Letter Re: The Shenandoah Valley as a Retreat Locale?

Mr. Editor:
I live 50 miles west of Washington, DC. How do you feel about the Shenandoah mountains area as a retreat location? I was thinking about building a cabin with a Safecastle underground [blast/fallout/security] shelter. I have not yet bought the land yet but it is a good time to do so. I look forward to talking with you soon. – Mike

JWR Replies: I highly recommend Safecastle’s shelters, but a shelter by itself will not ensure our safety in truly desperate times. You will also need geographic isolation. I think that anywhere that is within one tank of gasoline driving radius of the DC/Baltimore area is a dicey proposition. For anywhere inside that radius, I strongly recommend that you carefully study likely refugee lines of drift, and find a place that is very far off the beaten path–preferably a truly bypassed area that is isolated by unique geography (Steep ridges, bodies of water, et cetera.) My suggestion is that you don’t want to be anywhere near a highway or even railroads! Anywhere close to a major metropolitan area, you can expect a lot of company (of the bad sort). This would require very robust (and expensive ) defense. It can be done, but why not avoid most trouble, by being much more remote? This is much more feasible on a modest budget.

It has been more than three years since I posted the following, so it worth re-posting, for the sake of the majority of SurvivalBlog readers who have all joined us in just the past 18 months: (Our readership has doubled in the past 14 months. We now have around 89,000 unique visitors per week.) This was posted under the title “The Illusion of Isolation”:

If you are an eastern urbanite and come to the conclusion that you need to buy “a cabin in upstate New York” or “a brick house in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens,” then you are wrong, quite possibly dead wrong. (By the way, I had both of those earnestly suggested, in e-mails from readers of my novel “Patriots“.) A rural area that is within an overall heavily populated region is not truly rural. It lacks real isolation from the basic problem–population. Most of these “rural” areas—except perhaps for a few fortunately bypassed zones, as I mentioned yesterday–will be overwhelmed by refugees and looters in a true TEOTWAWKI. You will need to be at least one tank of gas away from the larger metropolitan areas–preferably 300 miles or more, if possible.

A retreat is not just “a cabin in the mountains.” Rather, it is a well-prepared and defensible redoubt with well-planned logistics. A proper survival retreat is in effect a modern day castle. Be prepared to escalate your defensive posture to match an escalating threat, and in a “worst case” your retreat will be so well defended that looters will most likely give up and find someone less prepared to prey upon. Ideally, a survival retreat is located in a region with the following characteristics:

A long growing season.
Geographic isolation from major population centers.
Sufficient year-round precipitation and surface water.
Rich topsoil.
A diverse economy and agriculture.
Away from interstate freeways and other channelized areas.
Low taxes.
Non-intrusive scale of government.
Favorable zoning and inexpensive building permits.
Minimal gun laws.
No major earthquake, hurricane, or tornado risks.
No flooding risk.
No tidal wave risk (at least 200 feet above sea level.)
Minimal forest fire risk.
A lifestyle geared toward self-sufficiency.
A homogeneous population
Plentiful local sources of wood or coal.
No restrictions on keeping livestock.
Defendable terrain.
Not near a prison or large mental institution.
Inexpensive insurance rates (home, auto, health).
Outside blast radius and upwind from major nuclear weapons targets.

After digesting the foregoing list and taking it seriously, you should be able to greatly narrow your search for potential retreat regions. And if you haven’t done so already, please read my “Recommended Retreat Areas” static page. Even greater detail is available in my nonfiction book “Rawles on Retreats and Relocation”.