Those small handheld radios are great for what you mentioned. They are, however, not good for much else. Short range and low power limit their use.
Check around for a “Scanner” discone antenna. New maybe $30-40. Also check for a “push-up” pole or use the top rail of an old chain-link fence. Try to get as high as possible. The antenna on the radio will come off. Run “8X” coax from the antenna on top of the rail down to the radio in the house (you will have to buy a connector to put on the cable that will work on your radio.) You can buy the coax with the connectors already installed and buy a “PL259″ to “BNC” (female) conversion connector (or buy the cable with PL259 on one end and BNC on the other.)
If possible buy an old microwave oven. Keep your radio in there unless you are using it. Cheap Faraday cage.
Using the “Windom” antenna mentioned above would be overkill in your case.
At 2.5k ft above sea level means you will have tons of signals to choose from, unless you are surrounded by other taller mountains.