September 10, 2003
Dear Family and Friends,

      When we woke yesterday to a dusting of snow on the back range, T-shirt Deisgn we knew summer was over and our beautiful fall season was upon us. The warmth of the summer mornings is now gone when we walk up to get the paper. We had a drizzling rain over the weekend that washed the ground and the air hinted at a change in temperature. (We also had a good-sized wind that knocked out power for a few hours Monday night! All part of the charm of mountain living.) Only a few aspens have turned yellow; some say because of our dry summer it will not be a good year for viewing the usually golden hillsides. We’ll see in a few weeks.) In the meantime, above 11,000' the mountains are white with the first snow of the year. The road to the top of Mount Evans (14,264'), the country’s highest paved road, was closed for the season this past week, the earliest closure in recent memory. There is a winter storm warning for the San Juans (Silverton area) with up to 10" of snow due today and tonight. Even Denver may get a touch of white stuff within the week, though that’s only TV weather forecaster speculation. (Note: as I’m writing this, the very light rain that began a half hour ago has mixed with some small but obvious flakes of snow. It won’t last the morning, of course, but it’s confirmation that summer has past.)

      The end of Nederland’s summer season is traditionally marked by the running of the Neder-Nederland High Altitude Road Races held the Sunday after Labor Day, three days ago. As has usually been the case since we’ve lived here, the day started out in the 50s with a little wind and overcast skies. By the end of the race, the light rain began to fall and the runners who stayed for awards huddled inside the pavilion at the town park keeping warm, drinking juices and eating fruit while they waited for the prizes and raffle drawings. Judy won her age group again in the 5K race, making her undefeated since 1992 and winner of all four races she entered this year starting in June. Amazing: she just keeps running and winning.

      Looking back on the past few months we’ve done our share of hosting tourists at the Nederland Visitors Center, a volunteer “job” we both enjoy. In this regard, I’ve had a chance to commission and work with a Boulder artist, Steve Lowtwait, to create a series of new designs for posters, T-shirts, postcards, and note cards promoting Nederland as the “Gateway to the Indian Peaks Wilderness.” The design shown here is the first in what will be a series of four: the second will promote winter sports, followed by outdoor recreation (hiking, camping, fishing, biking, etc.), and finally a design that promotes our area’s mining history.

      We survived our ill-fated, over-heated, and (in retrospect) amusing road trip north in late July. We saw some entertaining and interesting movies at Nederland’s local weekends-only theater (we would highly recommend “Whale Rider,” an outstanding New Zealand Barney and Flagpole film). We completed our “55 Alive” driving class for the third time (Colorado mandates reduced auto insurance rates if you take the course every three years). We went to our Mystery Book Club meetings monthly. I joined a local “Slow Jam” music making get-together on Thursdays (guitars, fiddles, piano, whistle, autoharp, and mandolin: we play mostly simple Celtic and old timey stuff). These were our routines.


      You may have already read about the San Juan River trip Jackalope I took with grandson Griffin in June. Looking back, it was a treat for me to have that time together. I think, despite a rock in his knee and a severe sunburn, Griffin had a good time also. The trip, by the way, was sponsored by Elderhostel and run by the Canyonlands Field Institute. Elderhostel plans quite a few intergenerational trips that are especially for grandparents and grandchildren. Most are not quite as physically demanding as the one we took, but all emphasize activities that involve children and older folks in a variety of learning situations. The only age requirement, bedsides varying minimum ages for kids, is that the adults must be 55 years old and want to continue learning. Griffin saw parts of the country that he might have only read about or seen in a book; the four corners area is a world apart from his home and travels in New England and other places he’s visited. In addition to the five days of rafting the San Juan, we visited Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, plus the birthplace of Mike the Headless Chicken!

      While Griffin and I were on the river, Debra and Julia spent time with Judy hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, going horseback riding, a day at Six Flags/Elitch Gardens in Denver, hiking through the Walker Ranch, and enjoying some leisurely shopping both in Nederland and on the Pearl Street mall in Boulder. They were present to welcome a new member of the family, Barney, our bus stop bear who stands patiently beneath the flagpole greeting visitors to our house. Michael and Cindy claim they found him hitchhiking around Fairplay (Colorado) while they were on a road trip. He seemed nice enough, they said, and thought we would make him a good home here. So, they brought him along. Barney adds another smile in our lives each day as we walk back from getting the paper in the morning and the mail in the afternoon.

      Speaking of Barney, this summer we also welcomed Jack as another new family member. We found him in hanging out in Douglas, Wyoming, on our midsummer road trip north. Call him fabulous or fabled, call him a cruel joke, call him fake, call him mythic—he’s real (as you can see in the photo on the right) and we call him Jack. Like Barney, he makes us smile every day.


Judy and Betsy at Arapahoe Pass       Judy has been a very active hiker throughout the summer. She and her Boulder hiking friend, Betsy, have gone almost weekly into the mountains west and north of here. Armed with field guides and binoculars, they’ve learned to identify most all of the wildflowers of the region. It’s been a pleasure to go with them; though they take their time, stopping and checking flowers in their field guides, together they are becoming Lake Dorothy real experts on the flowers of the front range. Throughout the summer their hikes included Ouzel Falls and Twin Sisters (in Rocky Mountain NP), Pawnee Pass, Isabelle Glacier, Diamond Lake, Arapaho Pass and Lake Dorothy, and Niwot Ridge (all in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area).

      My knee surgery in early July was so successful that I was able to go with them about a month later. The hike to Arapaho Pass (above) and Lake Dorothy (on the right) with Judy and Betsy was the first real test of how my knee is going to strengthen. It turns out that like walking around the house and climbing stairs, my knee felt normal. The rest of me is a bit out of shape, but I’ve been loafing for a while. A few weeks ago, while the weather was still magnificent, I went off on my own to Woodland Lake in the Indian Peaks, a nine mile round trip that proved I’m ready to take on most any hike.

Ptarmigan       By the way, one of the most interesting animals to see in the high country is the elusive ptarmigan (that’s him on the left). About the size of a small chicken, their primary means of protection against predators is camouflage: their feather coloring changes with the season—white in the winter, mottled in the summer—plus their habit of standing quite still on the presumption that they aren’t or can’t be seen. When you do spot them you can walk quite close to them because they think they’re invisible! I took this picture from about three feet away. The rest of the “family,” including several young chicks were equally still within ten feet of each other. I’ve never seen one fly or move very quickly, though I assume they can and do when necessary.

      We may finally do it next summer: stay here and enjoy the mountain recreation that 1000s of people flock to from all over the world. Why should we leave in the summer? We keep vowing to stay home during this gorgeous time of the year. There are lots of high mountain lakes and peaks to revisit. Maybe I’ll even take a fly rod with me one of these times.


      Ever since we returned from our trip to Australia and New Zealand in 1999, we have wanted to return to New Zealand. Our memories of the beauty and diversity of the countryside and Lake Te Anau the friendliness of the people keep drawing us back. Though we had considered a different trip for this winter,  a couple we’d traveled to Peru with approached us about going to New Zealand this winter (their summer) to hike the Milford Track and Abel Tasman Coast Track, two of New Zealand’s “Great Hikes.” The photo on the right was taken on our last trip at Lake Te Anau, the starting point for the Milford Track. We hesitated for a while, given the costs and the amount of time we’d want to take for a trip that far away. But Michael and Cindy agreed to keep Sophie and Bella for a month and we know we’d enjoy the other couple’s company, so we agreed this might be the best opportunity we’d have for some time.

      It’s taken a good month of effort to put the trip together and it’s only just now coming together. We finally have confirmed reservations for the plane trips, car, ferry, bus, motor home, several motels, the huts along both tracks, and kayaks for a side trip off the Abel Tasman Track. Unlike some previous international trips, we’re planning this one on our own, and the logistics and planning details required have taught me to appreciate how travel agents earn their money.

      If you have a suggestion for a place or experience “not to miss,” please let me know.


      Most of the hummingbirds who have spent the summer at the Moirs’ have left for the winter. They are gathering in southern Arizona or Mexico as they do annually, keeping warm there while the temperatures drop here in the mountains. There are still a few around who either haven’t gotten the word or need some more of Judy’s elixir to sustain them on their migration. We’ll pull the feeders in when the last one leaves.

      The squirrels in the area are gathering all the cones of the ponderosas, lodgepoles, and firs they can get, building up stores of food to sustain them during the coming months ahead. It’s sometimes dangerous to walk through the woods because of the cones that fall from the trees where the squirrels are working. Since they forget where a lot of them were buried, it’s a form of seed gathering and planting that helps sustain the forest.

      Judy and I have followed the lead of our furry and feathered friends. Woodpile Someone—I’ve always claimed it was Robert Frost and no one has contradicted me yet—said something like, “A person who cuts his own firewood is twice warmed.” In that spirit, we’ve been warming ourselves mightily these past few weeks: we combined some community service with storing up fuel by felling a dozen or two dead/dying trees on the nearby fire department property. It rids their property of a fire danger and adds to our woodpile. The result is several cords of ready-to-burn wood, much of which is just the right size and doesn’t need splitting. We saw an ad recently for an electric wood splitter, which Judy mistakenly thought I’d like. (We both cut trees and limb them with our individual chain saws, but since we have only one maul, I wind up doing all the splitting.) Though the machine is a practical approach to splitting wood, it seems a bit like cheating. Besides, it would provide no immediate warmth. I guess Frost didn’t know about such mechanized devices when we spoke about being “twice warmed.” (He probably wasn’t thinking of chain saws either.)

      We’re also planning a reunion trip in November with Judy’s high school girl friends and their spouses. It is our turn to host and we chose a week in Puerto Vallarta at the Krystal Resort. Judy and I are looking forward to returning to one of our favorite places to visit. We look at it as another way to get ready for winter.

Judy and Hughes Moir
Home Email H&J Letters USA Travels Foreign Travels