July 17, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,

        We have new neighbors who moved here recently after a lifetime in the Midwest. Their house is new construction and many trees were cleared to make way for the house. In addition, beetle kill and high winds this past winter made a lot of trees on their six acres a potential firewood source for the next twenty years. The fellow bought a new chainsaw and a log splitter and he’s been neatly stacking cord upon cord of firewood throughout his property. While we wouldn’t say he’s been secretly or even unconsciously competing with me for neighborhood woodpile honors—and of course we certainly do not feel we're in competition with them—he got Hughes feeling a bit guilty about not adding to our own wood supply for over a year. It’s not that we’re in dire need of a more firewood (we estimate we’ve stored up two to three years of wood to keep us warm during the cold times ahead), but last fall Hughes and a neighbor cut a couple of dozen trees and there are five good-sized piles of logs cut to size (18") still sitting in the woods waiting to be split and stacked.
Splitting Wood
        Hughes explains his hesitation in putting on the gloves, picking up the maul, and heading into the woods by saying he’s not sure about his shoulder taking the stress and strain of wood splitting so soon after his shoulder operation. Back in April, the shoulder surgeon smoothed his rotator cuff, snipped a biceps tendon that was too frayed to be reattached, and generally cleaned up his left shoulder area. All done arthroscopically. Amazing! He completed six weeks of physical therapy in May, and still does at least one set of exercises daily. While he says he still has some occasional low-grade aches, he can now stand on a stool and unscrew a light bulb overhead, wash windows, and lift his bike onto the car’s bike rack, all impossible to do a few short weeks ago. But can he swing an ax (or, in his case, a maul), lift and carry logs, and stack firewood? Today he proved he's back: he just finished a two-hour stint in the woods splitting and stacking, and says he feels properly tired, sweaty, and pain-free. He’s got at least two more weeks of splitting and stacking before he’s done, but is looking forward to the task ahead. He claims its very satisfying work, and as long as he can do it we’ll continue to live in the mountains.

        Our area has been in the national news this spring and early summer for the series of devastating fires across the state, as well as throughout all the western states. We were never threatened here in Nederland, though the Flagstaff Fire in Boulder, a dozen or so miles away, brought the fire danger very close to home. That particular blaze was quickly contained within a relatively short length of time; much larger and more destructive fires had started well before the one in Boulder and continued well after. The fires in the Colorado Springs area (Waldo Canyon Fire) and Fort Collins (High Park Fire) were two the largest and most costly in the state’s history. At least 15 other fires have been reported across the state. Record heat, high winds, and drought have made this arguably our worst fire season in recorded history.

        After thousands of man-hours, tons of water and fire retardant, and on-site visits by every politician from the president and governor on down to local officials, it took the start of our monsoon rains to really quench most of the infernos, though not completely. Our annual monsoon rains are nothing, of course, like those in Bangladesh or elsewhere in southeast Asia; however, we had 3”-6” fall a couple of weekends ago and we consider it our 100-year rain. The torrent carved ruts in our driveway, overflowed drainage ditches we try to keep cleared, sloshed a pile of gravel at the foot of our front steps, and backed up water that seeped under the door into our greenhouse. That was just the first day. We’ve had some rain almost every day for the past two weeks, though none as fierce as that first day. Our grass out back has greened up and no longer crunches underfoot, we haven’t had to water our veggie beds, and the temperatures at night are good for sleeping once again. The rain makes us feel a lot safer, though we know that the lightning that accompanies the rain is the primary cause of the fires, and a few weeks of rain do not bring complete relief to an area that continues to suffer from widespread drought.
Ladies Hiking


        In spite of weather issues, for the past month Judy has been a regular member of a local women’s hiking group that has discovered the overwhelming beauty of a bumper crop of high mountain wildflowers this year. From 9,000' to 12,000' in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area alpine flowers have burst earlier this year and the profusion has created broad carpets of reds, blues, yellows, and whites. Thursdays have been spectacular for her: good weather, clear mountain lakes and streams, amiable friends—and gorgeous flowers and lots of ptarmigans spotted (see photos below).

Barker Dam Brass BAnd
        This time of the year is prime road race season. Judy won her age group in the Boulder Distance Classic, setting a new age group record this year. On Memorial Day she took her age group in the Bolder Boulder 10K by the slimmest margin ever: just 37 seconds ahead of second place. (She took this as a wake-up call to train differently and harder for next year’s event.) On Father’s Day, she took her age group in the Father’s Day 4K and won several nice prizes as well. On a  strange impulse, Hughes strapped on his leg brace and hobbled to a 2nd place finish in his age group, a full 15 minutes behind the winner. Judy most recently finished second in the 4 on the 4th, an annual Fourth of July event in Boulder.

        Hughes would have accompanied Judy to Boulder on July 4th, but he was playing trombone again in Nederland’s 4th of July parade in the Barker Dam Brass Band. This year, for the first time, we had a very brief rehearsal just prior to the parade: Corky (in this year's photo, our FL is kneeling in the front row) brought in a new piece, “Hey, Baby!” and thought we might run through it a couple of times before the parade performance, especially since some of us had never heard it before—plus there was singing for those who knew the words! It was a crowd pleaser (he was told) and we’re likely to repeat our performance next year, though without a rehearsal. Note that neighbor Brian (back row on the left) took a leave from Big Head Todd to provide a solid musical grounding for the group on the drums. Having a pro on the traps makes a huge difference!
The Buddes

        We have been determined to stay at home this summer and enjoy our beautiful area. Why leave a place that thousands of tourists from all over the world come to for the beauty and serenity of our mountains? We leave too often. Not this year! However...

        This spring was the occasion for an important trip to Boston to attend the celebration of our granddaughter’s high school graduation from Thayer Academy. The weather was perfect for the outdoor event and she was surrounded by most of her family—parents, brother home from college, three uncles, and three grandparents. Sadly, Dan’s father passed away suddenly just a few days before graduation. Everyone tried very hard not to dampen the excitement for Julia and we all carried on as well as possible. Norm was a generous and caring in-law for our daughter and grandfather for Griffin and Julia. Griffin was asked to give a eulogy at the services for Norm, which were held the following weekend. Though we were not present, everyone was quite taken and proud of what he said and how he delivered it.

        That same weekend, we attended the 50th wedding anniversary party honoring Judy’s brother, Herb and his wife, Joan. It was a lovely affair which gave us a chance to not only see the two of them, whom we don’t see that often, but also to visit with family members and mutual friends we haven’t seen in quite a while, as well as to meet family members we had never met.
Heb and Joan
         Griffin’s summer job is working for Duck Tours of Boston, getting passengers ready for the ride, answering preliminary questions, and the like. We decided on our one free day to take a Duck Boat tour of Boston, which turned out to be more interesting than we had anticipated. Actually, it was comfortable, good fun, and we learned a lot of facts about the city where we once lived. In the afternoon, we met with Dan and Griffin, both of who came from work, at the foot of the State House and we all took an architectural walking tour of Beacon Hill, which also was a good decision. We learned a great deal about the history, development, and architecture of Beacon Hill (and how one formidable resident was able to get a fire hydrant moved around the corner from her house so she could park her car in front of her home on Louisburg Square). We finished the evening at Wagmama (a tasty noodle restaurant) at Quincy Market.

  Duck Boat on Charles River
        We both still volunteer at the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland and at the Backdoor Theater on Friday nights (unless a children’s movie is showing, and since it’s summer there have been more of them than more “adult” films). One film we would recommend highly, especially to our adult friends of a certain age, is “The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel.” It is well written, features a sensational cast of British actors (has Judi Dench ever made a bad movie?), is intelligent, and laced with humor at just the right times. If you’ve been put off by the title or snippy reviews by twentysomethings who think “The Hunger Games” stands right up there with “Porky’s” as a cinematic masterpiece, consider the source and see it for yourself. You will not be disappointed (unless you're a twentysomething yourself).

        We are also enjoying a summer of very regular bridge playing with congenial, semi-competitive neighbors who enjoy talking while we play and thrill to winning a trophy for top boards upon occasion. If you thought bridge players were stiff-backed, sniping, lip sucking, anti-social, bickering backbiters—and there are some of these—you should come to the mountains where bridge is a game, not life.

        Hughes still plays rhythm guitar with McGinty’s Wake. The group is gearing up for their annual gig at the Carter Lake Sailing Club near Loveland in two weeks. This will be the group’s 6th or 7th or 8th year of performing there at the annual summer hootenanny and potluck. (It’s a good thing that two of the group are members there; we always get invited back and we play for food.)

      In addition to local get-togethers and evenings with neighbors, we hosted a “reunion” of friends from Desert Trails who live in the area: John and Helen from Longmont, Russ and Pat who are camp hosts currently at Cherry Creek State Park, and cousins Ken and Carol from Milliken. As we do at Desert Trails, we tried our hand at locating some area geocaches, ate well (potluck, of course) and enjoyed each other’s company. We will see Russ and Pat again this winter, but the other two couples are making alternative plans and won’t be in Tucson this winter. 


        We’d like to remember two wildlife events that intruded on our otherwise relaxing summer:
 Mountain Bird
        First, on an otherwise normal, nothing-out-of-the-ordinary morning, the dogs ran off into the woods on the other side of the rock wall barking at something. We rarely take note unless the barking takes on a frenzied tone and both dogs are working together, or if we see a potentially dangerous animal nearby. In this case, the barking stopped and the dogs returned after a few minutes. They joined us wherever we were at the time. A few minutes later we happened to notice that Bella had two points of blood on her right hindquarters about two inches apart and another point of blood on the inside of her left rear leg. All three were puncture wounds, but from what? We took her to the vet whose educated guess was that Bella had an encounter with either a fox, a bobcat, or coyote. We don’t know and never will. Bella never complained, or cried, or whimpered, or limped. The vet treated the wounds, gave her some pain pills (which we discontinued after a day or two), and we watched the wounds heal as neat as can be. However, we believe 17-pound, 13-year-old Bella was very lucky to have escaped whatever predator she bumped into in a dark place where we could not see her.

        Second, Judy, on an otherwise normal, nothing-out-of-the-ordinary return trip up the canyon from Boulder had a wildlife encounter of a different sort: she ran smack into a very large adult bear that ran across the highway in front of her. She t-boned the bear and threw him further across the highway in the direction he was headed: toward Boulder Creek. She stopped and searched along the creek for the bear. Several cars and a delivery truck from Boulder Lumber stopped and joined in the search when they heard what had happened. In the end, we don’t know. The front end of the car was obviously damaged (about $2600 worth) but it was drivable. So she came home and called the sheriff’s office and the state highway patrol to report the accident. No one has got back to her and no one has reported a damaged bear in the area, not even an angry bear. Like Bella’s encounter, we will probably never know.
State Flower
        Living in the mountains keeps us on our toes. There is always something new, something unexpected, something challenging—yet ever interesting. Life always reminds us to pay attention.

        All things considered, it’s been a pretty fine summer so far. We dodged a wild land fire bullet, have enjoyed the company of friends and neighbors, and been engaged in the community is several ways. Judy and Bella got close to something bigger than they and survived. Perhaps best of all has been the past two weeks of the Tour de France, which has had us glued to the TV for two or more hours each day—and there’s still almost a week to go. Next month we’re looking forward to the arrival of one of the later stages of the USA Pro Challenge bike race, which will pass through Nederland during the very challenging Stage 6 on August 25. Watch for Nederland as the riders pass through town (quickly), and watch for us in the crowd along the highway about two miles north of town. We won’t be throwing nails in the road or waving lit flares at the riders. We won’t even be chasing them as they head up the road. We’ll have all our clothes on and we won’t be wearing a goofy costumes. We’ll be the ones just quietly cheering each of the riders for what they will have achieved, and then head back to the house to see the finish on TV.
Julia with Grandparents
        All good wishes for a very happy summer.

        Judy and Hughes with their favorite granddaughter who's headed for Boston University this fall, the fourth generation of BU students in the Moir family.

Judy and Hughes Moir
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