Learning from the Indian Peaks

How the peaks above Nederland teach Mason Moore everything he needs to know

By Tatyana Sharpton Jul 9 2020

Continuing our Boulder Adventure series, we profile how locals experience the adventure that Boulder has to offer, from hikes to farming, sports and more.

Mason Moore

Mason Moore from Plano, Texas, has lived in Boulder’s alpine community along the Peak to Peak highway (around Nederland and Black Hawk) for the last four years, in particular the Indian Peaks, which scrape the sky above Nederland.

“I’d love to say the biggest adventure I’ve been on in the Boulder area is some crazy cool hike,” says Mason, “but honestly learning is my answer.”

Mason, who has lived everywhere from New York to New Orleans, Detroit, Nashville, and Cantonment, Florida, came to Nederland brought by his fiance’s sister who called Ned home.

Growing up in an uncertain environment with his father passing when he was 11, Mason had a lot of energy and not enough attention, and frequently got bullied. Mason fell into drugs and an unhealthy street lifestyle until he had his daughter, who he says saved his life.

“I dropped 99 percent of my friends and found my fiance,” he told BLDRfly. This was seven years ago.

Today, Mason lives on the mountain up Boulder Canyon and has done everything from manage a dairy goat herd to show a CEO how to grow at high altitude and help build out a vineyard.

Farm to farm + everything in between

At the time of his move to Nederland, Mason worked on a 100-acre farm on the edge of the Alabama border, and the first job he landed in Ned happened to be on a 100-acre piece of property as well, which came with a whole new environment and challenges.

Mason holding a baby goat. Image: Mason Moore.

To acclimate, Mason took the Herbal Wilderness First Aid and First Responder Certification Course under Sam Coffman and a local permaculture course to better understand how to grow in such harsh conditions.

While he had worked with cattle before, Mason had no clue how to work with goats, so he developed close relationships with locals in the community to gain knowledge.

“Coming from the south and my past travels,” says Mason, “it was a culture shock to be around a lot of progression and this way of community building and leadership. It was amazing how helpful most folks were; I was so used to the ‘you’re on your own’ mentality.”

Mason on the goat farm. Image: Mason Moore.

In contrast to the monoculture style of farming he used in Florida, farming in Ned also taught Mason about polyculture, a form of agriculture which utilizes plants by growing them next to other plants to help benefit each other, simulating a diverse and natural ecosystem “instead of basic single crops that deplete our soil and nutrients.”

In 2016, the Big Springs fire ravaged the property along with hundreds of acres in the Nederland area. Mason was sure his job was done, but, instead, embarked on a new journey when he suggested to his boss that they terrace the burned land and turn it into a vineyard.

Mason studied up on viticulture to learn what grapes would succeed best at Ned’s altitude. This year, Mason planted 500 grape plants by hand. He has since left the farm and has focused on apprenticing in trades, including carpentry, until he can start his own business.

Learning from the mountains

Living in the mountains without the everyday luxuries of fast food and instant car repairs have taught Mason self reliance and to learn things himself.

“Most things are full, take forever, or they just don’t have what you need so you learn on your own,” says Mason, who came here with $500 and an ’86 Toyota Pickup 22RE and worked on three vehicles at all times initially to make ends meet.

“And I am not a mechanic!” he adds.

Mason continued learning with help from others, often trading people who taught him for labor, goat cheese, milk or meat and fresh vegetables.

Eggs, goat milk and goat cheese from the farm. Image: Mason Moore.

The relationships helped get him socially aware — even down to the nuances of recycling, something he barely considered while down South — and appreciate what a strong community could mean.

“It just always feels good to be home and at peace, leaving the flatlands,” says Mason of the once-sea spread out below east of the Front Range. “Just feels so hectic going from nonstop lights to the chaos down below.”

Aside from the experiences of growing with and from the tight-knit mountain community, Mason finds joy in the mountains of Ned and Blackhawk where he and his family let their pups roam free while they sit next to the water and take in the smell of pines and the sounds of the magnificent creeks that course through the area: Middle Boulder Creek, South Boulder Creek, Ellsworth Creek, North Clear Creek. They keep their favorite spots secret, as do many, earned through exploring and adventuring into the wild.

“Even just preparing for winters up here is a thing,” says Mason, “and I love the work and challenge of it all. Even with modern equipment; if you’re not rich, it can be tough.”

With the howling winds blowing from the continental divide, just a few miles west, winters in Ned are brutal. Local residents don’t attain local status until they stick it out for at least three winters.

Left to right: Scott Brown, the carpenter Mason apprentices under, Mason, and Adam Pause, owner of Nederland Feed, surrounded by local friends.

Header image: Mason killing it at the farmers market + doing Nederlandy things. Images: Mason Moore.