July 1, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

    It was like an image straight out of a science fiction movie.
Pine Cone
    On the last day of spring a large yellow cloud blew through the pine and fir forest that makes up our immediate surroundings. The strange dust plume, one of several over the next few days, signaled the beginning of our annual pine pollen season, when the lodgepoles and ponderosas, aide by gusty winds, engage in their annual effort to reforest the mountains on Colorado’s Front Range. (The yellow mass at the bottom of the vertical cone is the last of the pollen on this cluster. Imagine the entire cluster colored yellow.)

    The pollination process is indiscriminate—necessary, but mindless: everything in its path is layered by the fine, fertile dust. By the time we see the cloud pass, it’s too late to seal doors and shut windows. It’s too late to protect desk tops, book shelves, carpeting, the backs of dogs, porches, cars—any flat surface and many vertical surfaces like windows and TV screens. All are passive victims of yellow dust particles until the pollen has been cleared off the trees by the wind or a hard rain. Only then do homeowners clean. No sense in doing anything until the pollen has run its course. Like the return of hummingbirds from Mexico, pine pollen is a sign of a seasonal change: summer is on the way.

    [Note: Who knew this obnoxious dust, found wherever pines flourish, is more than a cause of a messy home, eye irritation, and allergies? Chinese medicine has touted the benefits of pine pollen for generations.]

    For the record, the first hummers arrived on April 28. By now the word has spread that nectar in the Moir feeders is sweet, freshened regularly, and free of ants. They now come in droves. We also have three new bird families living in separate birdhouses that we’ve had for some time but were badly placed: the openings had been originally been set facing west, the direction from which the wind generally blows, and in the open. They now face east and are protected by leaves and branches, and the small birds (nuthatches and chickadees) are nesting, laying eggs, and we believe some are feeding their hatchlings.
Captured Vole
    Perhaps the warm dry weather can be blamed on the larger than usual colony of voles (AKA meadow mice or field mice) that are more aggressive this year in eating the grass and Judy's flowers. We love animals—and we love flowers. We feel more protective of flowers since they can't fend for themselves (and we find them much more attractive than voles!). This year Judy has declared open warfare on the critters and is taking desperate, forceful action to at least “encourage” them to go somewhere else. If there are a few casualties along the way, she really does not care. Judy tried drowning the one on the left she saw scurry into a hole and caught him when he had to come up for air. The moral: don't mess with a serious mountain gardener. Growing plants is hard enough in the mountains without vermin selectively decimating flowering plants instead of the chowing down on the natural vegetation that grows so easily and widespread beyond the garden wall. They should go after sage and rabbit bush instead of iris, columbines, and carefully nurtured lawns.


    •Boulder Distance Carnival 5 Mile. This race in mid-April held at the Boulder Reservoir is considered to be a local warm-up for the high profile Bolder-Boulder. Judy often runs it as a way to gauge how she's progressing in her training. Though she won her age group over the other 65–69 year-old runner, more important she ran the level course at a very respectable nine minute mile pace which, it turns out, was her pace for the more challenging the Bolder-Boulder.
At Bolder Boulder Finish
    •Bolder-Boulder 10K. Judy completed her three months of twice-weekly training sessions with the Boulder Striders in preparation for the Bolder-Boulder 10K on Memorial Day. The workouts helped her win her age group for the umpteenth time and faster than last year’s time. She gets to wear the yellow jersey in next year’s race signifying she is an age group winner. (The idea came too late this year for the race directors to order yellow jerseys and, instead, had to settle for white.) The yellow jersey will help spectators and other competitors pick her out of the swarm of 50,000 runners who participate annually. She also is one of the few winners who also earned a certificate (suitable for framing) awarded to those runners whose time is lower than their age!   

    •Joe Colton Off Road Adventure Run. Judy also won her age group in the local Joe Colton 5K, an annual event held just south of us on the road from Rollinsville west along South Boulder Creek toward Rollins Pass atop the Continental Divide. It’s a terrific event benefiting a number of local non-profits and attracts very competitive runners up from Boulder as well as local area runners to race on one of the most scenic courses in the Front Range. Judy could have run a 10K, a 10 mile, or a 14.3 mile race (which used to be a 15 mile race, but someone measured with a GPS and discovered the “shorter” distance).

    [Note: For the first time in the eight-year history of the race, portions of the event were “televised” and can be seen on YouTube! If you look carefully and quickly you can pick out Judy toward the front of the group in the “Start” clip wearing a light red T-shirt.]

    •West End 3K. Like the Pearl Street Mile, this urban out-and-back course runs along downtown Boulder's Pearl Street, except the 3K heads west from Broadway. It’s a kind of Boulder “happening” designed to spur retail by bringing lots of runners and spectators to the Pearl Street Mall for food and drink and shopping, thereby creating a huge traffic and parking mess. Last Thursday, Judy was the top 60+ woman and, in spire of gusty winds, ran at a sub nine minute mile pace.


    Sophie continues to provide comfort and stress relief to patients at Boulder Community Hospital simply by showing up, letting folks pet her, and munching happily on the treats they feed her. Naturally Sophie doesn't mind a bit. She thinks this is how she's supposed to be treated. Oddly enough, Sophie is much better behaved in the hospital setting among strangers than she is around us here at home: she is attentive to Judy's commands, never barks, and doesn't react to sudden noises. She just seems to know what's expected of her in that setting. Now if we could just get her to respond to “Come” and “Stay” here at our place, she’d be the perfect dog we’d always hoped for.

Judy Reading in Sedona    Hughes is recovering nicely from a second attempt to mend his “broken” left knee: almost a year and half after a meniscus repair that did not bring much relief, he went back (to a new orthopod) for a second opinion and additional arthroscopic micro-fracture surgery last March. Recovery has been slow (on crutches for 6 weeks) but with a great deal of success. He is now able to hike 2-3 miles, go up and down stairs with greater ease and comfort than before, and rides his bike easily. A new style brace has also helped. He will not be running anymore, and knee replacement is still likely in the future, but for now he walks almost normally and is getting better each day. He's been cutting and splitting nearly four cords of wood, warming him now as well as next winter.

     Judy celebrated her two-year anniversary of being cancer-free. Her quarterly scans and blood work continue to be reassuring. Her oncologist suggests she could cut back to two exams a year, but she will continue on a quarterly or three times a year basis for near future. Clearly her activity level is high, her weight is normal, and her eating habits commendable. She has enjoyed good medical care and outstanding support from many individuals and groups. In turn, she has lent her support to others in the area and online. More important, she has been highly proactive in directing the course of her recovery. Judy has continued her Tuesday morning walks in Boulder with “the ladies,” a terrific group of cancer survivors who have formed a close social support group that keeps very active (hiking, exercise classes, snow shoeing, as well as weekly walks of a couple of miles).


    •Sedona. A week in Sedona in April was exactly what we needed to warm our bones and get out of the wind that haunted us all winter. We based ourselves at the Los Abrigados Resort (on the left) where the sun always shines, the water in the pool is in the mid-80s, and the scenery spectacular. Hughes got around OK on his crutches and was able to swim and enjoy the pool. However, no mountain biking this trip, no hiking, and no shopping. Judy ran daily, we read a great deal, caught up on new movies we’d missed, and ate well. Our one day trip was spent antiquing in Prescott, and we finished the day with a great burger and margarita at what we consider Jerome’s premier eatery, the Jerome Palace Haunted Hamburger, a must-stop dining experience with a view to die for. It was worth making the trek to the top of the town on crutches.
Judy and Dogs at Mueller
    Mueller State Park. By May, Hughes was able to walk much more easily without crutches as well as bicycle. So we packed the RV, the dogs, the bikes, some food, and some books and headed to Mueller State Park, one of our favorite state parks just west of Colorado Springs on the back side of Pike’s Peak (and a short 150 miles away—less than a full tank of diesel round trip from home). We had camped there last fall and knew we wanted to return at a different season. Reservations are highly recommended even in the spring, and we were able to land a comfortable, private site (#3), a splendid view of the mountains, with a meadow and pond (just over Judy's right shoulder in the photo on the right) just across the road. A short distance from our campsite was one of the dozens of trail heads that give campers access to a trail system of over 50 miles and 5,000 acres of wilderness, home to elk, black bears, and mule deer. We did hike and bike every day, except for the Navion in Snowday we woke to snow! The skies were thick gray and hiking would have been sloppy, so rather than sit inside reading or whatever, we drove to the dreary casino gambling town of Cripple Creek a few miles down the road for lunch and a look around. Then we came back and spent the rest of the day reading or whatever. We also appreciated the luxury of having a TV, just for days like that one.


    Hughes got out his trombone a few weeks ago and is getting his lip in shape for Nederland July 4th parade. Hess also rehearsing in earnest with McGinty’s Wake for at least one gig in the area. Hell miss others because of camping trips. [Note: The group is talking seriously about producing a CD later this year. Who'd have thought?!]

    Judy's running schedule looks more interesting than ever this summer.

        1. She’s planning to run the Trespass Trail Challenge, a really tough mile course on dirt roads and trails in the mountains above Nederland. She's done this several times in the past and knows how hard this course is.

        2. In mid-July we’ll camp near Red Feather Lakes (west of Fort Collins) where Judy will run the Inaugural Peace Trail Race at the Shambhala Mountain Center. We’ve wanted to visit the Buddhist Center since we returned from Bhutan and to tour the Great Stupa completed there in 2001. This race gives us a good excuse to make the trip.

        3. The highlight race of the summer will probably be the Wild West Relay: Get Your Ass Over the Pass. Last Saturday Judy attended the first meeting of her teammates who are planning to run this challenging race on August 1–2. The course begins in Fort Collins and goes west and slightly north through the mountains to Red Feather Lakes and on to Deadman Road into Wyoming, and south to Walden, over Rabbit Ears Pass and ends in Steamboat Springs 195 miles away! (Check the web site for a detailed map.) The 12 runners on the team each will in turn complete three legs (3-7 miles depending upon the terrain) during the two days and one night of running. Judy has been assigned three legs of the run including the final four miles to the finish line in downtown Steamboat Springs! Hughes and the dogs will meet her in Steamboat and we’ll spend a week camping at Steamboat Lake State Park, followed by a week at Granby Lake before returning home to get ready for our Alaska trip.

Flags in the Meadow    We know our weather can be erratic and changeable. We expect heavy snows in March and April; two feet in May is not exceptional, and even June can surprise (and it did this year with a few days of very light flurries). The best part of spring is the moisture that is released to the plant life in this dry climate and the delight of green plants and flowers after a long period of a snowy landscape. This year the area behind our house that we refer to as (wink wink, nudge nudge) “the meadow,” really looks like a meadow this year. The grasses have been greener and thicker than ever before in the 16 years we’ve lived here. Columbines at Judy's WindowThe prayer flags seem even more colorful in contrast to the bright green surrounding them. The dogs love to roll and to lay out in the soft grass whenever they can. We even feel the need to “mow the lawn” from time to time, just like the midwesterners we once were.

    So, voles aside, this has been a vintage spring for us: just the right balance of short travels, good exercise, good health, good friends, and lots of things to look forward to. We hope you and your family are able to say the same.

All good wishes,  Judy and Hughes

Judy and Hughes Moir
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