By: Mark Lighthiser
Mark and Erica Lighthiser have gone off the grid and into the Montana wilderness. Taking their family, dogs, and Chaco sandals the Lighthiser family set out to build a new home and lifestyle without the power of an electrical grid.
“Watch my ‘bad leg,’” cheers my daughter as she performs a cartwheel in tall grass in front of a large sprawling juniper. My three kids have adopted a natural space in a gully next to our house, which has become their playground. I don’t remember their first pair of Chacos, but I remember my own. A simple, black webbed pair, with the famous ‘Toe Loop’. From Montana, to Colorado, to California and back again I lived in these things for years until my subsequent pairs replaced them, just as my children have outgrown their own.
Our 4-acre plot has recently been domesticated with a small off grid home, primarily powered by a dozen solar panels above our workshop. It is a south facing stretch of semi arid grassland, sprinkled with juniper, sagebrush and the occasional prickly pear. The space has a commanding view of a local mountain range- the Absaroka-Beartooth. Despite the rugged nature of this landscape, Chacos are our go-to footwear solution. My wife, Erica even resolved to work on our house wearing hers, climbing through truss webs and scrambling across steel roofing two stories high in her little webbed wonders.
Although we’ve only lived here for about a year it seems much longer; pitching and occupying a wall tent (our first dwelling), building our own home, thinning sagebrush, exploring, rock hounding, bicycling down to a local river access to get our feet wet and wait for a trout to leap. We scurried around inside our new house as four foot snowdrifts accumulated in our driveway last Christmas. This recent spring season have brought daily gifts of dust, dirt and other pleasantries our two Labradors bring into the house. This has our Chacos doubling has house shoes—it is the essence of indoor/outdoor living.
We’re looking forward to the many landscaping projects, the ‘finishing touches’ to our little place on the high plains, the hikes, the floats, the bicycle trips, the garden we envision. There is no substitute for feeling the chill of the Yellowstone River flowing between toes, the sage scented soil, moist with microbial activity drift in and out of the instep. To feel the earth, the water, and the air is to connect with our environment. As we do our best to pioneer a modern lifestyle off the great electrical grid, hoping to take control of our lives, we try to remember to enjoy each step.