Chillin’ in Chihuahua |

Chillin’ in Chihuahua

CHIHUAHUA – Andy Andrews is a man of many trades, but most people know him for his signature silver fox hat and his unique lifestyle – he lives in a tipi.

“Ever since I got out of the army, I’ve been living in a tipi,” Andrews said. “I enjoy it. It’s affordable housing. It’s very comfortable.”

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Andrews came to Summit County eight years ago as a carpenter, he said. He set up his tipi in a temporary spot until a friend told him about Chihuahua – an old townsite up Peru Creek, near Keystone and Montezuma.

Andrews and two friends, who also lived in tipis, moved their camp to Chihuahua. But it was only a few days before Andrews received notice that he was trespassing. The old townsite is owned by developer Gary Miller.

Andrews called Miller about the notice, and, after talking a while, the developer invited him to stay on as caretaker for Chihuahua’s 45 acres.

The road to Chihuahua is not maintained in the winter. Andrews usually commutes by snowmobile, unless the snow is too deep – as it was after last month’s snowstorm -when he must use snowshoes instead.

Living in a tipi might be the epitome of simplicity in this modern age, but Andrews’ circular home is not without amenities. In addition to his bed, sofa, chair, and woodburning stove, Andrews has a television (though he can’t get reception), VCR and Nintendo.

Andrews lives with his dog, Princess, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, and they share the land around their home with a variety of wildlife. Andrews has seen numerous elk and deer, four bear, a mountain lion, Canada lynx and pine martens among other animals, he said.

Andrews is not a skier, so winters in Chihuahua can get a little boring.

“It doesn’t do much for me,” he said. “You can watch TV or read a book. You can’t go out and play.”

But the summers are different. Tourists often choose Chihuahua as a place to camp or for shooting practice – neither of which is allowed at the old townsite because of liability concerns. As caretaker, Andrews makes sure people move on to Forest Service land.

During his free time, Andrews enjoys exploring the land around his tipi.

“I love relics and history,” he said. “I’m a big history buff.”

In fact, with the help of his high-tech, $900 metal detector, Andrews has found enough relics from Chihuahua’s glory days to start a museum. Among his collection are draft horseshoes, pieces of old lanterns, and mining tools.

“No coins, darn it,” Andrews said, laughing. “I had one of the kids up there find an 1874 dime. He also found two halves of a broken stone Indian knife – the lucky son of a gun.”

Exploring with his metal detector is only one of Andrews’ hobbies.

He’s also a fly-fisherman, hunter, trapper, and jägermeister (a hunting master), said Andrews’ girlfriend, local writer and acupuncturist Lacey Story.

“It’s the most respected hunting license in the world,” Andrews said of his jägermeister status, which he attained while living in Germany.

On top of his list of hobbies, Andrews also has a quiver of trades and degrees.

Andrews earned an associate’s degree in food service management before entering the Army, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s in physical education while enlisted, he said. He earned a second master’s degree – this time in farrier science – at Pikes Peak Community College before moving to Summit County.

The 42-year-old also is a master carpenter, a nuclear biological chemistry warfare specialist and a gourmet chef, Story said. He currently works as a lift-operator at Keystone in the winter and a blade technician for the resort’s River Course in the summer.

Andrews hopes to use his carpentry skills to build a cabin for himself and Story. The couple is hoping to find land for a new home in Alaska or Montana. Andrews will be moving his tipi this spring, as Miller is negotiating to trade his Chihuahua land with the U.S. Forest Service.

Though Andrews and Story are looking forward to moving north, they will miss Chihuahua, they said – especially the solitude, the views, the stars and the sunset.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

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