Tour: REACH

If you have been following along, you may recall I mentioned doing a tour up in the mountains at an Earthship community called REACH. Well, I’ve saved that tour for the last one. REACH stands for Rural Earthship Alternative Community Habitat and I saved it for the last tour, as it was one of my favourites. Mostly because of the location: up in the mountains with lots of trees. All of the other Earthships we toured were out in the desert. This was a nice change.

Let’s start with some outside pictures. This is what the area around the Earthships looks like: steep hillside with lots of pine trees.

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Turning around and looking at the valley, this is what you’ll see.

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Here is another one, way up on a cliff.

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We toured two Earthships up a REACH, so I have lots of pictures for you. Things will jump around a lot, but I will do my best to fill in with explanations.

The first one we toured was a nightly rental, and also for sale. First thing we see in any Earthship: plants. Including a cactus.

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And another look at the cactus, with the mountains in the background.

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Opposite the plants was this small seating area. Just enough room for a comfy chair, in front of more plants that looks out at the view.

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The other thing you’ll notice is stairs: there are a lot of them. You’ll think you’ve seen most of the house and then you’ll discover yet another set of stairs leading to yet another room. All of the Earthships up at REACH are built as a series of tiers, so you can imagine there are a lot of stairs everywhere.

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Going up those stairs leads to another seating area / living room where you can once again enjoy the fantastic view. Here is a shot of one of my fellow academy students doing just that.

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Here is what that view looked like.

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Next we have a bedroom, similar in style to the ones over at Phil’s place. There is the loft above with the bed and a seating area underneath it. I’m not entirely sure, but it looks from the picture that the area underneath has another platform that would take a mattress for another bed. Right beside the fire place too.

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Up top we can see the bed.

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Coming back down a different set of stairs, we’re now into a bathroom area.

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Here is a better view, looking out the windows in the bathroom.

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This one just had a regular bathtub, but it was right up against the glass. That’s one heck of a view when you take a shower 😛

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Moving further east, there was a doorway to outside from the center of the house. This is what it looks like standing in the doorway looking out/south.

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If you walk out the door and look to the east, you’ll see this.

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If you look down the hillside, you’ll see the top of the next house below. We’ll be visiting the interior of that one too, later on this tour.

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Looking back towards the west, you’ll see the door we came out of on the right side of this next picture, as well as the rest of the front of the house.

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Now we’re back inside at the kitchen. The refrigerator in this house merits special attention as it is completely passive. It doesn’t use electricity or funky gasses.

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It’s a thermal mass fridge. It has an air vent that you would open at night to let in the cold mountain air which then cools the thermal mass built into the fridge. You close the vent in the morning and the fridge stays cool during the day. At least that is the theory.

The problem with this one is they used beer in cans as the thermal mass, but visitors keep drinking them 😛 It’s also a manual process, so if you forget to open or close the vent, you may or may not have the cold stored in the thermal mass. This fridge is also twenty plus years old.

There wasn’t anyone staying there at the time, so there wasn’t much in the fridge, but you can see the beer can thermal mass in the walls.

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Next we have the kitchen sinks, right up against the glass like in some of the older Earthships. Great way to use sunlight to dry your dishes.

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Beyond the kitchen, we come to an indoor cistern. It’s neat to have, but it also acts as a big heat sink, so they don’t recommend them for colder climates.

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Most of the beds in these Earthships are up on platforms. Here I am standing on a stairway, taking a picture of the opposite stairway that leads up to a bed. Under the bed is closet storage.

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Here is a shot of the bedframe, though it didn’t have a mattress on it at the time.

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Walking around to the other side of the platform and looking back, you can see the fireplace built in to the sleeping area.

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This was in another section, but here we have another small sleeping platform built into the back of the house. Quite the precarious perch and not for those who are prone to falling out of bed at night. Definitely not to code either 😉

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Back outside, we’re at the far end of the house now, looking back along the front.

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As I was wandering back through the house, I discovered another set of stairs I had missed. Low and behold, there was another bedroom up there.

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All of the walls were a funky blue colour and this bedroom had its own en-suite bathroom too.

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This is looking into the shower stall. Nice decorative edging there using the polished rocks.

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Here is a better shot of the bed.

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And the other side of the room, with the fireplace.

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Time to leave that one and journey over to the second Earthship on this tour. No, this is not a picture of it from a distance, it’s just another mountain-side shot.

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This is a shot of the exterior of the next Earthship on this tour. This one is owned by Kirsten and Ron. Kirsten was the woman who did all of the admin for the academy and Ron is a crew member as well as he taught some of our classes.

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Yay, more plants… and more mountains.

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This was the first bedroom we came too. Again, it’s up on a platform with storage underneath.

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This is a picture of the custom tub in the bathroom. Unfortunately, you can’t see the set of stone steps up the left side of the tub.

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Fortunately for you, I have another picture of it from an Earthship book I have.

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Next we have a living room area, with some built-in seating and shelving areas.

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Here it is again, so you can see it from the other direction.

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If you turn around and look out the window from there, this is what you see: more plants and a great view.

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It’s kitchen time, with Phillipa and Denina. Okay, maybe not. This kitchen looks very similar to the last one, in terms of layout, but it has the standard Sunfrost fridge and a fancy/schmancy gas stove.

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No picture of the sink this time, but you can see the planters they have in the kitchen as well as the blinds on the windows. They also have that huge aloe plant in there.

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Hmmm, more stairs. I wonder where these go?

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Ah ha! Another bathroom. This one didn’t even have a separate area for the shower, it was just part of the room. No shower curtain or anything.

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Two more bedrooms were up here as well. This is the first one.

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It had some funky built-in shelves with drawers.

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Bedroom number two.

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At the far end of the house I came across this. It looks more like a nightmare than a WOM to me.

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At the far east side of the house, there was a pleasant little patio with chairs and a barbeque.

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Looking down from the edge of the patio, you can see that we are standing on yet another room.

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I shot this panoramic of the valley standing on that patio.

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This is the stairway that leads down from the patio to that room that is under it.

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Nice fancy stained glass door.

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The room under the patio wasn’t very exciting. It was mainly a junk room with odds and ends. It was like a sauna in there though, and that was just from the sun shining in the window. I did take this picture, however, of the back of the room.

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That, my friends, is the mountain rock that all of these homes were carved out of… by hand. There weren’t any roads up there at the time, so they had to build one and it is dang steep.

They couldn’t get any big equipment up there either, so most of everything that was needed to build all of those Earthships was carried up by hand. A lot of labour went into building these places.

Originally when they wanted to build up there, the county said they were nuts as there wasn’t any water or power or anything. So they let them go ahead, thinking they would have to give up. Well, they were quite successful. There are about 30 Earthships up there.

Unfortunately, the county put a stop to building up at REACH. One of their main arguments was that no emergency vehicle could ever make it up there if anyone needed to call 911.

It snows up there a lot too. It is the mountains, of course, and Taos is known for its skiing. It is awesomely scenic though and a great spot to spend even just an afternoon.

That’s all of the pictures and that is the end of the Earthship tours I took while down in New Mexico. I’ve been home for over two months now but Earthships are still very strong with me. We’re working towards building our own so there will be more posts about that. I’ll also be putting up some technical articles, explaining certain areas. These would be good ones to ask any questions you may have about the whole process.

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