October 31, 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
It is strange to be writing a summer newsletter well into fall after an extraordinary snowstorm that dropped over three feet of snow just a few days before Halloween! Three feet is a larger amount than usual for this time of the year; March and April are the months we expect the biggest snowfalls. In one respect, however, the timing could not have been better for us. Some intuition led us last week to purchase our first snow thrower. After nearly 18 winters living in the mountains, we finally made the move away from snow shovels and now use a 7 hp, 26” two-stage Craftsman machine that can do in a half hour what would take both of us two or three hours to clean up—and without a sore back when we’re done. At our ages, we deserve it. As we’ve said so often about decisions at various times throughout our lives: We should have done it years ago! (To be sure, we continue to have our dirt drive plowed, and we hand shovel the flagstone paths and patio by the house. But that’s small potatoes compared with the rest that needs clearing.)
By this time you’ve learned that we lost Sophie while on our recent road trip to Utah. I won’t go over the details again; you can read about what happened on our Utah website. At the same time, you were also introduced to Lucy, who has become Bella’s new best friend, bed buddy, fellow squirrel-chaser, and dining partner. She’s a sweet four-year-old who Judy is anticipating teaching to become a therapy dog. In so many ways she will help to fill a huge void in our lives created by Sophie’s passing. She doesn’t understand what a daunting responsibility we’ve asked of her. As we have with Gordie and Phoebe, both of whom passed away up here some years ago, we placed a marker in the trees just outside our back meadow for Sophie: a large quartz stone to match her soft white coat. Her spirit will always be in our memories.
Since the last newsletter, a lot has happened that we’d like to remember:
In July we finally decided to have photovotaic solar panels installed on two of our three south-facing roof faces. If took surprisingly little time to mount and wire 30 230-watt solar PV panels that make up the 6.9 kW system that will generate what we anticipate will meet our electrical needs each year. In addition to a low-cost loan in the form of an assessment on the property, a variety of tax incentives and rebates, and helping to reduce (at least a little) the amount of coal burned by Xcel, we anticipate a refund from the power company at the end of each year for creating more electricity than we use. If you’re interested to know how we did at the end of the year, let us know and we’ll give you the details.
Both of us continued to volunteer this summer at the Visitors Center (Hughes) and at Boulder Community Hospital (Judy and Sophie). Neither takes a great deal of time, but we know that both help other people and the organizations that let us work for them. [Note to those of you who are retired or are about to: all the experts say activity helps keep us healthy longer. Whether you choose to retire (as we did) or are forced to for one reason or another, inactive people simply don’t last as long as those who find rewarding “work” during their later years. Walking a mile or two a day, doing crosswords and sudokus, gardening, playing bridge, and similar activities are excellent ways to “keep going.”]
McGinty’s Wake played two gigs the last part of July and early August. Both were return dates, back by “popular demand” as it were. The sailing club at Carter Lake Yacht requested a fifth appearance at their annual end of the season celebration; and the folks who like to contra dance hire us at least twice a year to play at the Westminster Grange in the Denver area. Unfortunately we’ve had to turn down at least four or five other dates either because illness or travel plans by some members of the group.
We had two visitors in August, whom we look forward to each year about this time. Hedy Bressler spent two nights before heading back to Florida; Ken Andrews, from Georgia, visited for an evening before returning to Eagle-Vail where he was staying with his son. Both Hedy and Ken graduated from the same college we attended and are among our oldest friends. Our friendships are approaching the half-century mark!!
A thousand years ago Hughes taught at an outdoor education school in New Hampshire where he learned, among other things, about dowsing. A local old timer came out to the school camp one weekend and did a demonstration of the “art” of finding water with a dowsing rod or witching stick or whatever such a forked branch might be called. Red maple seemed to work best for Hughes and he brought a small supply of red maple back to Ohio with him. A few years later a fellow in Ohio he met through a mutual friend asked if he could test Hughes’s “ability,” and arranged some blindfold tests that he passed convincingly. When the folks at Nederland’s Wild Bear Center for Nature Discovery, found out they had a dowser as a local resource, Hughes answered the call with a morning demonstration with a red maple branch he had brought back from our New England trip this spring. The kids tried their hands dowsing with aspen branches with mixed results. They also tried using bent wire coat hangers to find buried pipes, Judy’s specialty.
The most surprising activity we got involved with this summer was llama wrangling. Yep, llamas. A friend was directing a high country trail restoration project and planned to use llamas to bring up camping and cooking supplies for the work group. He got the llamas and needed some wranglers to lead a string of llamas up to the work camp. We both jumped at the chance to learn about these animals first hand. We both took a pair of fully loaded llamas from Brainard Lake to Isabelle Lake, just a few miles and a couple of thousand feet higher. We unloaded them where the camp was setting up and tied them to trees on the edge of a close-by meadow. Then we marched them back down the trail to where they were loaded into trailers to return to their homes. All in all, it was a good day for a hike into a beautiful part of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. The llamas were no problem to control and were no inconvenience to enjoying the hike. And we learned that llamas—at least the ones we were assigned—do not spit or bite, follow where they are led at the speed of the leader, and are docile and hardy animals. It’s no surprise they are commonly used for pack trips all over.
August also marked the inaugural meeting of the Nederland Duplicate Bridge and Refreshments Social Society. After over 17 years of living in this area, we were able to gather together in one room on the same evening eight bridge players. Since we did not foresee this remarkable event sooner, the NDBRSS began without boards and were forced into an evening of “party” bridge. Since the foundation of the NDBRSS remained somewhat shaky (travel plans, uncertain personal commitments, etc.) the second meeting in October we made a bold move to cement our future: we agreed to invest in boards, cards, and scorekeeping materials. We’ll have the materials by our third meeting in November, which will be the real deal.
Pagosa Springs is one of our favorite destinations in Colorado, memorable for its hot springs and spa as well as the beauty of the rugged San Juan Mountains that provide a backdrop for this small southern Colorado town. This year we attended our first Four Corner Folk Festival, a three-day event featuring some of the outstanding groups, duos, and single performers on the folk/bluegrass festival circuit. It was smaller and less commercial than the Telluride Blue Grass Festival (which requires insider connections or your first born to get tickets to be jammed together with several thousand new friends). We’re too old for that sort of frenetic, come-to-see-and-be-seen scene. Four Corners is smaller, homier, more intimate, and more fun.
We camped in town on the San Juan River at the base of Reservoir Hill, just a short walk to the hot springs complex. Between exercising and feeding the dogs and relaxing in hot springs, we walked up Reservoir Hill several times each day to hear the music. At the top was a tent city of several thousand people camping—fixing food, sipping drinks, and playing their own music, usually well into the early hours of the morning, sometimes with one or more of the performers sitting in with the locals. (The photo here was taken under dark circumstances.) The little rain that fell did not dampen spirits or keep folks from gathering under the huge tarps that some groups had erected to cover the place where they gathered to eat, drink, and make music.
We discovered two pretty good national forest campgrounds on our way to and from Pagosa: West Fork on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass was quiet, very shady, and a good place to return for hiking in middle of summer. Attractive O’Haver Lake, near the summit of Poncha Pass is ideal for fishing and easy day hiking. The five miles of dirt road is rough and steep in a few places, and takes some determination, but is well worth the effort to get one of the 28 sites on or near this quiet lake.
Judy’s running schedule was curtailed by injury this spring. Her first competitive race of the year was the Neder-Nederland always held on the Sunday after Labor Day. She has won her age group in either the 10K or 5K each year she’s entered—twelve out of twelve. This year was number 13 and she won with a good time for the 5K, considering she had not been actively training since April.
Three days after the race, we left on our road trip through Utah and did not return for nearly four weeks. The write-up of that trip is online with over two dozen carefully selected photos out of over 500 pictures we came home with. After high desert heat for virtually all of the time we were in Utah, we came home on the day Nederland had its all-time low of 9° for the evening of October 10. Fortunately we had drained the RV’s water and sewer systems the last night on the road, and pushed RV anti-freeze through the lines as soon as we arrived home. A few days later it was warm enough to wash and wax the rig, vacuum and clean the interior, and get it ready for winter. It sits next to the garage with its cover in place, ready for our next trip, whenever that might be.
We leave for Puerto Vallarta (with a side trip to the town of Tequila) in December. We have usually gone around Halloween and Day of the Dead at the beginning of November. This year we’ll be in PV just in time to celebrate the closing events of the Festival of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
In the meantime, we are enjoying the newest member of our family, Lucy, who is fast becoming Bella’s best friend. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll come by to meet her, as well as say hello to the rest of us. Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
All good wishes,
Hughes and Judy