“This is our forever house,” the wife said. They even kept in mind the possibility of becoming infirm as they age. “We built it with one story so we can just roll in our wheelchairs,” she said.

Winter Road Trip in the Easter Sierras
In this case a Gen-X couple in their mid- to late- 40s with a 9- year old  son lived in the rustic, remote community.


An excerpt from Book Five in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Sierra Mountain resorts.

If on our return trip to our epic, awesome suburban life in Southern California we had taken the scenic route, we would have discovered Swall Meadows.

U.S. Highway 395 in California’s Eastern Sierras

Instead of jumping on US 395 again, we could have taken Crowley Lake Drive from Tom’s Place and headed towards Bishop on what becomes Old Sherwin Grade Road and Lower Rock Creek Road for about 7 miles.

I first read about Swall Meadows in the Fall of 2010.

The LA Times used to print a financial planning column.

Basically, volunteers divulge their current economic and lifestyle situation.

If selected, a financial planner meets with them and assesses their goals, evaluates the gaps and challenges that would keep them from retiring the way they want to and prescribes a change in habits in the best possible way.

In this case a Gen-X couple in their mid- to late- 40s with a 9- year old  son lived in the rustic, remote community.

In this small neighborhood their neighbors overwhelmingly own their own primary or secondary homes.

Swall Meadows, California

Swall Meadows, however, is large enough to warrant its own Wikipedia page:

There were 128 housing units at an average density of 28.7 per square mile, of which 90 (91.8%) were owner-occupied, and 8 (8.2%) were occupied by renters.

The 2010 census counted 220 living the outdoor-loving life that only the four Eastern Sierra seasons can bring.

Zip Code 93514

One that Dave McCoy fell in love with in Independence, on McGee Mountain, while developing Mammoth Mountain and ATV-ing in the canyons, foothills and mountain trails surrounding Bishop.

While Swall Meadows falls within the Bishop zip code, 93514,  the downtown Bishop area is about 21 miles south (and Mammoth Lakes is roughly 25 miles north.)


Our financial case study couple commute to their jobs in public education.

  • There’s one major fuel cost that’s not in keeping with their green lifestyle. 
  • Mostly because husband and wife each commute two hours, round trip, to jobs, they spend a combined total of $250 a month on gasoline.
  • The family’s main source of income is the $65,622 annual salary the husband earns as a high school math teacher in the Mammoth Unified School District. 
  • His wife brings in an additional $13,000 a year as a special-education teacher’s aide for middle-school children.

Swall Meadows, in southern Mono County sits within just under 5 square miles below Wheeler Crest at about 6,500 feet above sea level.

Without any commercial enterprises, other than a firehouse near the meadow, it it’s primarily a residential community just southeast of  the “old Sky Meadows Ranch” and northwest of the Pinyon Ranch development

Mountain Peaks Surrounding Swall Meadows

The seasonal views are to die for — there’s Mt. Tom and White Mountains on the east of Owens Valley.

Wikipedia adds:

Mule Deer

It is also well known in the area as an important deer migration route for the Round Valley Mule Deer population, which cherish the grazing in the meadow and apple falls from the old orchard trees.

A year after the financial makeover article, in 2011, to protect the migrating deer, the Eastern Sierra Land Trust brought an additional 104 acres of the meadow area near an historic homesite under the control of a conservation easement.

No wonder the teachers chose the location to build their home in 2005.

They found …

Swall Meadows Willows and  Streams

permanent and seasonal streams and the eponymous meadow with wetter-habitat vegetation such as Jeffrey pines, willows, stream and bog orchids, and the remnant trees of the old commercial apple orchard. 

Sometime in 2000 or 2001 the couple became a family and put down roots.

In Swall Meadows they constructed and completed, for the most part, a 1,200 square foot, two- bedroom home by 2005.

The LA Times article described it as an …

Straw-Bale House Construction

environmentally friendly straw-bale-construction method — in which thick walls are built around the bales, which provide insulation — helps keep the 1,200-square-foot home’s electricity bill at an average of about $28 a month.

Five years later the financial planner revealed how they got by on a disciplined, frugal budget living just seven miles from where my son wanted to find out how he could live in a place like there.

Their total budget came to $4,000 a month including the mortgage payments on their $270,300 home.

Also included in it were:

  • $250 a month for fueling their commutes
  • $90 a month on propane for cooking and to heat water.
  • $28 for electricity
  • $40 a month for basic cable

They willingly cut corners to live in their pristine community.

They grow their own food, as much as they can.

Cost-Cutting Measures

Without a clothes drier, they simply fall back on the more traditional way — hanging clothes outside, even in winter.

Why buy new clothes, when you can find bargains at thrift stores, even ski outfits?

If you live in a mountain paradise, why take vacations, except to visit friends and relatives?

When they do, they make a point of camping in national parks to enjoy Mother Nature’s wonder and save on lodging.

What keeps the couple up at night?


(30) Review headlines and relevant news as far back as you can find online to surface each community’s unique pulse and identify information necessary to make your decision. Is there a “ticking time bomb” issue you may uncover that eliminates the resort from your bucket list? Search on topix.com.

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