April 3, 2004
Dear Family and Friends,

    This first weekend in April reminds us how changeable and unpredictable our lives can be here in the mountains. Last month was the driest March in nearly 100 years: our drought continues with slightly more than one inch of precipitation during March making cities all along the front range worry about continuing water restrictions and mountain folks worry about their wells. We've had several wildfires in the region, a major one that is on the verge of containment after a week of burning over 8000 acres north and west of Ft. Collins, about 100 miles from here. There is already strong public support for an immediate fire ban in Boulder County, except from those who demand a campfire to complete their weekend outdoor experience.

    Yet, surprise: This morning we woke to 8" of heavy wet snow.Group at Sandfly Point Evergreen branches are bent low and pasqueflowers in bud are hidden somewhere under the snow. At the moment there is a beautiful Cassin's finch digging snow off the hanging bird feeder just outside my office window, perhaps as surprised by the sudden change in weather as we are. The snow will help put some moisture back into the ecosystem and slightly raise the water levels in area reservoirs, but the drought will need much, much more than this to decrease the danger of fires and strengthen the resistance of trees to killing diseases and insect infestation.

    So much for the early spring weather report from west of Boulder.

    Our trip to New Zealand was another "Great Trip." Number Seven. Not only did we learn more about the rugged beauty and scenic joys of this country, but we returned with some of the very best photographs we've taken on any trip. Our digital cameras took up little space and weighed hardly anything, and the results were often postcard spectacular. There are, of course, many snapshots verifying that we were at one place or another; the one on the right was taken at the end of the Milford Track by Alan holding the camera at arm's length. With the help of our son, the trip is online like an extended photo album with lots of pictures and brief captions in a day-by-day, place-by-place chronology that is easily navigated at our web site. (If you were frustrated with your first encounter with these pages, please try again. At the suggestion of a friend in Ohio, Michael added some features that make navigating through the trip online much more user friendly.)

    The weeks before leaving on January 21 were devoted to planning, purchasing, and packing what we'd need for backpacking (our first trip requiring us to carry everything) in the second wettest region in the world, as well as for being motel tourists in all kinds of summer weather conditions (it turned out that meant mostly damp). When we got back, we spent time going through over 1200 digital photos, weeding out the goofs, and selecting those we wanted made into prints (150 4x6 prints at 20 cents each is $30, about the price of half that many film photos plus processing; Rock Wall the difference is that we can pick only the best ones to print). We hosted a local group to see the trip on TV with our photos on CD (and drink Steinlager—the only NZ beer we could get—and finish off several bottles of NZ wines and a mess of New Zealand green-lipped mussels).  We had dinner with our hiking companions, Alan and Cheryl. We shared each other's pictures and began thinking about another trip together. (They'd like to trek in the Himalayas or safari in Africa; we talked about trekking in Iceland or Switzerland—maybe in Nepal or Bhutan. We'll see what next year brings.)

    On the domestic front, there's not been a lot of time since we came back to get into much trouble. Hughes resigned as Director of the Visitors Center weary of micro management and budget ambiguities by the new Chamber board), though he will continue to do his Saturday morning "meet and greet" the visitors. A burst of warm weather the week before the current snow encouraged H & J Construction to rebuild the rock walls on the east side of the house that hold the flower beds against the house. In spite of the daily back aches, we should have done this years ago. Also, Judy found an incredible buy on a front-loading washing machine she's wanted forever, requiring H & J Moving Co. and H &  J Plumbing to spring into action. We had a chance to really put it to the test by washing the sleeping bags we used in New Zealand.

    Frozen Dead Guy Days, Nederland's quirky effort to lighten the winter blahs and provide a brief transfusion to the town's economic ills, was bigger and better than the past two events. Some things didn't change. Snow still had to be hauled in from the ski area for the coffin races; a chain saw was used to cut a hole in the ice on the children's fishing pond for the polar plunge (That's Judy in the yellow dry suit waiting with other members of the Nederland Fire Department to help folks out of the hole in the ice.); and Dead Man's Ale was imported from Oregon. Three new events were quite popular: the Rib Eating Contest (all you could eat in 5 minutes for $5) was a good meat-eating value whether you qualified for the next round or not; the painful Brain Polar Plunge Freeze (you know the hurt in your mouth and head when you eat ice cream too fast...?); and the Frozen T-Shirt Contest asked the question, how fast can you extract a wadded up t-shirt soaked in water and frozen rock hard from a plastic bag and put it on—over your clothing? Several thousand folks showed up to see  lots of hearses, coffins, and other groups in the longest parade in Nederland's recent memory. The parade was so long that it only made a single lap of the downtown parade route.

    Judy continues to train for next month's running of the Bolder-Boulder which she missed last year while recovering from injury. The woman who last year finally won Judy's age group after years of coming in second doesn't know it yet, but she will have to settle for second place again. Hughes still meets a couple of times a month to make music with some other guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and autoharps. He even gets to play the tin whistle on occasion and spells the piano player when she wants to try her hand at the fiddle or mandolin. We are both still reading mysteries with other members of the local Mystery Book Club, and Judy continues reading and discussing lit-er-a-ture with her ladies book club.

    We don't have any firm travel plans until this summer. Hughes hopes to go on a group mountain bike trip the last week of the month on the Kokopelli Trail (140 miles from the western border of Colorado to Moab, Utah). Plans are still forming. Judy has been gearing up for a trip with granddaughter Julia for a week this summer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. The "Reunion Group" (Judy's high school girl friends and spouses) is planning their 7th gathering at Glacier National Park in July.

    However,  for the most part we're keeping the house picked up and the sheets clean on the bed in the guest room in anticipation of out-of-town visitors. We don't know who yet, but if you're looking for great mountain scenery and clean air at very reasonable rates, the Moir B & B is hard to beat.

Judy and Hughes Moir
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