November 25, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
         Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year here in the mountains. As September merges into October, the days are usually warm and the nights cool for sleeping.  By Hallowe’en, cold winds from the north usually collide with moisture from the south and west, and we can count on tracks in the snow for trick or treaters (or, for the adults in the area, “Trick or Drinking,” a quaint neighbor excuse to visit since no kids have ever come to our door.) Historically, November is our second snowiest month (March is first), but this year the glory days of fall have extended well past Hallowe’en. November 2008 has been warm and dry. Our road is dusty, and the meadow out back is a mass of dry grass and weeds that crunch under foot. The community Thanksgiving dinner, served free of charge to any and all who come, was held on a sunny Sunday before Thanksgiving. As we’ve done in the past, we cooked a turkey for the occasion along with a dozen or more others from the community. No one had to bundle up and plod through snow drifts this year. We don’t miss icy roads, snowy dog feet, or making morning or evening fires in the wood stove, though we’ve had a few. The lack of moisture keeps lurking in the back of our heads as we hear about water restrictions, smaller snow packs during the winter, and the threat of forest fires.
        However, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Since I posted the summer newsletter in late August, we have…


        Our Alaska excursion in August/September was an eclectic mixture of travel styles, geographic diversity, and scenery that was as dramatic as we’d hoped for. Among other experiences, we enjoyed our first cruise, hooked up with a friend I hadn’t seen since junior high school, hiked on an icefield, spent a day in the saddle, ate our fill of fresh salmon and halibut, and looked in awe at the tallest mountain in North America. And much more. Reliving the trip through the photos we took brings back the desire to return. If you’ve been, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, perhaps our online account can encourage you to make the trip.   

Mueller Post Card
        We had been home no more than a week or so—just long enough to get unpacked, reacquainted with Sophie and Bella, and do some laundry—when we headed south for a camping trip we’d planned months ago to Mueller State Park on the west side of Pikes Peak. We had camped there in the spring and knew the aspen groves would be outstanding late September. They were as stunning as we'd hoped, and we spent five days hiking through stands of reds, yellows, and oranges that send landscape photographers into ecstasy. As wet as Alaska was for most of our time there, the central Rockies were dry and sunny.

        Our site had a spectacular view of the west side of Pikes Peak with splashes of gold sprinkled among the evergreens all the way to timberline. Before we left, a dusting of snow blanketed the rock face above 11,000'. Each day Judy ran on either the paved roads through the park or on well-groomed trails. I bicycled at the same time. After breakfast we generally spent half a day hiking a new trail—with over 50 miles of trails, we still haven’t been on all of them. Afternoons were spent with the dogs, reading, and relaxing—all the things we should do more of at home but don’t seem to take the time to do them.

        On the way home we detoured through Leadville to spend a weekend with Boulder friends who share the use of a home in this up-and-coming mining town. (While we were there we learned that the Climax Mine, one of the largest producers of molybdenum in the world, was planning to reopen which would be a huge economic shot in the arm to this historic town and home of Horace and “Baby Doe” Tabor’s famous “Matchless Mine.” However, now month later, the future of the Climax re-opening is in some doubt due to a dramatic decline in the price of molybdenum.) We spent a very relaxing weekend running and biking on the 12-mile Mineral Belt bike path above 10,000' that winds its way through the historic mining district, window shopping along Harrison Avenue, playing cards and shooting pool with the other guests.

Day of the Dead
        A week in Puerto Vallarta has been a highlight of our fall travels since the mid-1990s. Since we anticipate cold weather and snow here at home, early November is a good opportunity to appreciate some warm, humid weather before the harsh winds of winter converge in our area. For the past three years we’ve planned our trip during the celebration of Day of the Dead, and so that Judy could compete in the 5K race that’s held in conjunction with the Puerto Vallarta Half Marathon, which continues to grow and attract runners from Kenya as well as the USA, Canada, and Mexico. She took first place this year, which was good for 1,000 pesos or about $74.

        Jean-Pierre and Linda Georges, fellow trekkers in Bhutan, came with us this year. Their abiding passion is birding, and this was their first opportunity to gather some Mexican birds for their life lists. They planned a guided birding trip with a tour company while we spent the day at the Puerto Vallarta Yacht Club with Chuck and Clis Prather, a retired couple with whom we had traveled in Copper Canyon ten years ago. They live full time on their 60' cruiser, spending most of their time recently docked at the marina at Nuevo Vallarta.

        We also found that J-P and Linda enjoy good restaurants as much as we do. They seemed to like every place we suggested: Pipi’s, Tino’s, Viejo Vallarta, Joe Jack’s (below), and El Arrayan. Even the light dinner at the Krystal was delightful for the stunning sunset and relaxed atmosphere the night before the race. They seemed to have a good time window shopping downtown and walking the Malecon in the evenings watching the families on Halloween and the street performers on other nights. Together we prowled the cemetery taking photos of the graves elaborately decorated for Day of the Dead celebrations.
PV Dinner
        Together we attended an election night gala hosted by Restaurant Marazul and the Costa Banderas Chapter of Democrats Abroad Mexico where we watched the November 4 election results with other Obama hopefuls, and enjoyed a great dinner, drinks, and big screen TVs. The results, plus the beachside setting in Old Town, made for a perfect evening.     

        This year our day trip (we try to plan at least one day out of town) was to the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, opened by a non-profit organization just three years ago on 20 tropical mountain acres an hour bus ride south of the city. It is home to over 3,000 different trees and plants with self-guided trails and the Rio Los Horcones running through the property. It was our first time there and we spent a relaxed half day walking through the varied terrain (both fields and jungle) taking loads of pictures, especially of the orchid collection near the main building. We had a relaxing lunch at the Plantation House Restaurant overlooking the grounds and spectacular mountain views. The public bus picked us up at the entrance to the gardens to take us back to the city. It was a splendid day altogether.


        1. Sophie continues to star at Boulder Community Hospital, her presence providing gentle therapy and making Monday mornings more comforting and enjoyable for patients both young and old who look forward to the company of a dog while they are recovering or receiving treatments. In return, Sophie receives a generous share of treats from both patients and staff. In addition, Sophie is Miss August in the latest Boulder Community Hospital calendar for 2009. The $10 helps support the efforts of the volunteer program.
Hiking in Caribou
        2. I worked the Visitors Center whenever we were not traveling. I continue to suggest where to eat, where to hike, what to do, where the public rest rooms are located, how far it is to Estes Park, where the best biking trails are, etc. However, in October I had an unusual situation occur. Earlier in the day I had suggested to a couple that the hiking was particularly good from a trail head they could drive to if they were especially careful about a water crossing where large rocks presented a hazard to the car’s underside. The assured me their SUV had enough clearance. Later in the afternoon, the fellow came back looking for a tow truck (drive train was destroyed) and needing transportation to Boulder where he could rent a car to get him to the airport in time to captain a flight out of DIA. I called a tow truck and a car rental in Boulder and then drove him to Boulder to pick up the rental car. I never heard back from him; I can only presume he made his flight. Just another courtesy tourists can find at most local visitors centers. It can happen anywhere. We’re trained to provide these kinds of services. You just need to ask.

        3. Our local Backdoor Theater, which shows movies on weekends, looks for volunteers to help sell snacks and clean up after the show is over. Judy and I have done this off and on for a while. It’s a great volunteer gig: a free movie ($12 value) plus two giant popcorns and soda ($9) for an equivalent of about $21/couple for an hour’s effort. We saw some pretty good first run movies this fall, including “No Country for Old Men.”

        4. Judy traveled to Winter Park with the ladies of the Rocky Mountain Team Survivors to spend a weekend together hiking, eating, talking, playing cards, and generally socializing while the weather outside was trying to decide if it was winter to late summer on the west side of the continental divide. This trip was even more memorable because the parent organization hired a massage therapist to come with the group. All eight of the women got an hour and a half massage.

        5. Out of the blue, my computer—my faithful iMac—experienced something called a “kernel panic” which caused me several weeks of cyber withdrawal and sent the computer to rehab. The diagnosis was complex and treatment was going to be expensive. In the end, I traded for a new and improved model for not much more than the cost of repair. I am loving the new iMac which is bigger, faster, more robust, more RAM, and has more bells, whistles, lights, icons, graphics, etc. than I will ever use. I learned a valuable and long overdue lesson from the whole experience: Though I’ve used a Macintosh computer since the mid-1980s (remember squinting at a Mac Plus?) I’ve never had an extended warranty and I've never had a back-up system. Well, I have both now and am grateful that things were not worse. Yes, I lost all my email addresses, I lost a lot of email files, and a lot of music files—and, for a while, my sense of humor!—but I didn’t lose sight of the way to protect against a repeat situation. Now I back up daily and can have hardware issues and kernel panics repaired free.

        Thanksgiving this year will be a a day to give thanks that Judy's now semi-annual scans came back clear and clean. We’ll celebrate with Michael and Cindy who are coming up to play cards, watch the Deetroit Lions get beat up as usual, eat turkey and pumpkin pie, and play more cards. Sophie and Bella will play nice with Gidget. It may snow (a 40% chance the weather guys predict), but we’ll take our traditional walk between dinner and dessert as usual. Our neighbors, who are hosting a house full of family (Tracy’s mom, two sisters, brother, two nephews, a niece, and a sister-in-law), most from out of state, have invited the four of us to join them for after dinner sweets and drinks. It would be rude to decline such a generous offer. We’ll do the right thing and leave the dogs at home while visiting.

        Our best to you and your family this Thanksgiving. We hope you’re having a traditional celebration also.

        All good wishes,  Judy and Hughes

Judy and Hughes Moir
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