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What No One Tells You About Mountain Living

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

A North-East view of the Cuyamaca Mountains in Julian, CA
The North-East side of Julian, CA. | This photo is copyright of Jennifer Gutierrez. © 2019 - 2022 by Jennifer Gutierrez.

Media paints mountain living as this laid-back, storybook life. Cozy nights spent by a beautiful wood fire in a cabin. Waking up to a blanket of fresh snow. Free time doing outdoor recreation activities surrounded by beautiful scenery. It is all of this and more.

I was born and raised in the San Diego mountain town of Julian, CA. It’s a charming town 4200 feet above sea level. One of the coolest things about the region is that we get a taste of all four seasons. Even though the seasons are fairly mild compared to mountain communities at higher elevations, newer residents go through a transition period as they learn how to live in this new climate. I am here to help.

There are some things you should be conscious of if you’re considering relocating to the mountains…


Fall colors are so magical. There’s something about fall that creates delight as it prepares you for wintertime. Visually, it is just as pretty as Instagram portrays it to be. Once the leaves begin to fall, though, there’s lots of raking that needs to be done. Picking up leaves is my least favorite chore. My mom, on the other hand, loves it. Either way, it’s an untalked-about mountain chore that has to be done. No, you can’t just leave them on the ground. One, it creates fire danger, and two, your neighbors won’t be happy when your unraked leaves blow into their raked yard.

Diversity Comes in Different Forms

When we think of diversity, race is usually the first thing that pops into our heads. Racial diversity will depend on the specific community. For example, San Diego County has a large Native American population, something you don’t find in most cities. In small towns, diversity comes in the forms of economic social classes, occupations, artistic abilities, and age. Racial diversity will depend on the specific community.

Preservation and Respect

Wildlife, beautiful night skies, peacefulness, cleanliness, and friendliness are just a handful of reasons why life in the mountains is so desirable. In order to keep it that way, we must make adjustments to preserve it.

This means you can’t kill every wild creature you come in contact with. You can’t leave bright lights on at night. The region is quiet because residents don’t drive loud cars, let the dog bark, or blast music. In order to keep the land clean, we don’t litter; we pick up any trash we see and maintain our yards. The culture is friendly because we are friendly and neighborly towards each other. The neighborhoods are charming because we avoid bright paint colors, don’t install chain-link fencing, and build homes that fit the feel of the neighborhood. These habits aren’t just an effort to preserve. They are also basic signs of respect for nature and your neighbors. Everyone around you lives in the mountains because they enjoy the peace, tranquility, and lifestyle.

Shoveling Snow

There’s nothing like waking up to a blanket of fresh snow. It’s extra quiet. There’s a refreshing chill in the air. Looking out the window at the first snowfall is such a beautiful moment. Snow days are one of my favorite parts of living in the mountains.

They do come with a lot of work, though. The more preparation you do beforehand, the more enjoyable they will be. Hopefully, you can stay home and enjoy the beauty. When reality calls, vehicles must be defrosted, and walkways and driveways must be shoveled. If you can wait until the snowplow comes through, you will save yourself from “the second-shovel” phenomenon. A few feet of shoveling will get you sweating. Park at the end of your driveway to avoid extra work.

Living Among the Wildlife

Life in the mountains is a constant balancing act between staying safe and preserving the natural ecosystem. There are wild animals, bugs, and lots of unwanted house guests. Be prepared to share your land—and sometimes the road—with wildlife. In our modern-day, urban culture, it is customary to exterminate animals, but in the mountains, we must take into consideration how extermination will affect the entire ecosystem. It is possible for humans and animals to coexist as long as you are willing to make a few lifestyle changes.

Personally, I have not had too many negative encounters with wildlife in San Diego County. There have been a few times when we needed to address infestations and unwanted guests. For the most part, we leave the animals alone. Residents have to learn to live with the wildlife. There are many simple changes that help eliminate pest problems. You can learn more about how to live among the wildlife here.

Fitting in

It can be hard to find your place in a new community. I want to stress that small towns are generally very welcoming and friendly places to live. This does not mean the transition period will be a breeze. From my experience, new residents in my hometown either find their people or don’t. Just as the transition period is hard for newcomers, it is also hard for those well established in the community. There is a variety of reasons why residents are hesitant to welcome newcomers.

The biggest lesson I learned while growing up in a small town is that what you put into the community is what you get out of it. The sooner you get involved, the quicker you will adjust. With time, you will find your place in the community, and you will probably love the lifestyle as much as I do.


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