Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Friday, July 03, 2015

Return to Sender

Posted by: Rick

At first, it may seem to you that this post is about getting mail at the cabin. It is, but it is also about establishing legal residency in Colorado, and having a way to prove it. This is likely to be the first post in a series on this topic.

Here is the story (as we currently understand it): while we have a legal address in Colorado (it is 100 Hidden Meadows Lane, Red Feather Lakes, CO, 80545), there is no mail service to this address. 

Truth is, Red Feather Lakes is only a few miles away "as the crow flies", but anywhere from two hours to four hours to drive there depending upon the season and which roads are open. 

So, mail sent to our legal address will be returned. Or, so the story goes.

Most residents of the area establish an alternate mailing address using the Laramie, WY post office. The process is simple, although we have yet to test it: plant a mail box next to others located at the Wooden Shoe Ranch (which is about 5 miles into Wyoming). Place a letter in that mail box addressed to the Post Master of the Laramie, Wyoming post office. In that letter, ask that mail addressed to "100 Hidden Meadows Ln, Sand Creek Park CO, Laramie, WY, 87020" be delivered to this mail box. And, according to the story from neighbors, junk mail will start arriving within days.

This seems like a reasonable solution. We only have to drive 10 or 11 miles to send and get mail. (By the way, when the roads are open UPS will deliver to our door!)

There are serious problems with this strategy though, and to learn what they are, click through to "More ..."

The problem arises when you need to conduct business in Colorado as a Colorado resident. Examples? Registering to vote, registering your car, buying insurance for your car, buying a fishing or hunting license, etc. For all these activites and more, you need to prove your Colorado residency. And, some of these services, such as car insurance policies and rates, are linked to your mailing address ZIP Code. 

So, if your mailing address is Laramie, Wyoming then you are stuck with needing to buy your insurance in Wyoming. But, you can't buy insurance in Wyoming for a car that is registered in Colorado. So, some people have become so frustrated, they register their car in Wyoming. But, now when you try to get Colorado services such as a fishing license, or register to vote, it appears that you live in Wyoming...

What a mess.

So, we need a way to convince officials in Colorado that we have a legal Colorado address and reside in Colorado despite having a Wyoming mailing address. Seems simple, but I guess it is almost impossible to do, again according to the stories we hear.

After pondering this for a while, I devised a scheme that I thought might work. Here it is in all it's brilliance:

  1. Write a letter to myself address to the legal address.
  2. Wait for that letter to be returned marked "Return to Sender". "Address Unknown". Or, perhaps "Undeliverable as Addressed".
  3. Make a copy of the returned envelope and send a letter to the Post Master of the Red Feather Lakes post office.
  4. In that letter, explain the dilemma. And, ask that the Post Master write a letter back to me stating that 100 Hidden Meadows Ln in Red Feather Lakes is, in fact, a legal Colorado address, but that the Red Feather Lakes post office does not provide mail delivery service to that address and thus it is necessary for me to have a Wyoming mailing address.
  5. Problem solved. I would now have a letter from a US Government Official explaining my situation and all issues would be resolved.

Here is a copy of the returned letter:

What the heck? "NO MAIL RECEPTACLE"? That IS NOT what I wanted to see. Did they actually try to deliver this letter and found that I have no mail box set up at the cabin? (Or, is this just an expedient excuse for non-delivery? How would they know there is no "receptacle" unless they'd been there?)

Crap. Did some poor guy actually drive all the way from Red Feather Lakes to Sand Creek Park and try to deliver this letter, just to discover I had no mail box? That would likely be a 4 hour round trip in the summer. And, how could they possibly make the delivery if it were winter?

My whole strategy just blew up. I suppose I could still write my letter to the Post Master, but my efforts might fail if they did, in fact, attempt delivery. So, I'm back to "square one".

I've asked David, a neighbor, to purchase and install a mail box at the cabin for me. (Bless his heart.) He will do so over the next few weeks, and once a "receptacle" is in place, I'll try this again--making a note on the letter "receptacle now available" so the poor mail carrier doesn't just throw the letter away thinking I'm pulling pranks on him or her.

I'll let you know how it all turns out.


This might be a silly question, and I’m guessing you’ve already checked it out and the answer is no, but would it be possible to “locate” your mail service at another post office within Colorado? Or could you get a PO box at the nearest Colorado post office? Would that suffice?

Also, have you spoken to the area postmaster already? Surely they’ve already encountered this problem with other area residents. Maybe they have a procedure in place to help you establish residency, like some kind of affidavit that you do, in fact, live in Colorado even though you get mail via Wyoming.

Steve, all good points. Like I said “this is the story”. We may find it different once we are there, but these are the stories we hear from residents.

Turns out Red Feather Lakes is the closet post office in Colorado. Our address used to be Livermore, which would be a bit closer, but I think they closed that post office and cover Livermore from Red Feather Lakes now.

One thing we might be able to do is have a permanent forwarding address from the Red Feather Lakes address to the Laramie, Wyoming address. I’d need to talk to the Post Master to find out.

Once we are there, it will be easier to look into all these possibilities.

I called the post master of the Red Feather Lakes post office. It is a pretty small post office so the post master is the only employee they have that is not out delivering mail.

It turns out that the message on the returned letter “No mail receptacle” is a generic message which means “we can’t deliver this for some reason”. Budget cuts at the post office have eliminated “Address unknown”, I guess.

So, they did not attempt to deliver this mail to the cabin and find there was no mail box.

The post master, who was very friendly and helpful, knew the general area around the cabin. He said they had to deal with this issue with several people who lived in the Bull Mountain area. The solution, he said, is to use the Laramie, Wyoming post office and arrange an address with them. And, that they would deliver the mail to a mail location in Wyoming.

We do plan to do that, but I described the issues this had caused our neighbors. His suggestion was to get a post office box at the post office in Livermore (which is, in fact, still open). Livermore is right along Highway 287—the road we must travel to get to Fort Collins. And, to use that post office box address for all “business” mail that required a Colorado address.

So, when we move we’ll have three addresses:

1. Our physical address that shows up on all the county records regarding the property. One can use this with a GPS and find us.

2. A “business” address that will be a PO Box in Livermore, where we will check the mail any time we go into Fort Collins. I’m not sure how often this will be since we will do the bulk of our shopping in Laramie. But, I’m sure we’ll go in occasionally or can get neighbors traveling that way to check our mail.

3. An “everyday” address that we will use for everything else including correspondence, magazines, bills, etc. This will be at the Wooden Shoe Ranch in Wyoming and serviced by the Laramie post office. We’ll check this a couple of times each week.

Right now, we have the physical address, of course. I went online to reserve a PO Box in Livermore, and now need to show up with two forms of ID to get a PO Box number and keys. And, as soon as David plants our mailbox at the Wooden Shoe Ranch, we’ll have our everyday mail address set up.

Good grief! It’s complicated—but I’m glad you got it all sorted out!

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