denver housing market. Currently its chugging along just like the little old North Valley and as long as Denver Market is going “great guns” so too it seems will the North Fork. But some prognosticators see ominous signs on the horizon.
Its hard to see a housing market that is guaranteeing the transformation of a culture. I believe we are beginning to see this shift in Paonia in particular. It has quickly morphed into a market where first time home buyers or those with more limited means can no longer get their foot in the door. People of means can rapidly change the face of a place. Is it better? Is it worse? Well I suppose it doesn’t bode well for those people who really want to be here but can no longer afford to buy here. I do think its worth pointing out that the people attracted to this place aren’t moving here because of jobs, but instead recognize the unique gifts this place has to offer: water, air, a perceivable buzz in the air, and like minds that cooperate and coalesce around important issues. I refer to Paonia as the “Mayberry of Colorado”. Its quirky, friendly (pay no mind to the Paonia Message Board!), and slow. Its a throwback to small town America of the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. A great place for young and elderly children alike. Its why my wife and I moved here 10 years ago. I see the current culture shift as needed but I lament the things that will change. Longtime elders on the front porch waving to everyone that walks or drives by. Passers by on the street who have time for a chat. The oh so welcoming nature of people grounded and comfortable in a community they have lived in and contributed to for 25 years or more. But on the other hand the amount of vacant store fronts in downtown Paonia continues to shrink and new friendly faces seem to arrive daily along with new ideas and fresh energy!
I suppose these changes are not unique to this place alone. I can only hope those core elements that attract new people here are remembered, carried forward and preserved. We can’t stay the same place we were 30 years ago nor should we. We must move forward, morph, and improve things hopefully at the same time. Its the roots of a place that in the long run can save that place. Just like those grandmother trees that can send roots deep underground and stand through the strongest of storms, so too can a community if we remember and use our roots to our advantage in times of change.
Jay Canode writes words, shoots pictures, and is a realtor in Paonia, Colorado. 970.799.8918 JayCanode@hotmail.com
Editors note!:The Great American Eclipse of 2017 was an 8 hour drive from Paonia. While not adhering to The North Fork Nutshell’s official parameters for our irregular feature “North Fork Weekend Getaway” , this potential once in a lifetime occurrence was the exception and thus complies with our strict Weekend Getaway parameters!
As T-day approached (Day of Totality) no hard plans were being made in the Canode/Williams household to make the pilgramage to the hinterlands of the American West in order to view the total eclipse of the sun. In the weeks and days before the event I’d occasionally throw out to my wife Amy, “The eclipse is coming. We gonna go?” But only received back vague and non-commital responses. Both of us had read and heard that there’s no comparing a partial eclipse to Totality but there was some resistance from my better half. Amy practices Ayurveda (The east Indian Art and science of Life) and Vedic Astrologers, considered to be the oldest and deepest practitioners of astrology in the world, suggested going inside, putting one’s head under the covers, and wait out any Total Eclipse of the Sun. These same astrologers also have prognosticated that this particular eclipse would spell total doom for our current president Donald Trump, which is intrigueing in and of itself. I didn’t particularly care that the Vedas were warning against bathing in Totality. As Amy described it, “All our skeleton’s get woken up and kicked out of the closet after an eclipse.” That was fine with me. I was game for a closet cleaning anyway. But as the day of Totality approached it was time to defecate or get off the pot. It seemed enough people were singing the fantastical virtues of experiencing Totality on Youtube and Facebook that we had to see what the fuss was about. So we loaded up the family truckster, threw caution to the wind and made a B-line for Lander, Wyoming, the closest place to see totality. (And incidentally and very importantly clear skies were in the forecast!)
Thus, we (wife and I, son Edan, new friend Jake, and friendly but annoying dog Brahmi) embarked from Paonia on Saturday with a fuel up, lunch up, and stock up of provisions in Grand Junction. Adequately weighted down for the 8 hour drive, we headed over lonely Douglas Pass, skirted Dinosaur Monument, and camped out just outside Vernal, Utah in the high country of Ashley National Forest. Ashley seemed very thirsty and well used with evidence of prolific tree disease as well as intense logging. Lots of traffic on the back forest roads which seemed to revolve around logging and hunting. Edan had a great time gathering plentiful firewood off the ground, poking at the subsequent pine camp fire, and of course roasting marshmallows over said fire. We’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter to Edan what our final destination is for family trips as long as marshmallows and campfires are involved! Amy went to bed early while Jake and I watched the fire die and speculated on what we would experience during our time in Totality. I was starting to feel the skeletons knocking.
Sunday, the last leg of the trip, would find us at our final destination of Lander by dusk. We drove over and looked longingly at the swimming holes of Flaming Gorge reservoir but were anxious to get to where we needed to be. There was lots of talk about the millions of people like us who were doing the same thing we were doing all over the United States. We had no idea what to expect in terms of traffic or crowds but we knew we didn’t want to be last in line to the show. Thus far in the pilgramage, state highways were desolate, empty, and as always in desperate need of repair. We lunched in the oil/gas/coal town of Rock Springs, WY in a little park decorated with an army tank and a fighter jet, and hid out from the intense August sun in the shade of some fir trees. Edan was convinced the fighter jet was fake. I spent a bit of time trying to prove it was real.
When we reached Lander our first stop was the Shoshone National Forest headquarters. What a welcome committee! Having no clue about the lay of the land we were so thankful and surprised by the warm, friendly, and extremely helpful government employees and working on a Sunday no less! They provided us with free maps with exact overlays of the path of Totality and even how long to expect Totality at a particular latitude. After patient explanations of what places had already crowded out we made the choice to check out a desolate swath of BLM scrub land about an hour north. Off we went north into what was considered maximum Totality (still no traffic really) and found some nice running water but with about 100 cows and enough cow shit to make walking a bit like hopscotch. Adjacent however to this well used BLM paddy was Boysen state Park surrounding a large reservoir. While there were perceptibly more people like us milling about the park for looking for the perfect spot there was still plenty of places to stretch out and stake a claim…for free! On that subject it was interesting to see all the fields, lots, and private land that had signs to “View the Eclipse Camping: $80. Most of those lots were empty but a few off major highways were filling up. The pack mentality always interests me…. but always from afar. We hunkered down, took refuge from the dry, hot, Wyoming wind and sun on the leeward side of our truck and waited for the big event.
Monday started warm and breezy. At around 10:20am I looked up with my handy eclipse glasses and could see a small nibble appearing at about 11oclock on the sun. To celebrate the 3 of us us boys went and jumped in the lake to wash off our roadtrip scuzz. By the end of our dip we could already percieve a drop in temperature and a less intense light. I went and got my cameral gear and we climbed a nearby hill that revealed expansive views in all directions. Adjacent to us a hundred yards or so a someone hollared to us and motioned us over. It was an amateur astronomer with his family from Michigan with various telescopes and viewing devices and he was eager to share with us. My 7 year old performed a quick inspection and quickly fell into deep conversation of Pokemon and Minecraft with another boy at the astonomer’s camp. By then the eclipse was around 75% or so and the sun continued its slow dimming feature.
At around 95% or so things start to get a bit fuzzy. Not knowing what to expect I had prepared to take a night time picture. You can see the image of Totality I managed to capture above and the wide shot just before totality but these photos do little to convey the what was going on. It was unlike anything I/we have ever experienced. The massive approaching shadow from the west, the planets peaking out of an almost black mid day sky, the substantial (chilly?) drop in temperature (My son put his jacket on!), animals, birds, and insects behaving as if the sun had set, etc, etc… In hind site, even though I am a professional photographer/videographer I would not have spent the precious 2 minutes of Totality fiddling with my camera. I’ve come to realize it was such an unbelievably rare and fleeting experience that 100% of ones attention is required to soak it all in. Because not only does the event itself rarely occur, but the weather HAS to cooperate. One has to be able to have an unobstructed view of the sun to fully realize what is happening, and even then it is a truly unbelievable sight and does not compare to even a 95% solar eclipse!
In conclusion, it was well worth the 16 hours of driving it took to experience 2 minutes of a total eclipse of the sun. It is something I will never forget, and I hope it stuck with my 7 year old as well. On the way back to Paonia we took a luxurious dip in Flaming Gorge reservoir and Edan took his first flying leap off a cliff (6 feet) into a lake! We had some awesome mexican food at Tacos el Gordo in Vernal, Utah. And that my friends is the end!
P.S. Still waiting for my skeletons to appear, but my wife says it could take a year or so. Same goes for Donald Trump.
Its official friends. Summer is here and we’ve had a pretty darn long run of scorching days in the North Fork Valley. Coincidentally we have now reached and surpassed the scorching property values seen at the top of 2008 housing bubble! Are we now in another bubble? I won’t touch that question with a 10 foot fruit picker! As a 10 year resident of Paonia and a realtor, I have mixed feelings about where our real estate market is heading. My wife and I relocated here after an extensive search of potential spots in the Southwest U.S.. What we found here was undeniably the best value for the lifestyle we were searching for, a small, friendly mountain town with lots of water and low enough in elevation to experience and participate in a sustainable lifestyle where food can be grown. I like to refer to it as the “Mayberry of Colorado”. But are the quaint porch swinging days of Mayberry numbered?
Today I believe the North Fork Valley still offers value and offers a wonderful lifestyle but property prices are increasing rapidly. Fueled by the sizzling real estate market of Denver and the Front Range, local housing prices have taken some pretty dramatic jumps in the past 6 months and buyers are not balking. The allure of a semi- rural lifestyle in a beautiful, quiet, creative community at relatively affordable price is strong! In small communities with limited means this can create problems. This subject has been covered extensively in recent years in Colorado. Housing prices surpass income levels of the people inhabiting them leaving its teachers, service and blue collar workers, farmers and civil servants in a pinch. Instead of being able to reside in the communities in which they work and contribute to the quality of a healthy community, they are forced “down valley” or out of the region altogether. In Paonia and surrounding communities its a bit different…for now. The North Fork isn’t a big tourist draw nor does it have much in the way of blue collar jobs anymore. . There are literally a couple of small hotels and B&B’s, and a small handful of restaurants. Our community is unique however. We are in the midst of a “new economy” fueled in large part by net-commuting and folks who don’t necessarily rely on the immediate community for their livelihoods.. We are well endowed with ultra creative citizens who wear many hats to make ends meet. But low overhead is the key to making this lifestyle work. Until recently one didn’t have to make a lot of money to live comfortably in the North Fork Valley. But housing prices, the highest expense for most folks in America, have a huge impact on the “health” of a community. Old shabby rentals are purchased, flipped for as much profit as possible, and usually exit the rental market either as full time or part time homes due to Airbnb. Retirees looking to find warmer winters down south are looking to cash in on their nests. As property changes hands for ever increasing amounts soon our community starts to take on an exclusive atmosphere where only certain demographics can afford to live here.
I’m sure it seems strange for you, dear reader, that a Realtor in the North Fork such as myself is discussing this subject! I am positioned to profit directly from the changes I speak of. To be honest part of me is torn to be participating in this culture shift. Really though is there anyone or thing to blame? I certainly can’t blame my clients or hold them in contempt for what is happening. Over the past year I have seen time and time again sellers overriding the comparative market analysis prepared for them by veteran realtors in the North Fork Valley in favor of their own much higher price tags. With the nature of our recent low inventory and high demand many times sellers are receiving these higher prices! (Price your home TOO high however and it can become stigmatized and shelved, remaining on the market for years.) Beginning in the early 70’s housing values in the U.S started to take a noticeable steep upward curve. We have started to treat our real property like a savings/retirement account or even a lottery ticket. Many have gotten filthy rich from real estate and many (see housing bubble 2008) have lost everything. Shows like “Flip this House’ add “Flip or Flop” bolster the culture of cashing in on the housing market. Its an honest living and keeps people working albeit not too reliably.
In an area like the North Fork Valley development has already reached maximum penetration for the most part. We aren’t going to be seeing any 50 lot subdivisions built any time soon. The demand isn’t there nor is there enough water to supply new housing. For the time being as long as buyers continue to look at this valley with goo-goo eyes (and why shouldn’t they?!) without enough cute little bungalows to meet demand we will continue to see an increase in people priced out of the area. We are in the midst of a culture shift which has its negatives and positives. The frenzy has just begun here and there are still great deals on real estate to be had. All I can really suggest is to get to know your neighbor whether they just moved in or have lived there for 50 years. If you happen to find out they’re thinking of retiring and leaving the area tell them to give me a call! Free comparative market analyses for all!
Jay Canode is a realtor, multi-media producer, dad, husband, volkswagen caretaker, and resident of Paonia, Colorado. He is the administrator of NorthForkNutshell.com
Living in western Colorado is like living in the middle of everywhere! A 3-4 hour drive in any direction can result in practically anything a human heart desires (short of an ocean that is). The urban experience in Denver, alpine high country of several exotic flavors, ski towns that are full of themselves as well as their less pretentious brethren, and to the west awaits the luxurious desert and pyschic void of southeast Utah, which is the subject of this particular pile of phrases and photographs.
Come April in Colorado my family starts yearning for the warm breezes that tend to swirl around red rock, exquisite deep canyons, the calls of the desert wren, the scent of juniper trees, and the vibrant blossoms of cacti and globe mallow. Fortunately for us there is Utah’s Canyon Country. Herein however, lies a seasonal problem; Utah canyon country, the national parks, and Moab and the mind blowing natural attractions are an absolute zoo this time of year. With the notoriously fickle but mostly mild weather of March-May everyone and their mom has their sites set on southeast Utah, Its Disneyland in the desert. But what follows is a secret loophole! I usually am not one to reveal these types of secrets in a public forum but I am fairly confident that you will probably never try to do what our party of 14 did this year. Its too tough, too rough, too much planning, and plenty of room for failure and chaos.
I picked a place I had heard of for many years but never had the proper vehicle make the voyage. After acquiring a 4 Wheel Drive Toyota truck last fall and stuffing it with a offroad camper shell I was itching to break it in the rig. I chose the White Rim trail, a bucket list overland wilderness adventure trip within the boundaries of the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. Sounds dreamy doesn’t it? Well it is/was. 100 miles of backcountry travel over a rough road originally carved out during the Uranium Boom of the 1950’s. Severely exposed, rutted, and rocky, the road doesn’t allow for much beyond 10mph in a loaded pickup truck. Bicycle or motorcycle travel are far more suitable methods to traverse this epic route. In fact these days most folks who travel this route pedal on 2 wheels as part of organized tours that are vehicle supported. Our group of 14 all had bicycles except little Ari who was just taking her first steps! There were 3 vehicles (the limit for our back country permit) and we all took turns driving and pedaling the Sag-wagons as we referred to them.
Rather than a word based account of our adventure I’m opting for the photographic evidence. I’m a far better photographer than I am writer anyway! I will tell you however the steps involved to plan this trip. Exactly 4 months and 1 minute before the first day you want to ca
Looking South West off the edge of Island in the Sky
The boys and the rig. White Rim trail.
Sunrise @ Airport Camp.
Edan. Long Canyon behind.
Quick brisk dunk for the boys. Colorado River side ride.
Out the backdoor of the rig. Murphy Hogback Camp
Veranda @ Murphy Hogback
Buds in the Backcountry.
The other morning as I was dropping my son off at the bus stop I heard “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles and it literally brought me to tears. It seems seasonal affective disorder has finally caught up with me. The forecast for this week touts a warming trend to result in “seasonal temperatures” and I’ll take it. But this morning it was blistery cold with a penetrating wind and more fresh snow on the ground. In Paonia and the North Fork Valley its been a grey, wet, season but luckily for me and my S.A.D. the dog days of winter have been BUSY at the RE/MAX office in downtown Paonia. A contingent of potential new neighbors; friendly, progressive, and enthusiastic folk, continue to hungrily circle Paonia and the North Fork Valley. Everyone seems eager for a change of lifestyle and look to take advantage of our reasonable property costs and undeniably sublime quality of life.
Real estate prices have continue to march upward slowly but steadily over the past several years. Check out the graph spanning 11 years below and compare the “Housing Bubble” of 2007 with our current situation.
The early 2k’s were seeing $40k average property value increases in a SINGLE year! Compare that to the steady, moderate increases over the past 5 years. Gains of around $8k over the past couple years look as if they should continue through 2017. Inventory of single family homes in Paonia have fallen well behind demand and it continues to be a strong sellers market and a VERY competitive environment for buyers.
As an example of the type of folks interested in North Fork, the other day I showed property to an MD licensed in 37 states! A family practitioner who practices telemedicine, this person requires a robust broadband internet connection and was very glad to learn of the addition of #Elevate fiber in Paonia. The proximity of this service currently relegates this person to property in and around town but that’s just fine because another requirement is to be able to walk or ride a bike to downtown Paonia. I can’t tell you how many buyers are desiring this ability. (Hint to town and county planners, we need more trails connecting our communities to each other, our rivers, and our mountains!!!) This person was very excited about our little “Colorado Mayberry” and hinted that she is scouting the area for several other friends also looking to settle in the North Fork as well. Good news! Change is inevitable and I believe the cultural shift we are seeing in Paonia is not a bad thing. While many believe the decline of coal jobs is the death knell for our community, I believe the future is bright. While it is a shame when people lose their livelihood I believe the North Fork Valley is resilient and offers more than just jobs in extraction industries. People WANT to be in Paonia. The type of people interested in coming here seem to be creative in their approaches to “making a living” and tend to operate and think outside the box. Or in the case of the “e-doctor” I showed property, our new ultra high speed #Elevate internet connection is enabling telecommuting!
As I’ve mentioned in several previous blog posts here in the Nutshell, it remains a great time to list your property with a local Realtor. Be sure to consider the advice of a Realtor with regard to the value of your property. This is a key factor in selling your property quickly in the hot real estate market we are seeing. It may be tempting to price property above market value but there are a host of pitfalls that can result from this. Feel free to call me anytime to schedule a free property valuation or just talk about whats going on with real estate in the North Fork!
Happy Spring everyone! Here comes the sun!
The North Fork Valley is on the map. How did it get there? Well that’s pretty obvious, it couldn’t stay a secret forever. We regularly appear in “Top” destination lists. Whether it be best places for fall color in Colorado, best throwback towns in America (Paonia), or best hippie towns(Paonia), word is out that we live in a special place. People who have intentions to relocate have the North Fork in their sites and there has been quite the feeding frenzy locally, especially the town of Paonia, for housing both to rent and purchase. It continues to be a sellers real estate market and this fall competition has been fierce, at least compared to the past 8 years or so. Simply put there are more buyers than sellers.
So whats happening here? Aside from this being a great place to live, (never mind real job prospects!) Denver the #3 housing market in America is just a quick drive over the continental divide and is definitely influencing housing in our valley. According to Zillow the median home value for homes in Denver is $355,800, (up 10% from last year) and rent in Denver is averaging just under $2000 a month. Denver is booming for better or worse and many see the North Fork as not only a great value but a definite step up in lifestyle. With the average time for a house on the market in Denver at a mere 11 days, the lure of cashing out quick and heading to the hills of the Western Slope where your housing dollar goes much further is tantalizing!
For the first time since the housing boom of the early 2000’s multiple offers are being considered in our market, with some properties (especially homes under $200k) seeing less than one day on the market. To deal with high demand I have advice for buyers and sellers in order to compete in this competitive environment.
For buyers time is of the essence. If you see something you like make an offer immediately! Making an offer does not lock you in to a purchase. During the due diligence portions of the contract period you can find out about the flaws, shortcomings or whatever you would like to call it and cancel the contract if it the deal doesn’t suit you. Once its under contract you can calm down a little, step back, and really scrutinize the property. When making an offer, realize in a competitive market, lowball offers aren’t going to fly. Negotiations are still taking place, just know that selling prices are inching up towards asking prices as this market continues.
It is a great time to put your property on the market and If you are considering selling your home or land contact a real estate professional! Just because your neighbor sold their house in 3 days for a boatload of money doesn’t necessarily mean you can do the same. Overpricing your property is the sure path to NOT selling your property in a timely manner or at all for that matter. Nothing’s worse than finally making the decision to sell your home only to have a For Sale sign in the yard for 2 years. By hiring a licensed agent we can help sell your home quickly and for the optimum price according to the current market. Aside from expediting and maximizing the process real estate agents also help minimize worry and confusion. We realtors sometimes get a bad rap and there is always a bad seed in a bunch, but realize we work hard for a living and do not get paid at all for much of the exhaustive legwork we do. Not only that we are part of the community and add our hard earned dollars back into the local economy.
If you have questions on what your home or property may be worth please give me a call for a free consultation.
P.S.!!! Dont forget the comment period for the BLM’s Resource management Plan ends November 1st! Make your voice heard! Please submit comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to the BLM, Uncompahgre Field Office, 2465 S. Townsend Ave., Montrose, CO 81401.
Good luck out there!
I’ve been doing business in our fair valley with some great folks over the past month! Long time locals settling in and putting down roots, expats returning to town after realizing just how wonderful this place is (!) and newcomers “just passing through” who have fallen in love and have decided not to leave. Its an exciting time in the North Fork Valley. Palpable change is in the air with regard to the seasons as well as culturally. There are people literally camped out waiting in the wings in this valley waiting to pounce on their North Fork Valley dream property! Properties under $200k in Paonia are sometimes seeing just a few days on the market before being snatched up and sold prices are inching closer to asking prices. If you are considering selling your property it continues to be a great time to sell as the August stats will tell.
A quick bit of advice…its the “cute” homes that tend to sell quickly and get more showings. If you are ready to sell your property consider giving it a facelift! You’re moving anyway right? So now’s as great a time as ever to de-clutter your house and load up the truck for a trip to the dump or local thrift store. Mow the lawn, pull the weeds, maybe a fresh coat of paint….these things are cheap to do and make such a big difference when selling a home.
Now with the stats! The month of August saw twice as many new properties on the market compared to August of 2015. Even so, inventory of available homes on the market remains low and continues to drop down 24% from August 2015. There 125 homes on the market last month compared with 141 in August of 2015. Median and average sale prices continue to rise in the North Fork Valley with a 6.7% and 2.5% increase from last year. Currently the average price for a house in the North Fork is $242,294. Actual sales price continues to close in on asking price with a nearly 3% increase year to date. For August actual sales prices were at 95% of asking. The number of days homes remain on the market was high for August. Meaning that a lot of homes that have languished on the market finally sold last month. Year to date days on the market for homes continues its decline to an average of 195 days on the market, a 6% decrease.
So far September seems to be seeing a continued uptick in real estate activity in the North Fork. It certainly seems busy around the RE/MAX Mountain west office in Paonia this month! If you have questions on other areas in Delta county or would like to know what your property may be worth in the current “sellers market” please feel free to contact me. Fall is beginning and its a magical time in our land of milk and honey! Get out and enjoy it! Soon the intimate dark days of winter will be upon us and you will find me daydreaming of the Yucatan Peninsula or perhaps just a trip to Tucson to see my Mom.
One of the joys and honestly a big reason for living in the North Fork Valley for my family and I are the vast amount of choices for the Weekend Getaway. First let’s define The Getaway. As far as I’m concerned the weekend getaway can be no further than a 3 hour drive away if car camping is involved. Now if we are talking about an all inclusive, fall into your semi- luxury hotel room/cabin, walk to dinner down the block type getaway, that drive could possibly be extended an hour…but no more! (We don’t backpack anymore so those travel parameters will not be covered) Living in Paonia we are within strategic distance to some fabulous two or three day getaways. These include some truly classic Colorado mountain ranges, high end resort towns (good for a night on the town!) Utah canyonland country, world class mountain biking, and a number of hot springs to name just a few attractions. The picture above illustrates our accommodations for this particular August getaway. Yes we sleep in a van…preferably down by a river or creek or lake. If you are nostalgic or just a VW geek this vehicle is a custom Subaru powered 1974 VW Transporter (bus) which we refer to as “The Van”. Its been a part of our family for 16 years and will likely be a recurring character on The Nutshell. (If you would like to geek out on this conversion performed by my good friend Chris Myles and myself check it out HERE.) Because of strict personal moral codes I cannot divulge the exact locations that we choose for our Getaways unless by prior polling I have determined the locations to be “well known”. Because 3 out of the 4 people I polled for this story have never been to this particular site I am about to share with you I can only describe it as being north of Paonia less than 2 hours by way of antique Volkswagen. By the time you finish this travelog most who are well traveled in this region will know of where I speak.
I should note our 6 year old son Edan is conspicuously absent from this particular “getaway” having gone to “Grandma Camp” in Arizona. Due to his absence our (my wife Amy and I) trip consists of long silent pauses whilst we stare at the lush green mountainsides surrounding us, each other, and many times nothing in particular. We amble along the bubbling, rushing creek that bisects the canyon and eat better than average cheese and salami and wash it down with cheap mexican beer and North Fork Valley hard cider. That’s about the extent of our itinerary. This claim we have staked for a couple days is a bit different than Paonia and the North Fork. The climate is sub alpine, its wetter, cooler and of course there are fewer people and lots of public land to roam willy-nilly across. But there ARE people and herein lies a perfect place to transition to the description of the “community” we have planted ourselves in for a couple days.
You could certainly call where we have landed a campground but its not a common interpretation of one. Its just a hand full of well worn dirt spaces along the banks of a creek occupied both long and short term by a varied slice of humanity. A fire pit is provided, a picnic table, and a bear locker to keep food in. (On our last day a frantic hiker came running down the trail reporting the siting of a bear. “Cool! we think to ourselves. But we never see it.) Its clean and relatively well kept but very used. It needs a bit of love. Interestingly there is no required fee to stay here. Its a donation system as our super friendly camp host explains. Also within the first 2 minutes of conversation with Mr. Friendly we learn that his heart has been broken by a woman and coincidentally that is the reason he sold his last car for only $300 although it was surely worth 7 or 8 thousand. I recognize his mid 70’s Winnebago parked in the same place down the road when we were here last fall although back then he was nowhere to be found. He offers to imbibe a recently legalized herb with us but we decline as we were already set up in that regard. There is a certain type of people that warm up to you rather quick when you travel in a vintage Volkswagen. Similarly but on the other side of the coin there are folks that are convinced that since we travel in a vintage Volkswagen we are surely the reason for the decline of modern civilization. Thankfully MOST folks in Colorado are on the friendly side of the coin. Keenly aware of the fact that our vehicle has a very high profile in the contemporary world of boring automobiles I try not to adhere to or perpetuate stereotypes, which leads me to the descriptions of the various folks we share space with in the “campground”.
In space #1 are a young couple (boy- girl) who look like a somewhat cleaner rendition of Woodstockers from the Summer of Love (1969). Patchwork clothing, unkempt, dreadlocked hair, they resemble Raggedy Anne and Andy if you remember who those characters were. I guesstimate them to be in their early 20’s. In their parking slot sits a brand new orange Jeep Renegade. The girl has a pink hoola-hoop and twirls it compulsively, not just traditionally on her hips but in all directions on all parts of her body. She seems talented in this skill. Over the 48 hours we are parked I never see the hoop at rest. Not that I spied on her the whole time I was there, I just found myself trying to see if she ever put the thing down. She did not. Her counterpart hunts for firewood much of the time and she follows all the while twirling and encouraging him I suppose. Curiously the Jeep was always running while parked.
In space #2 is a dusty, 80’s era Toyota recreational vehicle covered in solar panels. In front of that a similarly tarnished and patina’d black Harley Davidson chopper motorcycle of similar age. It has the look of home. I surmise its occupant may be working up valley and taking advantage of an economical summer living situation. Or he may not be working at all. Come winter though this place will be deserted as the snows close the road off to cars and trucks. The scene (along with the hoop twirler next door) reminds me of the Clint Eastwood movie “Every Which Way But Loose” ( a childhood favorite of mine). Unfortunately I never did see the occupant of this space emerge or make his or herself known.
On the first night Spot #3 contained what seemed from the outside, or at least from my vantage point a hundred yards distant, a more average example of campground occupants. The middle aged couple endeavored intensely on your typical campground activities. Building the tent. Starting a fire. Making dinner. Arguing about the how and why and where.
Other things worth mentioning…The location of this Getaway also happens to be a backdoor trail head for a popular wilderness area. A small trickle of day hikers in high end day hiking garb, extended families looking to enjoy some fresh air, and fishermen filter by. I get the feeling this place is definitely on more of the local radar than the community at large and certainly off the radar of the average summer tourist. For this reason I vow to not spread the word too widely (internet) about too many details of this place. Too often I see these types of places, once wild, scenic, and special become overused, abused, and in turn over regulated and monetized. Much like Paonia and the North Fork Valley this place is off the beaten path at the end of a narrow windy road. This certainly helps protect the relative anonymity of the place. I feel like its still a bit of a secret and covet its existence, not selfishly but for the sake of the place itself.
On our final morning we wake early to a black sky in the west. Thunder rumbles from far away and as the sun rises it becomes darker rather than lighter. The thunder and the blackness loom closer and I decide its time to wake up The Van and try to beat the storm down the five mile forest service road back to the main highway. (This place is notoriously prone to flash flooding, mudslides, and washouts.) Not in spite but because of the pending weather our plan is coming together quite nicely. Our exit strategy for this Getaway had always been to end strong and we’ve made a reservation to soak at a nearby hotsprings. For us nothing beats soaking in steaming lithium rich mineral water under a cool, misty summer storm. In fine form Colorado comes through with an outstanding ending to this particular North Fork Valley weekend Getaway. (and no we did not break down once in the Volkswagen….this time.)
THIS FROM CITIZENS FOR A HEALTHY COMMUNITY:
MONDAY AUG 8th
6PM ~ RMP Presentation
6:30-9PM ~ Comment Writing Workshop (Open house format)
Please join your friends and neighbors! This is your chance to learn about the BLM RMP, why it matters so much to the future of our communities on the western slope including Paonia, Hotchkiss, Crawford, Somerset, and all points in between. Learn how you can protect your home.
The meeting will begin with an information session at 6pm with an open house comment writing workshop to follow. All resources required to submit comment will be provided at the event, however, we encourage you to bring: a laptop computer, copies of past lease sale comment letters, and any other support documents for you to write your comment. We will be asking everyone to submit comment letters at the meeting. SEE YOU THERE!
This event is co-sponsored by Citizens for a Healthy Community, Western Colorado Congress, and Western Slope Conservation Center.
The real estate market continues to heat up right in line with the sweltering weather we’ve been experiencing here in the North Fork. Yup, its been a dry, hot summer with super bountiful bumper crops of fruit but as I write gentle, warm rain is falling in Paonia!
As of June 2016 the real estate market continues to improve from a sellers perspective. Inventory of a “month’s supply of homes for sale” is down 24% from June 2015….good for sellers as the average sales price is up 7.3% year to date. Cumulative days on the market is down 11.2%. Number of listings on the market is down 9.9%. Further favoring sellers. This trend mirrors U.S. national statistics, although to a lesser degree, where home inventory is down nearly 40%! July has seen most of these numbers double again! Average price was virtually unchanged but the months supply of inventory is down 35% which is darn near national average! This poses a problem….especially for first time home buyers and renters. Houses for rent in the North Fork Valley are in high demand but low in supply, just like house for sale.
In order to get an upper hand in this competitive market I have some advice to perspective buyers in the North Fork Valley: get pre-qualified for a loan BEFORE you begin your search for your dream property and find a real estate agent. If you can shop for properties confident that your financial situation is not an issue you’ll be way ahead of the game (and the competition!). It is tempting to utilize websites like Trulia and Zillow to do your own shopping but in a compettive market that is in constant flux, an agent with thier ear to the ground is your best friend. The buying process will be less stressful and you are more likely to buy something you truly want instead of seeing it bought out from under you! Good properties priced right are not lasting long on the market and are often getting multiple offers. Something not so common in our neck of the woods. So shop aggressively!
The crazy white hot real estate climate on the Front Range of Colorado is spilling over into rural areas and we only have so much property currently available. Housing development in the North Fork Valley is probably not a viable solution in the near term. Delta county requires proof of viable water sources and water is tight with places like Paonia no longer selling new out of town water taps.
The great thing is I have been showing real estate to some great folks from over the divide! Artists, musicians, semi-retired, retired, and just fun, free spirits. Some local people may see the influx from the big city as threatening to our down home communities in some way but I certainly don’t see it that way. These people are bringing skills, money, and personality to our communities. That’s a great recipe for a sustainable economy as the mineral extraction industry in our region continues its decline.
The future is looking bright for The North Fork valley. Creatives, outside the boxers, bicycle builders (?!!), boutique food artisans, recreationists, uber farmers, geeks, dweebs, and nerds…they all seem to be attracted to this place. The vibe here is high and continues to climb. If you are considering selling your property now is as good a time as ever! If you are on the hunt for property in our area get pre-qualified, hire a real estate agent, and be prepared to pounce! If you need someone to show you some property and give you the down-lo on the North Fork Valley please give me a call!
Thanks for reading the Nutshell!
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