Tag Archives: Wyoming

A travelogue from the couch …


I guess this is what retirees do. Hit the road. 

This must be – has to be – the first letter Ellen and Reid have ever received that deals exclusively with their old man’s travel. Maybe not the travel itself, but the looking forward to it. Now if only I was better at the planning …


June 12, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Tomorrow marks a drastic change for me in terms of fishing with Miss Emma in Charleston; I’ll finally overnight there to milk a second day out of the excursion. I booked a fleabag on the west end of Rte. 17 north of Bowens Island. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out since the down-and-back in one day routine just flat wore me out. Don’t ask why this tact has not been taken before. Beats the hell out of me. I’m cheap, I guess.

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Bowens Island is my escape route. Escape to the water. Miss Emma got a full taste of the brackish salt creeks last week, and she’ll get more of same this week, too.

There’s an added factor in that my friends Jill and Troy want some of my fish as an glitzy appetizer for a big, formal sit-down meal they plan to serve to 20 – 25 guests. They are both chefs as opposed to cooks so they’ll doll up whatever is caught and really make it delicious. So for once we will be a production fishing operation. It means we can spend way more time on the water on Day One rather than scoot out of town at 2 p.m. or so to beat the horrid Charleston traffic. So it’s exciting in a way.

Wyoming is really creeping up soon. This time next month everything might be in the pack. Got to get some new tires for the Camry for the Westward trip since there are nearly 48,000 miles on the car in barely 19 months. My trail meals have already been purchased from an outfit called Packitgourmet.com. The food is all dehydrated rather than freeze dried which takes, in my opinion, too much time to rehydrate. What I’ve seen from Packitgourmet.com is some really good stuff. Almost cuisine. Lunches will be the standard peanut butter and flour tortillas along with tuna in foil packs. Tom buys dried fruit at Trader Joe’s which is really good. Breakfasts will be equally standard; oatmeal with raisins and Starbucks instant coffee. The Tyvek hustled from a construction site has been trimmed to fit the one man tent (and the two person tent, too, Reid). That saves some weight and it compresses better than the plastic sheets. We’ll stay at the super-duper Four Winds in Jackson on the eve of the hike. Reid, Pinedale was nearly full. I had to scrounge for a motel. Must be a lot of roughnecks staying overnight. No way I want to spend another night in the car under a full moon like we did 11 or so years ago. What a memory that is.

Been paging through the Camino de Santiago guide, trying to wrap my arms around the whole idea of an enormous trip. It’s interesting that the author of the guide asks readers early in the book to consider why they would make the trip at all. Really a good question. He assumes, and treats readers thusly, that most make a pilgrimage rather than treat it like a hike or sporting event (my friends Tom and Vince and Richard who’ve all made the trip think it’s more of a walk than a hike). Certainly it’s not race walking or push every day for miles, miles, miles. As I look at the map of Spain – my sense of geography is just awful – my anticipated side trips to Madrid and Barcelona won’t happen. Both are just too far off the trail. In fact, I might book my initial flight in to Barcelona rather than an airport to St. Jean Pied de Port, France, the traditional starting point for the Camino. That way I can spend a day or two traipsing around Barcelona and then hop a bus toward Pamplona which is three days walk from St. Jean. Tom sent me his exacting and incredibly detailed (go figure, huh, Reid?) gear list and that is an enormous help. I’ve been bending Vince’s ear, too.

All this has me thinking about other adventures of this sort that might be made since we shouldn’t be afraid to live. It would be so fun to launch Miss Emma offshore to paddle the length of the Carolinas. It’d take some planning but what fun that would be. There isn’t much other international travel that trips my trigger. Reid, remember that guy we saw up in the Bridger who walked the Continental Divide Trail? Now that would be an extraordinary feat. I’d do that, too, but again, I’d need Tom’s sense of planning since such minute details tend to escape me. No surprise there. Sigh.

Love, Dad

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It’s Monday, meaning another Monday letter is nearly out the door …


True to form, it’s another Monday which means another letter to Ellen and Reid is about to be stuffed into #10 envelopes and posted at my development’s mailbox. 

The writing (about 15 minutes) was polished off over a cup of coffee. There’s no real formula to how the letters come together; at one time I kept a cheat sheet of notes but now I sit down and write whatever comes to mind in whatever order. That’s pretty much it.

(Here’s the letter sent last week. I wait one week before posting each letter so Ellen and Reid see the single pages first.)


March 13, 2017

Ellen/Reid: The tepid stream of prospective buyers will no longer be trouping through the house. I took it off the market at mid-week and my W Group Realtor, Scott, took the news like a champion. Really a good guy. He did confide that he thought my asking price – the one he and I agreed to at his suggestion – was a shade too high since other homes he’s represented have been selling very quickly. But in the end that didn’t matter. He’s sent me a few more smaller townhouses to take a look at since he thinks I’m still in a tad too much space; he’s probably right. The taxes and such might be less elsewhere, particularly if I relocate to the suburbs in South Carolina but I sure like the SouthPark location. As you’ve seen, it’s right in the thick of things and I can – for the time being – still navigate three sets of stairs. But after months of keeping the joint clean (let’s hope that trend continues) it’ll be nice to just live in it for a change.

So now the garage has to be cleared out of the two twin beds and cardboard boxes that will no longer be of use. In one sense the purge of stuff was a wholly good thing, plus I got some free decorating and rearranging advice. I really do like how the first floor dramatically opened up. It just looks so much better and is more livable.

I’m not sure how a move might have gone physically if this hernia operation goes on as scheduled. There’d of been no packing or lifting for a month or so. Still no word or update from the Social Security/Medicare folks. Somewhat perturbing in that if the letter doesn’t arrive today then I will pull the plug on Thursday’s surgery and delay it until the situation is clarified. The condition hasn’t deteriorated so a rescheduling might not be bad. What’s lurking on the radar is Wyoming; I want to be in good shape entering the mountains and need several months of solid workouts to deal with the climbing and walking. We shall see.

Since it looks like the knife will be staved off later this week, I’ll proceed to Asheville with Sondra and Jody to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy golf with them on Saturday. Since my dating life has per usual ground to a halt/is non-existent, it’s an easy solo trip to make.

My Irish friend Luke and his daughter Kate came over for dinner last night (she’s in the states for another 10 days or so before heading back to Dublin) and I asked if they’d like to come to Asheville too, and it looks like they might take up the invitation.

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My friends Jane and Luke and his daughter Kate show that the English and Irish can indeed get along.

He’s really a great guy (Reid, he said he wanted to talk to you again) and a good stick. He can be the jovial life of the party and jazzes up any room in an instant, such is his pleasant, outgoing personality. So that pair will be a good addition to the soiree. My English friend Jane was here, too, and she and Luke dispelled any notion the English and Irish can’t get along. After my unfortunate faux pas linked Ireland and England, I was told in pointed terms that Ireland is not part of the U.K. Learn something new every day.

Sunday’s snow event totally fizzled. It never ceases to amaze me how people here launch into a tizzy at the mere mention/hint Continue reading

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Liberation: the open road and a cup of black coffee …


After a long break (one month) of nothing written to the kids, the letters to Ellen and Reid have resumed. This one is largely a reprise of the nearly five week trip to the West (I know, it gets old to read my constant praises of Wyoming). The whole adventure really was everything I envisioned, and more.

But other doings are going on in their lives, including Ellen’s move within St. Paul. Other news is afoot, too, and it will be mentioned in coming weeks just as much as Wyoming, if not more.


August 9, 2016

Ellen/Reid: Holy cow, what a month of July. It just frosts me that what is contemplated and planned and anticipated for so long speeds by so quickly; it’s all just a blur in the rear view mirror. I tried to reconstruct portions of the trip the other night (rather than count sheep) and every leg of the trip just seems like eons ago. It really does.

There was no hard-core fatigue factor once I got home. That tells me it probably isn’t such a bad way to go about it. It might have been different if stops to see you in Chicago and St. Paul weren’t included; I probably would’ve flown here and back to Jackson. But there was something liberating about grabbing a cup of black coffee, climbing in the car and just jetting down the road with the iTunes pumping through the stereo. We likely all need a road trip now and again. I did let out a little yelp after pulling in the garage but that was just because of the mileage. The last few hundred crept by. In the final analysis, I’d do it all over again.

Reid, it was impressive to see how Liz handled everything we threw at her.

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Reid and Liz on the trail up to the No Name lakes. These two were fun to hike with, and better than average fly fishers – indeed, Liz caught that largest trout of the trip: a monster cutthroat.

She took to fly casting (and landing fish) like a champ and except for that one dehydrated dinner you two moaned about, she took the so-so food in stride. You guys did a nice job with the gear. It would have been easy to let pack weights get out of control but you kept things in check. I’m sorry again for coming unglued when the rangers forced us to move; you handled it much better than me. I hope that didn’t color her impression of the trek.

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This was our view of the Cliff Creek fire from 10,800 ft. at 9:15 p.m. on July 20. We could see, and smell, the billowing plumes of smoke. We just had to get the hell out of the mountains – even if we had to hike in the dark with headlamps. We emerged at 1:15 a.m.

I see, too, that as of this morning the Cliff Creek fire has scorched 32,000 acres. That was the worst stretch of the entire trip, walking out in the dark. We just had no way of knowing how far away the fire was let alone how fast it was moving. It truly was a better-safe-than-sorry situation and I’d make the same decision all over again. Basically, it cost us at most half a day. And it gave you guys more time to laze around in Jackson. Nothing bad about that.

We had a good time in the second half of the trip in our circumnavigation of the Cirque of the Towers, albeit there were tons more people. A lot of them labored under packs woefully overloaded. That’s where Tom’s less-is-more approach paid dividends. He really knows his way around. He’s such an extraordinary planner. The one bad part was my left knee. It progressively worsened and the killers were the downhill sections. It was problematic on every step. It feels a little better now but not much. I’ve put in a call to my GP for a referral to an orthopedist since limping around is getting old in a hurry.

Once everyone departed Wyoming, the singular best solo moment of the trip was Saturday morning along the gravel road cutoff from Daniel and Alpine. I’ve heard wolves before and their howling woke me up about 5 a.m. Not long after came bugling from elk not that far away from my tent.

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The view from my tent my last morning in the Wyoming Range. Wolf howls and bugling elk. If you have to be woken up, let it be wolves and elk.

The howls started again about 6:00 as I drank coffee and heated a spare oatmeal breakfast. It was completely windless and it just made for a surreal sunrise scene just to sit there listening to what was around the camp. It made me appreciate that part of Wyoming all that much more. And Ellen, tell Tim his flycasting pointers proved invaluable.

As for the other sidelight of the trip, I’m increasingly comfortable with the decision. It’s high time and, in some respects, somewhat overdue but likely not entirely a surprise to either of you. Ellen, you and Tim did the right thing on the other house. A short term rental ought to be palatable for a little while, and it sounds like the new living situation will be much better for the four of you over the long haul. You’ll have to send a few pictures to help me get a grip on where you’ll move. As for mine, it’s time to get a move on. My to-do list continues to grow and I’ve go to get off my duff.

Love, Dad

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No shortage of things to write about …


No letters were written to Ellen and Reid the entire month of July. That is by far the longest letter-less stretch in more than 15 years.

And the omission was for permissible reasons: stopovers were made at their homes during my journey to the West, and not too many days after a July 4 weekend in Chicago, Reid (and Liz) strapped on their backpacks to good naturedly walk 30-plus miles of trails with me on the northern half of the Bridger Wilderness.

I missed the writing. The loss was part habitual, part that there was no shortage of things to say.

But the weekly letters resume today. And, in a break for you, there won’t be any lengthy diatribe about Wyoming other than it exceeded my expectations and then some. I can’t wait to do it all over again in July of 2017.

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Ready, set, go – almost …


The annual countdown to Wyoming has started. We’re on the clock now. Reid and his wonderful girlfriend (that’s a direct plug) are on board for week one, and the Charlotteans are primed for week two.

It never gets old (maybe it does for you reading about it) but honestly, it’s one of the yearly highlights. I’ll do this every year that I’m able.


June 15, 2016

Ellen/Reid: So, the July travel plans have become official. I’ll drive due North to MSP to see you and the girls, Ellen (and Tim, too) before heading to Des Moines for a couple of days, then further West to Wyoming to rendezvous with you and Liz, Reid. And then, two weeks later, it’s back East to Chicago for a day or two layover before heading home to Charlotte. Now that’s what I call a serious road trip. But it really sounds exciting. And for the first time in a long, long time, we’ll try to go unshaven for an extended period. I hope not to frighten Georgia and Emma.

Reid, that Osprey pack will do wonders for Liz, plus she’ll have it for eternity and it has a lifetime warranty. Those Salewa boots would be great for her (if they pass the ‘style’ test). Just keep me abreast on the food situation. I’ll toss in the tent and extra sleeping bag. My Marmot should be plenty warm for her. Let’s compare notes on food in the next week or so. I really do need to up my game for dinners at the least.

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Hopefully there will be a lot more of these cutthroats where these beauties came from (we’d settle for fat brookies, too). It’ll be Liz’ first time fly fishing. Let’s hope she catches dinner.

The lousy nighttime food from last year is still a bitter memory. Hopefully we’ll catch plenty of brookies for dinner (and hopefully neophyte Liz will do all the catching. It would be great for her to eat what she caught. Nothing would ever taste better).

It’ll be fun to be behind the wheel. There’s something liberating about hitting the open road, clutching a cup of coffee and turning up the tunes. I’ll make a brief stop in Omaha and Grand Island plus a side trip through Sundance to pick up the Sundance Times and Crook County News in honor of your grandfather and to see the old home, too.

The Harley still hasn’t sold. It’s depressing to not get at least some lookers. Seems like I’ll have to eat it and/or come way down in price. The more time that goes by, the more anxious I become. I’m on the fence about Miss Emma; it could always make the trip with me, I guess. Still have to jettison a lot more Continue reading

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At this age, you’d think a guy would learn …


They say you eventually forget pain, but what’s not so easily dismissed is the rash of ill-thought through decisions that contribute to the situations that create the pain in the first place. This note doesn’t consider the hindsight that pinpointed the moment and place when the knee went south.

But it is what it is. That’s why they make ice packs.

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June 8, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Well, this is a screw up of the first order. Since late Saturday I can’t bend my left knee and it’s swollen and very sore. This seems completely self inflicted; it was mildly sore last week but I continued to push the envelope with 36 holes this weekend and somewhere during the final round things went kablooey. I’m not sure precisely when it happened but with a couple of holes to go I knew there was trouble. Tried to ice/rest it all day Sunday but nothing seems to help. Could hardly sleep last night. No comfortable positions. Damn it. This is utter stupidity on my part, trying to force more activity on a 65 year old body than it can withstand. It probably stems from walking 36 holes the weekend before, plus really pushing it during my daily workouts and walks. Something had to give, I sensed it, and now there’s a price to be paid. Reid, if this puts the Wyoming trek in jeopardy I’m really going to be pissed. I’ll still make the trip one way or another but maybe not as a hiker. A call was made this morning to the office of my primary physician but they’re still trying to process the referral to an orthopedic doctor. I was hopeful this would be a minor ache and pain but it seems beyond that. Your dad is a complete idiot and total moron. There’s no other polite way to put it: It’s a real f—k up. The tentative plan also was to tote the kayak to Folly Beach/Bowen’s Island this Friday to fish, but that’s on hold now, too. That makes it doubly painful.

Pain or no pain, I was still able to hobble into my joint of choice for some cold medication. I'll usually pull up to Mac's on the bike, but  the rig will stay parked in the garage until the knee comes around.

Pain or no pain, I was still able to hobble into my joint of choice for some cold medication. I typically pull up to Mac’s on the bike, but the rig will stay parked in the garage until the knee comes around.

On top of it, I folded like a cheap suit at my hearing with the HOA board. But I say that in a positive vein. In the end, I know these people and they’re my neighbors, so my first statement was to apologize for some of the things I said in the heat of the moment. That calmed the waters greatly. They’ve allowed me to shift the plantings to the rear portion of the unit, and that’s okay. Since it’s on a slope there have to be some planters constructed to handle the gradient. The larger problem will be the invasive deer and squirrels but I’m willing to give it a go. This had been a big stressor on me and it’s good to have it past. I was the agitator in all of this. A pot of lettuce and tomato and basil plants shouldn’t get people – me – in a lather.

Also, both my courses at Central Piedmont Community College were scrubbed because there weren’t enough sign ups. I’m mildly disappointed but not crushed by any means. My contact at CPCC seems more distraught than me. There’s a letter writing course coming up in the fall so hopefully there will be at least a few enrollees for that one. Reid, any word for Liz in terms of grad schools? We know she’s on pins and needles about it. Let your mom and I know how that’s going because we want her to get into the school she deserves. How is your work going at DePaul?

Your aunt Gayle gets the cast off her broken ankle today. She must’ve had one helluva break. That timing is good. They fly to San Francisco in the next few days to pick up one of their granddaughters and bring her back for a week’s stay in Grand Island.

It’s so good to seem little Miss Georgia begin to smile. That’s such a pleasure. And Emma seemed full of it last night during our FaceTime. It’s good she’ll take swim lessons. That little fish will take to the water like you did, Ellen. She’ll be a good swimmer.

As for the Minnesota State Fair, let me know what weekend in August works for you. Feel free to dictate the terms of my visit. Hopefully I won’t need a wheelchair, a cane or a walker or a handicapped parking permit. You’d think at this age a guy would learn. Apparently not.

Love, Dad

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A sampler: Day 5 of my Bridger Wilderness journal…


Last week I threatened you with multiple pages from my journal about the trek to the Bridger Wilderness.

Like so many of my miscalculations during that trip, I grossly underestimated the number of pages. The 17 single space pages were mailed to Ellen and Reid this morning. I’ll post the entire diatribe and photos late this week once they’ve had a chance to receive it.

But until then, here’s one page as a sampler of what’s ahead for those of you who have patience.

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Day 5, Tuesday, July 15

There’s a lot to think about as you roll around in a sleeping bag trying to avoid rocks and sticks beneath your tent as you hyper-listen for any noises that could be construed as a marauding grizzly.

I thought a lot about the stream and the trail, and I know Tom did, too. It is his style to methodically explore all options whether it’s the weight of materials – or escape routes.

It was very wet and clammy in the morning. Everything would need time to dry and after the bags and tents were hung out in the sunniest spots, we ran through what we might do from here. Tom wanted to get to the path as soon as possible. There is a sense of security on the path. The map, however, showed conflicting whereabouts of a trail we’d not really set foot on in more than two days. After another breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee, and back in my still wet boots and socks, I led Tom to our potential salvation from this portion of the wilderness. We could see the first two of four portions of the stream. The individual fords looked doable although the precise location of the trail was a bit dodgy. He agreed, and now we were in business. We packed our gear and within minutes had crossed each waterway.

Tom wades through one of the countless fords we encountered in the high country.

Tom wades through one of the countless fords we encountered in the high country en route to the Cirque of the Towers.

To our utter amazement and relief, no sooner had we stepped on the north shore of the fourth fingerling than the path appeared before us. It was not 150 yards from the spot where we had forlornly bunked for two anxious nights. Not perhaps where we expected it, but it was still the path. It was the first cheery news we’d had in a couple of days. From where we stood we could turn left toward Hailey Pass or turn right and continue onward in a big 25 mile arc to the Cirque.

There was one problem with turning right. We heard through the hiker grapevine that one key pass, Texas Pass, was also thought to be unnavigable due to heavy snow. Without any verification, and in view of our tumultuous experience at Hailey, we chose to turn left. Hailey was a known quantity and we were relatively confident we could scale the slope that had taken hours for us to descend.

We were also well ahead of schedule. My computations were that to find the path might take hours, and we were already on it and headed upward and west. The river just to our left was still a raging torrent but it was quieter – less water flow – in the early morning hours before the afternoon sun accelerated the snow melt. I wondered if this might be our chance to safely ford the beast as we neared the bog. Indeed, by 9:45 a.m. we reached the point where the path intersected the 40 yard wide stream. The water was down sufficiently that we could wade through a slower current nearly up to our waists and use our poles for stability. The body of water we most feared was bypassed in a matter of a few minutes. Hailey Pass lay straight ahead three-quarters of a mile.

Now our attention turned to scaling the pass. We knew the east side, with its scree and snow and boulders, could be handled. We’d done it before. At the foot of the slope – we had about a 1,200 foot climb ahead of us – we talked through how to get from our Point A to the saddle’s Point B. There would be no avoiding the snow. Tom suggested we tape both hiking poles together should the more stabile points need to be jabbed into the snow to stop a fall. He also thought we should use parachute cord to tie the poles to our belts to avoid the loss of the poles sliding down the steep slope in the event of a mishap. It was another good idea.

To minimize tromping on the snow and avoid the boulder fields, we plotted a new path that would steer us wider and up the east valley wall. We could see strips of green – solid footing – that would keep us largely off the boulders. We started the climb about 10 a.m.

Going up proved easier than the trip down. You can press your weight forward into the slope as opposed to leaning backward as you descend. This made a huge difference. We pretty much followed the tracing of the snow much of the way up and walked on green spaces where we could. There was very little boulder hopping. Once on the snow I kicked steps for Tom to follow. The final quarter mile featured a 100 yard strip of snow on the steepest part of the slope. The trail was visible at the top end of the snow and zig zagged all the way to the saddle. We made the final yards in good order and continued to the top of the ridge marking the pass where we high fived each other and knelt in a moment of thanks for our deliverance. Our planning, experience and guile had paid off. We were no nearer the Cirque but at this point we felt relief. By 11:30, the ascent was finished, several hours ahead of my forecast.

Rejuvenated, we continued past Twin Lakes and over the familiar snow fields and fast streams. Our initial goal was to get to Dads Lake, but we instead descended about three miles to an all but deserted Mae’s Lake

We made camp in one incredible spot after another. Mae's Lake was no exception.

We made camp in one incredible spot after another. A rocky plateau on the north end of Mae’s Lake (10,343 ft.) was no exception. Glorious.

and about 4 o’clock came upon an incredible camping site atop a plateau overlooking the lake to the south. We’d get plenty of sun, there was ample wood for a fire, the ground was dry and the trout were on the rise.

My Mountain Hardwear tent went up quickly, my pack was emptied of gear, I pumped water for Tom’s Platypus and my SmartWater bottle, a fire ring was built and wood collected for the evening fire with the full intent to catch something to cook over it. This evening would end much better than those before it.

While Tom went on with his preparations, I asked him: “Could you eat one fish or two?” “Two” he responded. I rechecked my clinch knots, and in a few minutes of moving along the shore to cast to the circles, I had my first fish, a nice 8 inch brookie. It didn’t reach my recently revised (upward) size standards so back it went. But the next fish was a keeper in the 10 inch range. I yelled to Tom to get the fire started. Trout two, three and four of similar size were collected in short order. I stripped a willow of all but one twig as a temporary stringer and slid the now gutted trout through the gills onto the branch and headed the 200 yards up to our fine encampment. I unfolded the non-stick foil (barely wide enough to contain these beauties) and dusted the brooks with seasoning as Tom reduced the fire to coals. There’s nothing like mountain trout at the end of a long, but thankfully successful, day. We returned to the lake once more to pump water and for Tom to get an impromptu lesson in casting a fly. In moments he was floating the line like an old pro. He’s a studious guy and it was impressive to see him handle the rod. Later, and like you guys did as kids camping in Minnesota, we kept tossing sticks into the fire to keep it aflame into the evening as we sat on our bear canisters and recounted our adventure – to this point – into the darkness.

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