October 18, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,
Golden Leaves
    “May you live in interesting times.”

    This familiar Chinese curse may have been our mantra this summer, our first full summer in these beautiful mountains. The past three months have been a time of baby caps and carousels, unexpected surgeries, a 209-mile run through the hills of New Hampshire, area fires and home evacuations, our first grandchild in college, and our 49th wedding anniversary. Now as the temperatures drop and the aspen leaves turn gold, we can look back at what might have been and forward to what the future might hold. In both cases we recognize how fortunate we are and how optimistic we can and should be about our future.

    Though we had thought this might be the summer of our long-anticipated road trip through the Canadian Rockies, circumstances forced us to stay in the Colorado Rockies. We thought to ourselves, so what’s so awful about that? Our area is a destination for thousands (millions?) of visitors each summer: hikers, bikers, anglers, photographers, and others who gather strength and inspiration as they drive through. While we plan an RV trip through Alberta and British Columbia next summer, it was no hardship to have enjoyed what so many people from all over the country and the world find when they come here. Judy hiked with a women’s hiking group and got to explore places we had not seen before. Hughes biked throughout the area, occasionally with son Michael who has become passionate about biking (and in the process has lost nearly 30 pounds!). And throughout the summer we enjoyed fresh greens from the salad bed Judy tended: spinach, varieties of lettuce, arugula, and snow peas. We had enough to share or exchange with other veggies lovers.
Turquoise Lake
    We did decide on a week-long getaway to another part of the Rockies: camping at peaceful Turquoise Lake just outside of historic Leadville. We biked the paved road around the lake, about 16 rolling miles of challenging ascents and screaming downhills. Judy ran several miles on the shoreline trail most mornings, the same trail that a swarm of runners navigated who were competing in the annual Leadville Trail 100, one of the most challenging trail runs in the country. Hughes sat with the dogs several mornings along the quiet edge of the lake pretending to fish for the brown, lake, and rainbow trout that are not permitted to come within 100 yards of shore. Who knew?

    We biked on the paved 12-mile Mineral Belt Trail above Leadville past the remains of many of the mines that made fortunes for the likes of (The Unsinkable) Molly Brown, Horace Tabor (who left his wife for the infamous seductive Baby Doe) and David May (whose retail empire, built on Leadville silver, included at one time Lord & Taylor, Filene’s, Marshall Field’s, Kaufmann’s, Foley’s and, of course, The May Company among others). Though most miners worked hard with little to show for their efforts, some lucky or smart few made tons of money in Leadville in the late 1800s.
Matchless Mine
    We stopped on our bike ride to tour the site of Horace Tabor’s fabulous Matchless Mine where his widow, Baby Doe, was found frozen to death in the winter of 1935, a recluse and penniless. (Horace had told Baby Doe to never sell the Matchless. It would, he promised, make millions again when silver came back to its pre-1893 prices—which it never did.)


    Months ago Judy was invited to be part of a team of runners that would take part in the annual “Reach the Beach” relay race, 209 miles along New Hampshire’s scenic back roads from Cannon Mountain near Franconia to the Atlantic at Hampton Beach. The twelve runners on the team would each run three sections of the route over two days and a night. Six men and six women all over 50 comprised a “Mixed Grand Masters” team; all but one (from Pennsylvania) was from our area here in Colorado.
Reach The Beach Team
    Each was asked to predict their time for a half marathon, which would provide a predicted time for the team and, therefore, a starting time. (With 431 teams entered, a staggered start, based upon a team’s predicted time, was required.)  Since most of the team lives and runs at altitude, they completed the race more than two hours faster than predicted! As a team they averaged 9-minute miles and finished 373rd out of the 429 teams that finished. Not bad for a group of old folks! Since Judy was assigned to run 12th, she was the team finisher, though the rest of the team followed her in as she crossed the finish line. Judy had a great time. She and the others got along very well; many had run the 195-mile Wild West Relay in 2008. Her teams took first (in their category) in both races.
Judy Crossing Finish Line
    We spent time with Debra’s family in Milton the weekend before the race and a day with them afterwards before we left for home. They are adjusting well to being a smaller family now that Griffin is a freshman at Wake Forest. We slept in his bed without him having to rearrange sleeping locations as in the past. Reports are that he is having a good time at Wake Forest; he has a full and challenging course load and has been invited to be the newest member of the cheerleading squad (which has its perks for someone who loves Division I-A football and basketball). His dorm room is new and luxurious, far more than either his parents or we remember of their college digs. But times change and so does college life in many ways. Debra took the picture below of both grandchildren during a recent parents weekend in Winston Salem.

    While we were there, we shared in the excitement of Julia’s successful tryout for the romantic lead in the Thayer production of the musical “Guys and Dolls.” She will perform as Sister/Sergeant Sarah Brown (remember Jean Simmons playing opposite Marlon Brando in the 1955 movie version?) and is loving it. Lots of demanding romantic songs to perform. We hope the video that Debra makes will take the place of being there in person.
Griff and Julia


    We had hoped to add a week of camping on Cape Cod while we were there, but medical issues that almost canceled the trip altogether made a fast return trip necessary. We are sorry not to have been able to stop for visits with friends along the way. We drove our RV 2,100 miles in four days.

    Getting older, as many of you have also discovered, is a time for making new friends within the medical profession. Disease and worn body parts take on greater importance as we have aged. Thankfully, we have incredibly competent and conscientious area doctors in a variety of fields to patch us up and keep us going.

    Following a routine mammogram in early August, Judy had a follow-up scan and biopsies that revealed one, possibly two areas of cancer in her left breast. After consulting with her two oncologists, the surgeon who would perform the lumpectomy, and her primary physician, she was encouraged to go ahead with the trip to New Hampshire and the race without concern that the extra time would be a risk to her health. Three days after returning, she had a successful lumpectomy and the pathology report came back indicating the removal of the cancer with appropriate margins in one area; the second area of concern was non-cancerous. Our relief was immediate. She begins follow-up radiation treatments soon.

    It’s at times like this that we are grateful for the outpouring of support from family, neighbors, and friends whose visits, phone calls of encouragement, flowers, soups and casseroles reminded us that in spite of our isolated house in the mountains, we have a strong and close circle of folks who care a great deal. Many, many thanks to each of you who reached out at a time that was scary and uncertain. (See photo at the end.) It made all the difference.
Baby Caps
    While traveling as well as watching TV and relaxing around the house, Judy has been knitting baby caps for moms and newborns at Boulder Community Hospital. If she works steadily, she completes one a day; currently she has accumulated a collection of more than two dozen that need to be taken to the hospital. However, knitting has apparently not been without some risk. In July, she had surgery on her left wrist to perform a successful tendon release. She’s back at work as a hat knitter without the discomfort.

    Hughes finally decided to get one of his shoulders repaired this summer: an MRI indicated problems with a rotator cuff, bone spur, and biceps tendon. He worked steadily beforehand to build a generous woodpile for the winter, wash and wax the RV for winter storage, cleaned the woodstove flue, and other outdoor chores in preparation for the next few months. Surgery was scheduled, blood work done, EKG results were in, but a few days beforehand, a consultation between his orthopedic surgeon and his cardiologist brought things to a screeching halt. Because of medication taken following his heart attack last spring, the cardiologist felt that he should not stop taking Plavix, which the orthopod determined would likely risk too much bleeding during the shoulder procedures. So, he’ll go back sometime in the future for those shoulder repairs. The same is true for any thoughts of knee surgery, which was going to be next on his list of “get-dones.”


    During our New England travels and health issues, our immediate area was threatened with two rather frightening wildland fires. The first, known in the press as the Four Mile Canyon Fire began September 6, the day before we left for New England. The blaze started on a very windy day (65 mph around here) five miles west of Boulder and about eight miles as the crow flies from our house. The smoke was visible immediately and evacuations were made in the area immediately west and north of Boulder (16 miles away). We left on the trip with the winds moving the fire away from our house (i.e., to the east), though we know that wind directions can and do change. Thankfully they did not throughout the time firefighters were working to knock down the fire. The result was 6200 acres of residential woodlands burned a week before containment, 3500 residents were evacuated, and 169 homes destroyed. It was the most damaging fire in state history.

    The other fire—called the Peewink Mountain Fire—was smaller and much closer to home: a mile and half to our north. Word of it came to us while Judy was running her nighttime leg of the race. Hughes was camping with the dogs in a campground near the finish of the race. That evening (September 17) he received several reverse 911 calls on our cell phone (how did they get the number??) requesting immediate evacuation to the Nederland Community Center. He made four calls to neighbors until he finally made contact with one who was still frantically gathering things together for the evacuation. A 10-acre blaze had broken out on a nearby mountainside less than two miles away and heading toward our area. Thank goodness there were planes and personnel close by still mopping up the Four Mile Canyon blaze who immediately dumped retardant and pumped water on nearby Peewink Mountain. Within two hours, Hughes received an all-clear phone call saying we could return to our homes. We dodged two bullets in the time we were in New England.

    [In early October, a wildland fire broke out on the west side of the Continental Divide, less than 20 miles from Nederland. It consumed just over 600 acres of forest (lots of standing dead from pine bark beetle kill). No structures were burned, but we were concerned with winds from the west blowing the blaze slowly moved in our direction. It was successfully contained in less than a week.]


RTB Bouquet
    Amid all the dramatic summer events, Judy continued to volunteer at the new Carousel of Happiness in Nederland, which has been drawing more and more visitors all summer. She took Lucy to dog training classes each week. Hughes worked the Visitors Center as usual. We played lots of bridge, almost weekly and sometimes twice a week. Dick Sanders returned from Ohio wtih news from the midwest and some intense Shanghai. We were busy.

    On a much happier note, during time between our return from New England and Judy’s cancer surgery, we remembered our 49th wedding anniversary. We didn’t buy each other gifts, but began planning how we would celebrate next year at this time—where we’d be and what we’d be doing. Something big! We won’t let it slip away in 2011 as we did this year and as we’ve often done in the past. We’ll accept any and all suggestions, and we’ll let you know what we’re going to do when we know. Let us hear from you.

All good wishes,
Judy and Hughes

[Note: "21212" refers to the Reach the Beach team’s number (212) and the number of Judy’s leg during the race (12)]

Judy and Hughes Moir
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