Aspen Ridge Ranch is 300 acres of privately owned land located in the Yamsi Valley. It is surrounded on three sides by National Forest and is very remote. Yamsi Mountain-8,200 feet-rises from the valley floor on the eastern border. Wild Horse Ridge creates the valley's western flank. The land is made up of about 200 acres of large and small meadows and about 100 acres of ponderosa and lodgepole pines. The elevation is 4,900 feet. The region is considered high desert because it is arid climate. We get about 12 inches of precipitation each year; mostly in the form of snow. The snowfall begins in November but doesn't really accumulate until late December. It lasts until early March or even into April. Snow depths vary from 6 inches to 6 feet, depending on the year.

We are looking for two hardy souls, though a single person might be considered. It is a perfect situation for a writer, artist, or seeker, who would enjoy and appreciate the solitude, beauty and wilderness experience that living at Aspen Ridge Ranch offers. We prefer a couple because it can get lonely and it is safer for two to live so remotely. We will be out of the country from mid-September until mid-December, 2008, so we are offering our home to a couple or individual, for free, in exchange for keeping the place occupied and possibly caring for our animals. We may leave one or two of our dogs (labs) or our cat at the Ranch while we are gone. You would need to commit for a stint of at least the period from September 15 through December 15. However, the ideal candidate would be someone looking for a long-term experience that would like to stay on indefinitely. In this situation we would work together to build another log cabin for them and there is a high probability of being able to provide income-generating work from the land. We will be hiring someone to help us with the fly fishing camp we offer during the month of June, and we would like to expand the use of our group facilities to include bird-watching camps.

High desert it may be but the upper Williamson River bisects the property, trees abound, and the meadows are lush from the riparian influence, creeks and natural springs. The river is a lovely, meandering meadow stream that averages 4 ft deep and 25 feet across. There are several structures on the property: a bunk house that sleeps four, screened in community/dining hall for groups up to 14, two barns, outbuildings, a sweat lodge, etc. The primary living space is a small, cozy, authentic log cabin that is 16' x 16' with a large picture window overlooking the river, meadow and mountain. A sleeping loft, featuring a quality king-sized bed, adds space. A wood stove is the only source of heat but with a virtually unlimited wood supply on the property it has proven sufficient during the 15 winters I've lived there, even when the temperatures drop below zero—which they are prone to do most winters. There is also a propane stove/oven for cooking, a propane refrigerator, small kitchen space, dining table, couch, a large desk, and bookshelves jammed with nearly 500 titles. The cabin is off-the-grid (no conventional power) but a solar energy system provides enough power to operate several lights, a lap top computer, printer, a satellite Internet system, and a stereo. There is NO running water (unless you run to the river with your pail to fetch it); drinking water is collected at a nearby spring or brought in from town with 5-gallon jugs, or from melting snow. The outhouse has a lovely view of Owl Meadow and there is a second outhouse out at the "Village".

Because the cabin is so remote and any help or supplies are a long ways away, experience with off-the-grid living (solar/DC/generator systems; water maintenance) and mechanical skills are a very big plus.

The wildlife is phenomenal. Coyotes, hawks, bald eagles, elk, deer, antelope, swans, geese, badger, bobcat and the occasional bear are the only neighbors. The closest humans who live year-round in the area are about 6 miles away. There are 6 miles of dirt and cinder logging roads that lead from the paved two-lane road through the pine forest, to the ranch.

Aspen Ridge Ranch is located about 120 miles south of Bend, Oregon and 85 miles north of Klamath Falls. There are two small communities that are closer but they have few resources or amenities. Chiloquin is about 35 miles south and Chemult is about 35 miles north. Chiloquin has two country grocery stores but don't expect the meat or veggies to be very fresh. Chemult has the equivalent of a mini-market.

Even though it takes about 30 minutes longer to drive to Bend, that is the town we frequent. It is much more progressive than Klamath Falls. It offers four organic/natural food stores, dozens of excellent coffee houses, two world famous breweries, 24 movie theaters, innumerable cultural opportunities, and a music scene unparalleled for a town of only 70,000. However, Klamath Falls is only an hour and a half away, has a 4-year college and you can find some organic products.

Crater Lake National Park lies 45 miles to the west of Aspen Ridge Ranch. Ten miles to the west of the Yamsi Valley is the spectacular Klamath Marsh Wildlife Refuge, one of the most amazing bird watching destinations in the country. You will have the privilege of driving across the refuge every time you go to town, or the mailbox, which is 17 miles from the cabin.

Because of the distance to any sizeable community there are few, if any, job opportunities. It is impractical during most winters to consider driving out each day and it is highly unlikely that one could find a job in Chemult or Chiloquin. Therefore, you need to be financially able to stay at the ranch for at least three months without traveling for work. If you have an Internet-based or telecommuting job, which is what we have, then it is a perfect set up with a large desk and high speed Internet that works except during the biggest storms.

If you are looking for a free place to spend a few months while contemplating life, mountain biking or hiking right off your front porch, watching wildlife and the cycle of the seasons progress, then this could be the place for you. You must be very fit and desirous of solitude. We prefer a couple because most individuals cannot handle the loneliness that comes with spending weeks on end without contact with other human beings. The cabin is too small for more than two. You should have some experience with the outdoors, preferably backcountry skills. A love of animals is a must and it helps to have some experience with horses.

We will maintain the cost of the satellite Internet service and basic telephone service. You will be responsible for any long distance telephone fees. Obviously there are no expenses for water or electricity. There is a back-up generator that can be used to charge up the batteries should the sun fail to keep up with your usage. If you prefer to use the oil lanterns instead of the electric lights there is some lamp oil available but you will have to buy more if you run out. All of our caretakers in the past have been able to survive out here for $500 per month per person, or less, with food being the primary cost. You may bring one dog with you, possibly one cat. However, our two dogs and one of our cats sleep in the cabin at night (when they are there) so there is little room for more. This is not a situation conducive to children. No tobacco products allowed.

So that potential applicants know what they're getting themselves into, and so that we might not waste time with unsuitable applicants, please consider the following carefully before applying:

First of all, we said the nearest neighbors are about 6 miles away. This makes for great peace and solitude but it also means that there's nobody around to help you if you get in trouble. Your survival is in your own hands. Cell phones don't work here even if there was someone to call.

This position requires superior physical abilities and can require a large amount of physical work. Physical tasks you will definitely have to perform for day-to-day living include:
  • Splitting firewood with an 8-pound splitting maul. The log rounds to be split weigh up to 50 pounds. You will have to spend many hours splitting enough wood to keep warm through the winter.
  • Carrying 6-gallon jugs of drinking water (50 pounds) to and from your vehicle, the water source, and the cabin.
  • Carrying your 3-gallon bucket of daily wash water 150 feet from the dock to the cabin.
Tasks that you may have to perform, and need to be capable of, include:
  • Using a chainsaw. While we hope that the caretaker's need to use the chainsaw is as minimal as possible and limited to emergency situations, it is very important for anyone living alone in the woods to be able to use one.
  • Skiing up to 6 miles in unpredictable snow conditions with a 30-pound backpack. This is sometimes the only way to get yourself and your food supplies in to the cabin.
  • Moving 70-pound bails of hay. This means lifting the bail off the stack, putting it on a sled, pulling it up 150 feet through the snow, and unloading it at the feeding location.
  • Shoveling paths in the snow, which can get up to 6 feet deep.
  • Digging a stuck vehicle out of the snow.
In addition to physical abilities, your enjoyment and survival may also require some mechanical and technical abilities. Some mechanical/technical tasks include the following:
  • Operating, maintaining, and troubleshooting small engine equipment including a chainsaw, generator, and water pump.
  • Operating, maintaining, and troubleshooting a motor vehicle. There are no mechanics out here.
  • Maintaining and troubleshooting the elements of a solar electrical system. This includes p/v panels, battery bank, inverter, charger, fusebox, and all the wiring. This is expensive equipment that must be used and maintained properly or it will fail.
Some other things you should know:
  • The internet is not unlimted here. While we are very thankful to have any internet access at all, the time we can spend on the internet is limited by power supply. We get internet connection via a satellite dish, which consumes lots of electricity. Since everything is here is run on solar power, the time we can spend running the satellite dish depends on how much sun there is. On a long, sunny summer day, we can spend up to a few hours on the net. But as the days get shorter in fall and into winter, we get more and more judicious with our internet time, typically linking up to download email, transfer files, or look someting up on the web, then shutting it back down and doing most of our work while not connected. So yes, we have internet, and in fact we make our livings out here mostly on the internet, but don't plan on coming here and spending many hours every day surfing the web.

  • This is not a paid position. We offer an opportunity to live a rare and unique lifestyle in a truly beautiful, natural setting, with all the amenities of a well-appointed cabin at no cost. But we don't offer a stipend.
This is a true pioneer experience that requires physical fitness and backcountry survival abilities. We love it and so would many other hardy nature-lovers. Some of the tasks listed above may not be required of you if it's an easy winter and you are smart or lucky, or if you do not stay for any winter months. But if you do not feel completely confident that you can perform all of the tasks listed above if necessary, please do not apply for the position.

If you are interested in applying for the caretaker position please fill out the questionnaire.