Two Letters Re: The Shenandoah Valley as a Retreat Locale?

Dear SurvivalBlog Readers:

I currently live in Virginia and what Jim said about retreat locale selection is generally accurate. That’s not to say “all is lost!”. Hardly, there are some advantages you have in our area that I’ve only found in a couple other places in the US, and you can successfully find a retreat location. You just have to work harder at it. The simple fact that most people live where they do is because it’s easier. The more remote locations, and the more secure, tend to be more work to live in. It’s all balance and trade off.

Due to the improvements to US17 and the construction of I-66, the area you’re in now will be expanding out to the west very soon. Mike knows better than anyone the amount of growth the state has experienced, and Manassas used to be in the sticks just a few years ago. Culpepper/Warrenton/et cetera. were down-right the boondocks, and they will be the next housing area for the Capitol in a decade or so. All of us see the expansion before our eyes.

The biggest problem with the Shenandoah is it’s a natural corridor. I-81 and the AT just make it a massive avenue of approach. But within the mountains you can find a place that is indeed suitable. It’s just going to take more work. I can’t think of too many places as beautiful as that area, and even the I66 corridor is pretty, and simply put you just have to really look hard to find the right place. The farther West you go, and even into West Virginia, the terrain is more favorable, but in the end you just have to make an intelligent decision on the place that’s right for you. You can name any area in the country, and with few exceptions you can probably find a decent place for a retreat, and a lot of places to avoid. That goes for West of the Mississippi as much as the East. It’s just you have to look harder in the East.

Narrow down your areas to less than just a general region. Do an “IPB“. That’s “Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield”. Figure out the most likely risks and make a list in priority. It’s your priority because it’s your list. Take counsel, but it’s still your survival, and you’re the one who really has the responsibility for deciding what’s important and what isn’t. Then take a map and make overlays, or just mark the map of areas that are “no-go”, like the obvious ones that you can block off as not where you’re going. Things like Quantico, DC, etc. aren’t probably going to be high on the list of areas for a retreat. Plot the avenues of approach on the map (the refugee flow) and you’ll start seeing where to look and where not to look quickly. Once you narrow down the areas, look at resources and plot those. Basically, just take the area and graphically make the process of elimination. What’s left is where you should start looking.

You can also take a more “think outside of the box” approach to things. Generally speaking it’s simpler to have a “one-size-fits-all” retreat. We’d all love to live at our own ranch and somehow pay bills and live off the grid, yada, yada. Sure. For many of us it’s simply not going to happen. We choose, rightly or wrongly to live where we are for a variety of reasons. The choice is ours, as the responsibility is ours and ours alone (not the government’s or anyone else’s). So if you’re stuck in a bad place to begin with, make the most of it.

Take the list of most likely threats and see if there’s a way to divide them up. For example Tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, etc. can pretty much be obviated by a retreat in a relatively close position to where you live. It doesn’t take much but being inland, with high ground, and a stockpile of supplies to deal with it. Having a “risk specific” retreat complicates things in that you don’t have the simplicity of a single place, but you may not really need the place for World War “Z”. You are much more likely to need the place that can deal with floods, civil riots in the Capitol, hurricanes, etc. You can easily find a place like that where you desire. Do the same IPB, just base it on a narrower list of risk and you should have a wider area to choose from.

Obviously there are big disadvantages in this. More than one retreat location greatly complicates things. It increases expense, It greatly increases risk because you just might be wrong too in your planning. But sometimes your bomb shelter just can’t be proof against a direct hit. There’s a risk trade-off in everything.

In my years in Virginia, I’ve run into several situations were we were either on our own, or it had the potential. Most were Hurricanes, some blizzards, a localized riot or two, a terrorist attack, and the everyday crime/fire/etc that is frankly the most likely and just as destructive to your everyday life. (You do have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, right?). Odds are pretty high these same things are what I’ll face in the future, rather than the ultimate collapse of civilization. So there is a lot to be said about starting small and improving things. A closer retreat can deal with a lot of things you’re likely to face. It can also allow you a base to rebuild your residence from if you’re house burns down, etc. that’s easier to operate out of than one far away. Obviously it would only be a valid locale for a limited amount of scenarios, but the most likely ones.

So think about approaching it in stages. Getting a “good enough retreat” now and a “perfect retreat” later might be a viable way to go. It’s far more risky than going all out and doing the “perfect retreat” from the get-go, but the actual risk can only be judged by you for your own situation. You’re the only one responsible for yourself…as it should be. Regards, – Doug Carlton

I enjoyed your repost of the “Illusion of Isolation” article in reply to Mike’s query about the Shenandoah Valley being a good retreat location. My own observation is that the Shenandoah is far too crowded and accessible to the fleeing hordes, many of whom are already there as the northern end of the Valley is already a bedroom community for the “Peoples’ Republic of Stalingrad”, DC. He really needs to get out farther than is a practical commuting distance from the city. As you note, the East is a challenge because getting a full-tank distance from the city is simply not possible for the most part.

I would recommend that Mike look a little further south and west; south of Harrisonburg or quite a ways west of the interstate. Once you get ten miles back from the interstate it is an entirely different world, and if you get 25 miles west of Staunton and cross over Shenandoah Mountain you will be infinitely better off as you find yourself amongst very self-sufficient folks for the most part. There also are some isolated areas near Winchester at the northern end of the valley, but it has long been an area for weekend/ski getaways for city folk. Recently there was a northern Valley realtor whose sales pitch touted the fact that Winchester, Virginia was outside the “blast zone” for DC. All the Best, – Crusher