Cambrian: Opinion

Living in Cambria’s backcountry can be isolating. Here’s what makes it so rewarding

The Cambrian’s Mountain Musings columnist Marcia Rhoades’ house in the backcountry above Cambria.
The Cambrian’s Mountain Musings columnist Marcia Rhoades’ house in the backcountry above Cambria.

Almost every first-time visitor to our house in Cambria’s backcountry says the exact same thing upon stepping out of the car: “This is so beautiful, but I couldn’t live here.”

We completely understand the sentiment.

The road to our house is long and steep and winding, and living way out here can be physically, socially and intellectually isolating. It’s definitely not for everyone. There aren’t many of us living up here, but those who are have found various ways of coping with the isolation and inconvenience of living so far from civilization.

First of all, I think it takes a certain type of person to thrive here, and you never know for sure if you’re one of them until you actually live here. When I told friends and family we were moving to the middle of nowhere, the reaction was pretty much universal – “You’re going to be miserable. You’ll never last up there.”

Even after we moved here, my children kept asking how we could stand driving our long, bumpy road to and from town.

John never doubted that he’d love living here because he spent his childhood weekends and summers here. The attachment was already baked in for him. There was no such guarantee for me, having grown up in the suburbs like so many other people.

Fortunately, for John and for me, I love living here.

Because we’re still working a few days a week, the mental and emotional isolation hasn’t been a problem yet. We feel connected and stimulated by thought-provoking conversations with family, friends and colleagues. We are grateful that our friends haven’t given up on us yet because of our inaccessibility.

Some of the folks who live up here still work in town, as we do. Others who don’t work join clubs and keep busy meeting friends for lunch, dinner or other activities. And some totally revel in the isolation. The driving distance to everything affects us more than everything because we find ourselves giving up normal things we’ve always loved, like going to the movies, doing spur-of-the-moment things with friends, attending meetings that we know we should attend, being available to help friends in town when they need something or going anywhere after work.

Because we’re working way past normal retirement age, our energy level isn’t what it once was. Although we retired from our regular jobs almost 15 years ago, when we decide to retire for real, we may have to grapple with the emotional feelings of isolation from the vibrancy of normal town life. I guess we’ll find out when we finally pull the plug on work how well equipped we are to handle our new reality in the far, far back-of-beyond and how much more engaged we will become with the Cambria community.

Mountain Musings is special to The Cambrian. Email Marcia Rhoades at