April 21, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,
This winter has
passed very quickly—too quickly. It was a very eventful period, filled with surprises
we could not have anticipated, many new friends, new experiences, and a
small life-changing decision that may push us in new directions. It’s nice to
think that now that we have both reached into our eighth decade(!),
there are new possibilities to which we can look forward. You may be as
surprised as we are by what may lie ahead for us.
first a word from the mountains on the state of things at altitude.
WEATHER AND ENVIRONMENTAL UPDATES
Since we returned in early April we’ve been awaiting the arrival of hummingbirds, but they are late this
year. They are usually here by tax time, often sooner. We’re ready with
nectar and feeders, but they may be holding back or have made other plans.
The weather has been topsy-turvy. March, which is
traditionally our wettest
month, was one of the driest on record. January and February, usually fairly dry months, had several
big snows, as did December. So far, no April showers of note. In fact this may be the year
that many Coloradans recognize we are living in part of the Great Western
Desert. The snow pack in the high country is well below normal, which
doesn’t bring good news to the folks in Arizona, Las Vegas, and southern
California who buy Colorado River water for drinking and keeping the golf
courses green. Even Denver and the populated Front Range corridor from
Pueblo to Fort Collins are affected.
More immediate is the renewed threat of wildland fires all over the state where dry conditions threaten
existing trees and homes: last month at least one
major fire southwest
of Denver just an hour away from us killed three people, destroyed dozens of homes, and torched
over 4500 acres.
Folks in Vail, Steamboat, Aspen, and elsewhere in
the central mountains,
where they rely upon surface water (as opposed to reservoirs, etc.) for household use, are facing a
shortage that may show itself before the summer is over. Further, the lodge
pole pine forests continue to die from pine bark
beetle infestations, turning
the green needles red and killing the trees throughout the Rockies from here
to British Columbia. (In the photo on the left, the yellow nodules on
the trunk locate where the beetles have bored into the tree on our
property.) The cause is linked
to long-standing drought
(weakens the trees) and climate change in the wrong direction: wherever the
beetles attack, the surest way of killing them is a long period—say, three
weeks?—of minus 30° to kill the insects, something not envisioned in the near
of you who live east of the Mississippi and have never visited the West,
must wonder at the thought of a red forest stretching for miles. You
have all the
water in the world and trees that are forever green.]
have some scattered beetle kill around here, but nothing like the massive devastation on the western
side of the Divide. But we don’t fool ourselves that the blight can’t or
won’t spread here on the same scale. Stranger things than that have occurred
since we moved out 20 years ago: this past January a moose spent some
time in our back meadow. Who’d have thought? And we always believed
moose lived on
the west side of the Continental
Divide. Not any more.
They’re moving to new territory. The dogs were startled but welcoming, as
you can see Lucy doing in the photo on the right.
ENDING 2011 AND
BEGINNING THE NEW YEAR
Adios, Puerto Vallarta: In 1996, we
took our first vacation in Mexico as a “reward” trip after Hughes had
spent his first solo winter teaching in Toledo. When he finished up and
came home, we left immediately for a week in the sun at the
all-inclusive beach eco-resort of Costa
Azul, about an hour north of
Puerto Vallarta in the tiny town of San Francisco (AKA “San Pancho”).
We hiked, rode horses, mountain biked, snorkeled, sea kayaked, and
enjoyed our introduction to Mexican culture, especially the food. While
we were in PV (we had to spend a night at either end of our week at
Costa Azul) we bought our first time share at the Krystal Vallarta Resort,
since have returned most years for a week of beach, fine dining,
shopping, and relaxation. At various times we invited friends and
family to share our appreciation of this vibrant city. Over the years
ran several races there (Judy won two of the three she entered), we
witnessed the Day of the Dead celebrations, and the Festival of our
Lady of Guadeloupe. We snorkeled Los Arcos and the Mariettas; we rode
San Sebastian, sampled lots of tequilas, enjoyed many fabulous
meals, hiked in the jungle, spent a night in the town of Tequila, and
watched the urban changes each year as the city responded to the
increases in tourism. We never got sick, never felt threatened, always
found the people welcoming.
After 15 years, we celebrated our last “required”
visit to the Krystal Vallarta in early December. It is time, we
decided, that we visit other
areas and we had the chance last spring to trade our week-based time
share for a points-based program beginning this year. While we were in
PV, we went to as
many of the restaurants we had enjoyed most over the years as we could
fit in the week (far more
to choose from than we had time for); we enjoyed the festivities—parades,
displays, food, music, etc.—surrounding the Festival of our Lady of
Guadeloupe, and we looked back on
all the wonderful memories of the past 15 years, and realized that it
was time to move on to new adventures, though we are open to returning
again in the future. In the meantime, we’ll find some new Puerto
A Family Gathering:
We enjoyed a
very pleasant “early” Christmas visit from our daughter’s family from Milton. Griffin
flew out from North Carolina (where he is in college), followed by
Dan, who had been skiing in western Colorado with his brother Jim, and
finally Deb and Julia from Massachusetts
arrived. Michael and Cindy came up several days, but we had too short a time with all of us
together. It was fun and we realized it may be some time before it happens
again. Next fall Griffin is planning to enter a National
School (NOLS) program in New Zealand and Julia begins Boston
University. Who knows what will happen after that. It seems to get tougher to
find a time to get us together for a whole family visit. Thanks to Cindy for
the photo below.
Getting Ready for a Warm Winter.
spent getting ready for our drive to Tucson: dentist and doctor visits, a pre-surgical
conference with the orthopod who would fix Hughes’s shoulder when we returned, and
an OK for the procedure from his cardiologist that he would not
bleed out on the operating table. In the first three weeks of January, we had 10
medical visits between us and one trip to the vet (for Bella). Getting
older makes more and new demands on a person (and dogs).
continued running in spite of some cold weather. By the time we left
well ahead in the Purple
Runners standings among the women, though while
she was away and not competing, her lead evaporated. She’s working on
getting it back
before the season ends.]
We managed to load the RV and park it at the top of
our road before a big snow
came, which would have made it impossible to get out to the pavement. On January 20th we got a “go
ahead” weather report from our meteorologist friend (recently retired
from NOAA) and drove the car
and RV separately down the canyon
to Boulder. We pulled over to hitch the car to the RV and drove I-25 south to New Mexico and
Arizona. We caravanned with cousins Ken and Carol who were towing their
house trailer and followed them to the Phoenix area where we spent about a
week near Cave Creek. They have friends there and we knew from previous
years the camping there is excellent.
We arrived in Tucson on February 1 and checked
in at Desert Trails RV
Park near Tucson where we had reservations for a two-month stay. We
first had camped there a
few days in
last year we stayed a month. This year we planned a two-month visit, and
we enjoyed ourselves even more. We decided we had become snowbirds!
won’t reiterate the reasons we enjoy the park. We wrote a detailed account of our experiences there in
2011. This year we did a lot of the same things with some the same people, but
staying there twice as long gave us a chance to do twice as much with more
While we take pleasure in sharing our experiences, an important function
of these newsletters is to create a written record to help us remember
what we did, who we did it with, where we went, what we enjoyed or
didn’t, and what we
learned. What follows are the highlights we will remember:]
HIKING: Judy went on weekly group hikes that took her to some amazing places within a few hours
drive. Most of the hikes were 7–9 miles and often rather challenging (see photo
on left). She
worked her way through the Tucson Mountains west of town, the Catalina
Mountains on the east side of town, the Sierrita Mountains to the south,
and Picacho Peak to the north. The pictures she took show the beauty and
diversity of plants and terrain across southern Arizona. Hughes stayed with
the dogs and rested his knees.
joined the weekly Ride ‘n Lunch Club for regular outings. After two months of riding on
different urban bike paths, we have a better understanding of the
length and complexity of the nearly completed bike path that will surround
the city when it’s completed. The projected Pima County
Urban Loop is a
55-mile continuous, paved shared- use path will encircle the urban area
and provide a safe path for bicycles, runners, and walkers. It will connect
parks, golf courses,
sports parks, and public
In addition, Hughes biked with Ken, Frank, Joel,
and/or Patty on daily
rides of one to two hours; sometimes we’d stop for a snack, sometimes we’d check out local garage
sales, sometimes we’d ride simply for the mileage. He spent more time on
his bike in two months than altogether
in the previous year. Of course, while Hughes biked, Judy kept her daily running program going.
BRIDGE: We do
love to play bridge, but went without last year when we couldn’t find two other players.
However, this year we managed to find folks who also liked playing. Frank and Joel
seemed to enjoy the game as much as we do and joined us twice a week for games
that got more competitive from one week to the next. TJ and Walter
substituted a couple of times. We’re very much looking forward to their
return next year and we’ll pick up where we left off.
8TH ANNUAL DESERT
TRAILS DOG SHOW: Each year all DT dogs are invited to strut
perform whatever tricks or stunts they’d learned, run an obstacle
course, and respond to certain commands. Seventeen dogs competed for
prizes and bragging rights for the year. Dave’s Jack Russell terrier,
Brody, had won the three previous years and Dave agreed to “honorable
mention” status, thus giving another dog a chance at first place. Brody
(shown in the photo here just to the right of Bella)
perform several of the tricks that had won him high praise in the past.
He probably would have won again. Lucy was awarded
5th place. She won a bottle of doggie stain remover. We couldn’t be
PARTY, PARTY, PARTY
Annual Block Party: The park has several somewhat separate areas that are sort of like
neighborhoods, and within these sections there are often regular informal, impromptu
gatherings among the campers who stay more than a few days. Several of
us decided we should try holding a block party, though without closing the
road to traffic. There was one empty space that provided the place and
opportunity to gather the neighbors
(and anyone else passing) for an afternoon of good food and drink. We’re sure it will happen again
The Party That
Went to the Dogs: We believe (but are not certain) that more DT campers have dogs than
those who don’t. The dogs generally see one another sometime during the
day, either as they take care of business on their early morning walks,
or as they pass by one another during the day. They are always on
leash and on the whole well behaved. In March, someone had the idea of
hosting a dog birthday party for Margo and invited all and any to come for treats and good
fellowship. Amazingly, the two dozen or so dogs who showed were incredibly well
mannered and seemed to enjoy each other and a bounty of treats.
Potluck Parties: Folks at
Desert Trails like to eat. The park played host to a potluck for guests as
a thank you for the successful recycling project that was started last
year. The owner bought the meat and each guest brought a dish. A couple of
hundred folks showed up and ate their fill of burgers, delicious
dishes, and desserts. Another potluck was held after groups picked up trash along
2–3 miles of nearby Bopp Road. Potlucks are also held monthly to honor
all those who have a birthday. Several breakfast potlucks were held
irregularly on Friday mornings. It was clear when we first began staying at
Desert Trails that eating was a major enterprise and a way to bring people
Major Surprise Party: Judy had no idea, on the afternoon of
March 4, why she was
suddenly called to help a fellow camper with a knitting problem. But she went to help and in
minutes she was away, some 30-40 people quietly rushed chairs, drinks,
and snacks to our campsite prepared to wish her a happy birthday. It was a
great party and real gotcha minute.
ACTIVITIES: It is fairly easy to confine one’s activity to park-sponsored events. Last
year, without benefit of having a car with us, that’s what we generally did.
However, this year we
• Took in a Rockies spring training game (the only one played in
Tucson) The day was
gorgeous, but the Rockies sent the B team from their new winter
headquarters in the Phoenix area.
• Had an expensive (and
disappointing) Mexican dinner downtown at Poca
• On one of the few cool,
damp days in Tucson, we sampled Sonoran
at El Guero Canelo, which were more tasty and far less expensive than dinner at Poca Casa.
• Enjoyed a dinner theater
performance of “The Two Amigos” at the Gaslight Theater.
• Got tickets for another
chance to hear Lisa
Otey and Diane Van Deurzen perform sultry, bluesy ballads in
their “Wild Women” show (they had performed at a DT concert a few
weeks before). Lisa was also the piano player at the Gaslight Theater.
She’s an amazing talent.
Arena Bar and Steakhouse
is located in the middle of the desert some fifteen miles west of Tucson. You
have to know it’s there; it’s not a place you drive by unless you’re
hopelessly lost. We ate there twice: with Nederland friends Sandi and Jim, and a
few days later with a DT group for dinner. Hughes said his steak was
the best he’s had in years!
• Toured different parts of the
and Mineral Show on two different days. The show is spread out in many
locations throughout the city and really can’t be “done” in a day or two.
Judy bought diamonds to mark
our 50th wedding anniversary.
• Became members of the
Desert Sonoran Museum and
made several visits to
this world class facility
just a few miles north of Desert Trails. Sandi brought another Nederland
neighbor Ann (who was visiting Sandi and Jim) for a tour of the Museum as
We’ll renew our membership next year so we can check on the progress of
the hummingbird hatchlings we saw on our last visit there.
• Hughes attended the
annual Tucson Festival of
Books, wandering through
hundreds of exhibits, workshops, and booksellers. He scored a real
bargain: a beautiful oversized two-volume boxed reprint of Joan
Blaeu’s Atlas Maior
of 1665 in mint condition featuring hand colored maps of England
Scotland and Ireland, thought to be the most magnificent atlas of the
17th century published by Taschen in Germany. The price? $4.00!!
• Drove to Gus
Balon’s to sample his
famous cinnamon buns, described as a “scenic wonder” by Jane and Michael
Stern, the writers of 500
Eat Before It’s Too Late: And the Very Best Places to Eat Them.
Patty and Joel and had the
book and convinced us, along with Frank, Carol, and Ken to make the drive. They were
• Met with Colorado runners
David and Lada, and Barbara and John at Elvira’s Restaurant in
the artsy town
of Tubac an
hour south of Tucson. Elvira’s is highly touted but we found it
and we gave their entrees mixed reviews. We enjoyed the occasion to reconnect
with old friends.
• We were introduced
last year and did some additional
searches here in Nederland
and in Sedona last year. We added some new Tucson caches this year to our
during the group trips every other Friday. We also went out on our own
when we had the chance. In the left photo Bill is holding a rubber
grasshopper cache we located about half a mile hike from the
campground. However, the most satisfying
find—after three attempts this year and last year, plus some help from
Joel—was locating the well disguised but badly placed (inaccurate
coordinates!) “Tucson Mountain Lover’s Cache” (GC19C8A).
• Other evening activities
included stargazing (one of
the guests has enthusiasm,
knowledge, and equipment to
provide a lot of information during an informal gathering one night
a week); cash bingo (both of
us won once, which means
we just about
broke even for the two months); and twice weekly concerts, the best of
which were the two high school groups—a jazz orchestra and a mariachi
group—and an evening of songs with Lisa Otey and Diane Van Deurzen).
been thinking about returning next year and beyond, but we really were not comfortable nor
enthusiastic about an extended period of time living in our 24' motor home.
Our 2006 Itasca Navion has met all our expectations for travel trips, some
even as long as a month (e.g., our trip last year to the Canadian
Rockies). However, two months is a long time to spend in fairly close quarters—two
adults and two dogs. Any longer period is out of the question.
We knew that
from time to time Desert Trails campers put their rigs up for sale (5th wheels, motor homes,
etc.), and we would casually “shop” as we walked through the park. This
year a 5th wheel had a “For Sale” sign on the front of a 35' Excel with
three slides that looked clean and well cared for—and the price was attractive.
We checked it out several times, asked the very pleasant owners, Roy and
Gail, lots of questions, invited Carol and Ken, who are 5th wheel
veterans, to look at it with us, and comfortably came to the conclusion it
would suit our needs very nicely. We could store it on site at Desert
Trails, use it for the winter furnished with most of the comforts of home, and not
have to drive the motor home 1000 miles each way, towing a car behind. So we we decided to purchase the fifth
from Roy and Gail, who
in the process of purchasing and moving into a “Park Model” at Desert Trails. We are happy to know
that if we run into a question about how things worked in the new rig that
they were close by and willing to help. The park owner agreed to have our 5th wheel moved this spring or summer to a new site which
we selected from among those not already reserved for next year. When we
arrive next season, we’ll have our clothing, dog supplies, and food ready
to move in, plug in the water, sewer, and electricity, and enjoy the feeling
of spaciousness we’ve not had with the motorhome. I suppose we’ll have an
open house soon after we get there.
been asked several times whether we’ll get rid of the motorhome. For the
time being, we plan to keep it for road camping and traveling. For
example, Judy has a 200-mile race in Utah this fall and we’ll use it to
get there and then spend time in the area camping in some of our
favorite places in the state. We still have dreams of making the trip
to Alaska in it while diesel prices are not completely out of sight and
the lure of the Alcan Highway, BC, the Yukon, NW Territories, and
Alaska remains strong.]
we’re excited about spending more of our winters in a warm place. We’ve made enough new and
good friends at Desert Trails to feel as though we have two homes now,
two sets of friends and neighbors we enjoy, a lively urban center, and
fresh opportunities to
maintain an active lifestyle in a warm weather environment. Come winter in the
north, some folks go to Florida, some to south Texas, some to Hawaii or
to other places, and a lot of folks spend winters in Arizona. We’ve come to
like and appreciate the desert, especially in the winter.
return trip in early April was marked by fierce winds and a front range snow storm that threatened to
hold us hostage in a campground just south of Pueblo. On the last
we risked what might have been a seriously slippery ride home only to
discover we were a mere twenty miles from dry pavement that continued the
last five hours
of the trip to Nederland.
scheduled shoulder surgery for April 11
and we had much to do
beforehand, primarily cleaning and washing the motor home in preparation for storage until summer or
beyond and getting the taxes done. Both were accomplished and Hughes went
in on the afternoon of the 11th, spent the night comfortably in Boulder
Community Hospital so all his vitals could be monitored, and was
dismissed in the morning. Judy has been the perfect nurse, and Hughes has
made surprisingly rapid, drug-free, and relatively pain-free progress ever
ahead? Some shoulder rehab for sure, and time to catch up with Nederland and neighborhood friends
before we fly to Boston for grand-daughter
Julia’s high school graduation and Judy’s brother’s 50th wedding anniversary party. Summer plans
are up in the air and fluid, but we’ll try for some short, in-state
camping before heading to Utah for Judy’s race and some volunteer time at Best
Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab.
We will welcome your visit most anytime this summer.
can offer you the beauty
of our mountains, clean sheets on the guest bed, and the cleanest air in the country. Call ahead for
reservations. We’ll leave the light on for you.
our best to you,