TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Reports or links to reports on trips.

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torpified
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TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by torpified »

Thursday May 30: Ann Arbor to Houghton Super 8

Mr torpified’s taxonomy of my activities includes the genus “hair-shirt backpacking trip.” Placing this excursion in that genus, he opted out. I made my way alone across two pleasant peninusulae to the Super 8 in Houghton.

Friday May 31: Houghton Super 8 to McCargo Cove

The Ranger had 18 passengers. 5 were headed off for a summer of work with the park concessionaire. 3 others disembarked at Mott Island, where they delivered pizzas they’d been carrying since Houghton to expectant friends. That left 10 bona fide tourists. Fortunately, one of them, readily identifiable from this forum and the lode of photographic equipment surrounding him, was chief54. While we waited to board, he showed me some staggering pictures of galaxies and birds eating other birds. We established that he was carrying individual cameras that weighed as much as my entire kit.

Even before the Ranger cleared the breakwater, I’d come to appreciate that people carrying cameras you couldn’t lift are good people to know. I have comically terrible eyes. I also have a sensitivity to incongruities that borders on the socially unacceptable. So it often happens that when I survey landscapes, I notice smudges interrupting their rhythms---but have no idea whether I’m looking at rare wildlife or a wayward grocery bag. On this voyage of the Ranger, thanks to chief54 showing me pictures he’d just taken, I got to see what I was seeing---including, most memorably, a juvenile eagle puffing up his scraggly plumage in what looked like an attempt to seem grownup.

A backpacker headed for Three Mile paced me down the Tobin Harbor trail out of Rock Harbor. The last human I’d see until McCargo Cove, he peeled away at Suzy’s Cave. A hare welcomed me to the far side of the walkway over Tobin Creek. Less welcoming were a pair of nesting(?) sandhill cranes I passed on the south side of the oceanic beaver pond along the lower reaches of the Mt Franklin trail. The cranes bugled earsplitting creaky recriminations at me. As if that weren’t scarring enough, one raced to a spot 10 meters ahead of me and starting walking down the trail I was walking on in the direction I was walking it. He howled angrily all the while. As an evasive maneuver, this left something to be desired. He kept at this for so long that I was beginning to wonder how I was supposed to see any other animals, if a demented crane screaming bloody murder was hellbent on escorting me across the island. Then he remembered that he was a bird, pivoted 90 degrees, and flew back towards his nest(?). (An explanation of all this more charitable than crane lunacy is that he was intentionally leading me away from the nest. I know other birds do this, but do cranes?)

After stopping to admire the views and take the obligatory selfie atop Mt Franklin, I tried to get used to walking the Greenstone Ridge so late in the day and so early in the trip. I’d started out this afternoon around when I usually knock off for the day, and every other time I’ve visited this stretch of the Greenstone, it was after a few days, rather than few hours, on the island.

Distractions helped. Soon after the trail breaks out into the open, I watched my first-ever non-campground fox, a strawberry blonde, hunting in a clearing. So intent was she on the possibility of rodents rustling under the grasses that it took her a while to notice me. Then she was off like a shot. At Mt Ojibway, I took a break to climb the fire tower stairs, more rickety than I remembered, as far as was legal. My official objective for the day was East Chickenbone. Arriving with hours of daylight left and just a few miles to McCargo, I elected to carry on.

It was a good call. The East Chickenbone trail drops into and climbs out of a series of beaver-impacted landscapes, ranging from flagrantly active dams to the long meadows that beaver ponds turn into. All were beautiful in the late afternoon light. Some of the dams were veritable engineering marvels, incorporating three or more terraces and, in one case, a length of PVC pipe the builders had customized by gnawing full of holes. At one of the dams, I saw a resident slap her tail and dive, leaving behind a splash worthy of a humpback whale breaching. I stayed to watch for a while in case she resurfaced---and was partially rewarded when a colleague of hers, invisible one terrace up, slapped and dove, leaving a towering splash.

The beavers of East Chickenbone are some arrogant rodents. They’d been working to fell trees hundreds of meters from their lodges, and working as well to fell trees of preposterous girth. Were the wolves of Isle Royale to come to me for advice, I’d counsel them to start hunting East Chickenbone beavers. They seem humongous, maybe even evolutionary throwbacks to the giant beavers who roamed the earth during the Pleistocene. One of them could probably feed a pack for a month. And the ones obsessively gnawing on massive birch trees a quarter mile from shelter should be easy to catch.

I rolled into McCargo a little after 8. Two others on lengthy solo escapades---8 and 10 days respectively, I think---were working on catching their dinner. I set up in Shelter 6 with plenty of time for the evening routine---laundry, dinner, journal jotting---before sundown. A good thing too, because my headlamp was dead!

Animals:
eaglet
Loons
Merganser
hare
Cranes, deranged … or savvy?
fox
beaver

I'm going to try attaching some pictures--deragned crane, E Chickenbone boardwalk, beaver handiwork--- then continue the report in a post replying to this one . . .
Attachments
E Ch boardwalk.jpg
beaver handiwork.jpg
deranged crane.jpg
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by torpified »

Saturday June 1: McCargo to North Desor

Overnight the loons sounded like feuding gangs of howler monkeys having a rumble. It seemed like something large was doing cannonballs off the dock. A wolf howled in a distance. It was cold enough that I wore more clothes than usual to bed, but not so cold that I wore all the clothes I had with me. The moon was new, which meant those forced to venture out in the wee hours at least were treated to the brilliance of the stars. I slept in, knocked over my coffee at breakfast, and struck out down the Minong a little after 9.

The stretch to Todd Harbor, where I stopped for an early lunch, was raptor-riddled and rewarding. Shortly after lunch I saw another hare, and two shameless squirrels in the middle of the trail engaged in an activity meant to produce more squirrels. After the turnoff to Hatchet, I was in new (to me!) territory. The trail climbed steeply into and out of some stellar beaver habitats. I found more grist for my prehistoric beaver mill: a cluster of hefty trees circled by gnaw marks 4 feet off the ground. (An unattractive alternative hypothesis is that normal-sized contemporary beavers did this while snow lay deep on the ground.) When the trail gained ridges, it tended to follow them for a while. The ridges themselves were sparsely wooded, and this early in the season, not sufficiently leafed-out to obstruct views of the lake and the Canadian shore.

When I stopped for a snack at the junction to Little Todd, dozens of mosquitos beset me. Fortunately, they appeared to be vegetarian. Still, I got moving. And the trail got AMAZING. For over four almost solid miles, it skittered up and down a sequence of rocky ridges protruding from the island like the spikes from the spine of a stegosaurus. The views stretched endlessly, and Superior was a patchwork quilt of colors and textures.

I positively enjoyed picking my way across these ridges. The cairnage was subtle---sometimes just a pair of rocks the same color as the rocks they were stacked on—but it was not malicious. The trail usually did more or less what I was expecting it to, and it was rare for me to take more than a dozen steps before encountering something---a cairn at my feet or silhouetted on the horizon, where they’re easiest to see---confirming that I was on the right track. In general the very things that made this bit of the Minong more challenging than other trails on the Island---the frequent ascents and descents, the rocky treadway, the micronavigational puzzles---also made it more fun, at least in my book. (And my book is discerning: headwinds, mudwallows, and lightning storms are all challenges I count as fun-undermining.) I loved it.

From one of the ridgetops I heard some snuffsnuffing down in the woods, and glimpsed a moose. The glimpsing was reciprocal, and the moose fled. Shortly after I’d worked out how many miles I’d covered in the last 24 hours and began to inflate with self-congratulation, I met a quartet of Marqueteers coming the other direction. They were RUNNING the Minong in a day, while the Voyageur ferried their gear around to await them at McCargo.

The spur trail to N Desor felt alarmingly like a game trail at first, but it delivered me to a wooded lakeside campground. I had the run of the place and set up in site #1. The usual chores, defending my belongings against the onslaught of a particularly naughty squirrel, and a long peaceful spell of lakewatching occupied the evening. With the help of my tent, I passed a cozy night marked by a few loon calls and the distant howling of what may or may not have been a wolf.


Animals:
Raptors, various
Hare
Porn squirrels
Frog, who tried to distract me when I was teetering across the fractured log over the creek before Little Todd
Moose!
Trail runners
loons

Sunday June 2: N Desor to Washington Creek

Lest I lose track of my advanced age and fragile dignity, I have a tricky sacroiliac that undertakes to remind me. It’s never acted up on backpacking trips --- I think the hipbelt serves as some sort of ersatz truss---but I nevertheless spend 10 minutes every morning wriggling around on my back in a ritual designed to appease the joint. This morning tall straight birches guided my eyes skyward---where redtailed hawk passed overhead.

Back on the Minong, which continued its spectacular ways for another ridge or so, then mellowed. And the moose came out. The first two I heard, then saw---and, then, despite my best attempts to be non-existent, they twigged me and scarpered.

If you’ve read my other trip reports, you know that (i) I always have pratfalls during a trip, and (ii) I like to get these over with early, ideally in the parking lot of the hotel the night before the ferry. The deeper I got into this walk, the more worried I got that my pratfall(s) hadn’t happened yet. Plenty of stumbles but nothing depositing me ignominiously in the dirt. After (I think) the first beaver dam, there’s a hilltop blowdowns clutter like pickup sticks. My feet got tangled in some of these and I crumpled to my knees. I didn’t thereupon topple the rest of the way over, though, leaving open the question of whether this really counted as a pratfall. (FORESHADOWING.)

The best moose of the day met me shortly thereafter. He saw me first, and was looking straight at me, ears perked up, when I noticed him. I looked straight back. We appreciated eachother for a while, and then he determined to not-quite-flee. He traced a leisurely semicircle with me at the focus, eventually disappearing into thick brush over my right shoulder. I heard him stop and then---curiosity getting the better of him, I think---start moving back toward me. Just in case his intentions weren’t peaceful, I carried on.

At the Huginnin Cove junction, it was overcast for the first time this trip. It also wasn’t noon yet. I decided to take the long way to Washington Creek, around the Huginnin Cove Loop. The trail passes dilapidated structures, the vestiges of a community who worked the Windigo mines, that do a very effective job of making you grateful for your tent. It reaches and follows the Superior shore, still speckled with unmelted ice from last winter, hemmed in from inland by jumbles of huge, and hugely mossy, boulders. Huginnin Cove camp enticed, but it was still early afternoon, and I had a ferry to catch the next morning. I carried on toward Washington Creek.

Only not without mishap. On a stretch of boardwalk crossing dry land, I let my attention stray to the trail ahead---and tripped over a microstep in the planking hitting the ground so hard that my water bottle (which I cinch down tightly to keep it in place during my flamboyant backpack-donning procedure) ejected. If the boardwalk were over water, I’d have wound up in the drink. This tumble was ridiculous enough to be a pratfall. Except a constitutive feature of a pratfall is that it’s injury-free, and I wasn’t initially sure this tumble met that criterion. I undid my pack straps and crawled over to the ejected bottle for a water break. By the time it was over, I’d determined that no serious damage had been done. Pratfall accomplished, I carried on. Almost immediately, I had either another moose sighting or a vivid hallucination of a moose.

There were 3 other parties at Washington Creek---two quiet hikers I’d get to know better tomorrow, a father-son team heading out tomorrow on the Minong, and a ghostly figure who may (also?) have been hallucinated. I devoured ramen, strolled down to Windigo to use trash cans and flush toilets, and hung out at site 14 watching a loon being a loon in Washington Creek. It was so still I could hear the creek make a suction-y burp around him when he surfaced.

Hawk
Hares
Moose and more moose
loons

to be continued ...after I attach some pictures: beaver arrogance, Minong cairnage, and Minong self-portrait
Attachments
the arrogance of the castor.jpg
cairnage.jpg
self portrait with Minong.jpg
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by torpified »

Monday June 3: Windigo to Rock Harbor (with the Voyageur’s help!)

At Windigo last night, I told the father from the father-son team that I’d finished the serious backpacking part of my trip, and he told me that the son was nearly 16 and nearly an eagle scout. This morning he reported that, due to a dastardly nail, the son was one sleeping pad short of a full kit---and asked if I’d sell him mine. It was pretty obvious that arriving in Rock Harbor without a sleeping pad, I’d have way more opportunity to improvise a tolerable night’s sleep than the almost-16 year old, embarking on the Minong without a sleeping pad, would. So we began an absurdist round of counter-bargaining. The buyer opened by offering significantly more than the merchandise was worth; the seller opened by trying to give the merchandise away. The equilibrium turned out to $40.

Awaiting the Voyageur, I cased the store (which was not “open” but which was unlocked, lit, filled with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, well-stocked, and willing to exchange its wares for money), strolled the nature trail, and thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits at the visitor center. The quiet hikers waited for the Voyageur too. As it puttered toward us across Washington Harbor, I started to put my pack cover on my pack in case the voyage got splashy. Only I fumbled and a gust of wind carried the pack cover off the dock into Washington Harbor. “Oh no!” I exclaimed, aghast at having left a trace. The quiet hikers sprang into action. Exclaiming “I can reach it!” quiet hiker #1 stretched herself out from the dock while quiet hiker #2 anchored her feet to keep her from following the pack cover into the harbor. My packcover retrieved, the ice was broken, and the quiet hikers disclosed that they were NMU students and newlyweds, honeymooning by walking the Greenstone Ridge across the island.

Superior was calm; the trip to Rock Harbor exceedingly pleasant. We stopped to gape at the America, whose bow seemed as close to hand as my packcover had when it flopped dockside. While we paused over the wreck, an OTTER splashed near shore. Through McCargo cove, I sat in the bow with a couple heading to Rock Harbor to join the botany class and a Texan who was travelling with two little kids and two parents. We saw an eagle and the Texan disclosed that on this trip---after IR he still had Indiana Dunes to see-- he was completing an 18 year mission of visiting every national park east of the Mississippi.

In Rock Harbor, I immediately ran into the trail runners and demanded an account of their whereabouts. They warmed up for running the Minong by running the Feldtmann Loop the day they arrived in Windigo and the Huginnin Loop the next day, which they called their “rest day”. I saw them the next day. It took them 8 hours to get to McCargo. Day 4 they backpacked to Chippewa Harbor; Day 5 they water taxied to Rock Harbor, to run to and from places like Lookout Louise and Lane Cove until they had to leave. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but they certainly seemed to be having a splendid time.

Although I failed to acquire a sleeping pad at the trading post, I did manage to buy the quiet hikers two cans of Two Hearted to thank them for rescuing my pack cover. Plan A had been for me to mosey over to Three Mile for the night. But the night was shaping up to be rainy and cold and padless. Indebted to the almost eagle scout for giving me such an honorable pretext for the indulgence, I booked myself into a housekeeping cabin, where I enjoyed ramen while strewing my gear over every available surface.

Animals:
OTTER!
Loons
Bald eagle
hares

Tuesday June 4: Rock Harbor and more Rock Harbor

Overnight it rained and rained some more. It kept raining well into midday. And it wasn’t exactly warm—real hypothermia weather. I wondered how my sleeping pad was faring. After a leisurely pop tart breakfast spent gazing at the weather I was well out of, I strolled to Scoville Point, placing my feet very carefully on the slick rocks. Knowing a warm room and a hot shower awaited me at base camp, I enjoyed seeing the island in the rain and mist, hearing the grumble of mildly angry waves against the shore rocks. With the hypothermia weather continuing even after the rain had abated, a post-lunch canoe on Tobin Harbor didn’t seem very enticing. At the trading post, I got myself a Nevada Barr novel, and passed the afternoon snug under my quilt indoors, napping and reading.

Eventually I summoned the determination to venture to the grill for dinner. Chief54 was photographing the harbor and showed me an amazing milky way picture he’d taken a few nights before. Also in the Greenstone Grill were the quiet hikers, Rolf Peterson and friends, and a waiter I thought I recognized. When I asked if he’d worked here last year, he replied, “It’s my third summer. I love the island. I think about it all the time when I go back to Malaysia.”

Wednesday June 5: Rock Harbor to what passes for reality

I got to breakfast early, because I knew that the botanists (who comprised a dining party of about 16) were back in town. Another early arrival was explaining that he needed to eat fast, because he was supposed to meet a ranger at 7:30. When I pressed him for details, he disclosed (i) that the ranger in question was Phyllis Green, the park superintendent, and (ii) that he’d been dispatched to the island by NOAA to replace outdated electronic equipment on the Rock of Ages and Passage Island lighthouses!

Rumors had been circulating of a mysterious beaver spotted dragging branches around Rock Harbor (I mean the body of water). This perplexed me. Rock Harbor is one of the few places on the island not conspicuously marked by beaver activity. What was it doing there? Taking a professional interest in the crew of lumberjack types converting a few palettes of lumber into a new deck for the grill? The grill had filled with other breakfasters when I noticed a chap out on the Sandy dock photographing something. I looked closer: it was a BEAVER swimming toward the dock with a STICK! “There’s a BEAVER outside swimming with a STICK!” I announced to the other customers, whom I must have struck as some sort of madwoman, as I dashed outside and tiptoed on to the dock. I fully expected the beaver to turn/slap tail and flee once he realized he had an audience. He did no such thing, and kept swimming steadily toward us. A few feet short of the dock he dove, branch in tow, and swam beneath our feet. There, under the dock, safe from the scrutiny of meddling humans, he was undertaking a surreptitious construction project of his own.

Superior afforded smooth passage. Theresa, the awesome Ranger lunch counter manager, chatted with me while I worked my way through about a quart of chili. “I love looking at people’ faces on the way back,” she said. “They’re so beautiful. There’s no stress in them.”

photos: supply delivery Mott island (actually from Day 1), Windigo, sneaky RH beaver
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supply delivery Mott.jpg
RH beaver.jpg
windigo.jpg
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Ingo
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by Ingo »

Thanks for another great report--your way with words is wonderful!
79: worked RH, 01: BI-DB-RH, 02: MC-LR-WL-CH, 05: MI-CI-MB-DF-RH-TM-RH, 09: MC-BI-DN-RH, 11: WC-HC-WC, 12: MC-CB-HL-TH, 13: RH-PI, 14: BI-ML-CI-CH-MB, 16: RH-CI-TI-RH, 17: WI-IM-SB-FL-WC, 18: MC-PC-BI-DB-RH-DF
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by thesneakymonkey »

great read. Thank you! Makes me miss the island even more.
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by Midwest Ed »

Eloquent as ever. Thank you. I must ask though, is photo #6 the selfie you mentioned? I might proffer that those 4 foot high beaver cuts were obtained via some sort of pyramid of two or more beavers working in consort. :shock: :oops:
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by torpified »

#6: is from the Minong, somewhere west of Little Todd. I spared the audience the Mt Franklin selfie.

Short, blunt, castorine pyramid: hadn't occurred to me! Maybe they've been team-building in anticipation of facing off with the new wolves. Here is a low-quality photo of the cuts in question:
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by Tom »

Thanks for the TR! Whenever I see those huge trees being felled by beavers, I can't but help but want to stop one and ask, "Now, exactly how to you plan to move that once it's down?"
I also wonder if once the wolf population establishes, if this little beaver issue might go away...

I also love when we meet fellow hikers from the forum. I can recall sharing a boat ride around from RH to Windigo with chief54 (he went by the name "Alaska" on an old version of this forum, I want to think) some years ago. Great stories and conversation.
I'm off in the morning for the Isle, here's hoping the stories are as good!
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by torpified »

Tom wrote: Sun Jun 09, 2019 10:50 am Whenever I see those huge trees being felled by beavers, I can't but help but want to stop one and ask, "Now, exactly how to you plan to move that once it's down?"
I wonder that too, especially when I see tragedies like the one below: against the odds, heroic beavers manage to gnaw clear through a behemoth tree---only to have it topple over and wedge fast in the crook of the tree next door. One guess is that any beaver delusional enough to believe that she can take down a tree that size is also delusional enough to believe that she can move it once it's down.

Have a great trip --- and tell us about it!
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by dcclark »

torpified wrote: Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:06 pm
Tom wrote: Sun Jun 09, 2019 10:50 am Whenever I see those huge trees being felled by beavers, I can't but help but want to stop one and ask, "Now, exactly how to you plan to move that once it's down?"
I wonder that too, especially when I see tragedies like the one below: against the odds, heroic beavers manage to gnaw clear through a behemoth tree---only to have it topple over and wedge fast in the crook of the tree next door. One guess is that any beaver delusional enough to believe that she can take down a tree that size is also delusional enough to believe that she can move it once it's down.
I saw some huge beaver-felled trees along the trails that the beavers had stripped of their bigger branches. Those branches were probably the right size -- I wonder if that was intentional, or just making the best of a really poor initial decision?
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by Grandpa »

Thanks so much for your report. Your keen sense for the not-so-obvious makes your TR's fun and informative. They help my vocabulary too. I'll try to use "scarpered" in a sentence at the first opportunity!
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by Duffy Moon »

Excellent report! So fun to read. I've been reading a TON of trip reports since making plans to visit IR this summer; when I see one written by Torpified, I know it's going to be an outstanding read. Thanks for sharing this!
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by torpified »

thanks for the thanks! If the accounts are fun to read, I'm glad. They're certainly fun to write. Finding a place near camp with views and scribbling about the day is my favorite evening ritual. Like subsisting on ramen and wearing the same shirt for days on end, it fails to carry over to civilization . . . .
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by bobcat »

I love the bit about counter-bargaining for the sleeping pad! One trip with my brother, a number of years ago, he was tired, out of shape and not enjoying things so we cut the trip short. Sitting on the deck in RH, having a beer, we met a guy who just happened to also live in the Twin Cities near where I lived at the time. My brother mentioned we were going home early "because his hip belt busted on his pack" as a face-saving excuse........and then we couldn't get rid of the other Minnesotan who was determined to lend my brother his pack so we could hike some more, the last thing my brother actually wanted! I guess it's part of the Isle Royale mindset.
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Re: TR: 6/2019 GRT/Minong/etc.

Post by torpified »

Minnesotans! They have a lot to answer for! (In the spirit of full disclosure, "torpified" is a process name I acquired at Carleton College, in Northfield, MN, in the mid-80s.)

This is actually the second consecutive trip where I've offloaded my sleeping pad to needy backpackers whose pads has burst on the last morning. This consolidates my resolve to give up on the fancy gizmos and sleep happily on lowbrown closed foam pads from now on.
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