Monday 27 May 2024

Media Deprivation

    It seems I have always been addicted to media.  I remember my dependence on the newly introduced transistor radios and the “Golden Age of Television” during my elementary education days, and then later when I was in high school and university, record albums and 45’s where added to my addiction.  I then, also became extremely interested in the news too, so it wasn’t only music that I needed.

    Today, you hear a lot about how addicted people have become to their mobile phones and social media, and the how they begin to break out in a sweat when the device is taken away from them.  That always reminds me of our immigration to Canada.

     In order for us to immigrate, I had to take a job that no Canadians wanted.  The job I took was teaching in a one-room school in a very remote lumber camp, with no roads in or out of the place.  Because of its isolation, it was accessed by plane.

    The photo above shows where we lived during our first year (1973) in the camp.  We had to make a lot of sacrifices in order to immigrate, but we were young and adventurous.  

    One of the sacrifices we were forced to make was living in the absence of media, and that was very difficult for us to live with.  The camp was very remote, 110 miles (177km) as the crow flies, away from the nearest town (Ft. St. James), with nothing but forests, lakes and rivers in between.   As a result we had no television reception, and extremely rare radio reception (sometimes at night if the weather was right).  We depended heavily on the mail which was always late and sporadic.  

    I did have my stereo, record albums, and guitar, but I really missed staying current with what was going on in music, so I subscribed to Rolling Stone Magazine.  During those three times a year when we were able to leave camp and get out to some town,(Christmas, Spring Break, and Summer Vacation)  I always bought some new albums of recording artists I had read about.  

    For news, we subscribed to Newsweek Magazine, but it was always 2 weeks or so, out of date by the time it arrived in the camp mail.

    During our second and third year living in the Silvacan Resources Camp, the school district did move in a new mobile home for us to live in, but we still had to do without radio and television reception, and continued to depend on the mail for our information.  Sometimes during Postal Union strikes we had no mail for months.

    After that third year, I resigned the Camp teaching job and took a position in a 2 room school in a hamlet called Avola, where we did have CBC radio and television reception.  That was a big relief after living 3 years without it.

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Sunday 26 May 2024

This Almost Seems Normal

     For the Robson Valley, Spring is normally a season with a lot of rain showers coming off of the Pacific.  After more than a year of extreme drought, we are suddenly beginning to see that string of rain showers once again.  They have been coming daily, and the weather forecast is showing that they might continue for a few days more.  

    This is certainly welcome news, even though the moisture is making the grass in the lawn grow faster, and weeds in my garden are also making up for lost time.  However, the showers have lowered the forest fire danger and that is really a big relief.

    The photo above shows the raindrops trapped on the Lupine leaves.  I have taken similar photos hundreds of times, but still love the effect whenever I see it.

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Saturday 25 May 2024

Local Orchids

    A couple of days ago I was reading an article about scientists trying to save endangered orchids.  They discovered that for many of orchids to grow, particular kinds of fungus have to be growing in their soil.  This made me think of the orchids that grow naturally in the Robson Valley.  I don’t know if they too require a certain fungi to be in the soil.

    Like most people, I always associate orchids with the Tropics, and certainly the tropical orchids are often spectacular in appearance.  BC is home for some orchids, but generally they are not as “showy” as those in the tropics.

    I am aware of three types of orchids that grow locally.  The one in the photo above is the most beautiful of the three.  It is a Calypso Orchid.  I spotted these growing beside the trail that we take up to our waterline on Sunbeam Creek.  

    The photo above is the Mountain Ladyslipper.  They are presently blooming along the path around my pond.   I took this photo this morning.  There are also a variety of yellow Ladyslippers that are sometimes seen.  Unlike most of orchids, Ladyslippers can grow in disturbed areas, and are often seen growing in ditches along roadways.

    The third local orchid that I occasionally see is the Striped Coralroot.  I always expect them to be more beautiful, and its rather dull dark red stripes are always a bit of a disappointment.

    Like I mentioned in the introduction, a lot of orchids are endangered.  Some because their habitat is being destroyed, and others because people dig them up and try to transplant them in their gardens.

    Just let them be and enjoy seeing them in the wild, when you come upon them.

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Friday 24 May 2024

Hey, That's My Name Being Sullied

    The other day I was reading an article from Wired Magazine on my iPad.  It was entitled “Women at the Bottom of the World”, about the abuse dumped on women scientists who travel to do work in Antarctica.  The piece started out telling the story of Jane Willenbring, a 22 year old women working on her Masters in Earth Science at Boston University.  

    She went on a 4 person expedition to Antarctica led by her famous professor of Geology.  The experience turned out to be a nightmare for Willenbring.  In Antarctica, her egotistical and vain professor turned out to be an abusive and cruel jerk.  One of the four people along on the expedition was not even a scientist, it was the brother of the professor, who he had brought along “for fun”.  The professor only provided 3 tents for the 4 people and expected Willenbring to share a tent with his brother.  When she asked why he couldn’t share a tent with his brother, he replied, “Because he likes you.”

    There was a lot more cruelty an abuse to come for Willenbring, but the thing that really shocked me was when I read the name of the professor.  It was David Marchant.  WHAT????

    I was incensed that this jerk had the same name as me.  Somehow that didn’t seem right that someone with my name had acted so callously and cruel toward others, especially women.

    Throughout the 70+ years of my life, my name seemed to be “my” name, a name I tried to always be associated with “good” and “kindness”.  I knew of course that there were other people in the world with the same name, but finding out that the name was also claimed by such a despicable person as this professor was upsetting.  I just hope that all of the other David Marchants out there are honorable people.

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Thursday 23 May 2024

No Mow May


    While this is pretty late in the month to be mentioning this, Greenpeace Canada is urging people not to mow their lawns in May, in order to allow for food for the pollinators.  Not mowing is really a hard sell, because it seems most people treasure sterile-looking, mono-cultured, low cut lawns.  Such lawns are totally useless and even harmful to the world.  They offer nothing, except some misguided pleasure to those who think that is how things should be.

    Every summer I blog about my mowing practices.  I do mow my diverse lawn, but while I am pushing the lawnmower, if I come upon a bunch of wildflowers, I mow around it so that they have time to bloom and reseed.  This of course, makes my lawn look patchy and raggedy to those “lawn-heads” who like everything to look uniform, but I am happy to have the diversity which helps the wild plants and pollinators who are finding our changing environment increasingly more difficult to survive in.

    I do tolerate a lot of blooming dandelions in my lawn.  The bees and other animals love them.  I have even seen Kona chomping on them.  Once they are done blooming, I mow them down.  

    There are a lot of advantages to not mowing so often:  Plant diversity, food for pollinators, money saved on gasoline, and more free time.  Like I said, I will mow them later in the season, while mowing around the other plant species whose lifecycles have them bloom later. 

    Not mowing, does cause a problem now that I am hyper-aware of forest fires.  Tall plants are more prone to catching and quickly spreading fire than do low growing plants, so I have to keep that in mind and make sure I am not causing problems that way.

    Living in a rural area means I have a fairly large lawn, and I tend to mow sections of it at different times, so if I mow an area with a lot of flowering plants, I make sure there is another area with other plants that the pollinators go to and feed on.

    The photos show one area of my lawn that I have purposely not mowed.  The dandelions and forget-me-nots are attracting bees and small pollinators, and beside that, I think it is a lot more interesting to look at that a uniform area of grass, and it is a lot prettier too.

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Wednesday 22 May 2024

House Sprayers for Forest Fire Abatement

    The fact that our weather has turned showery, hasn’t lessened my concern for forest fires.  I spent yesterday installing water sprayers on my house that are designed to lessen the chances of your house burning during a forest fire.  The most important word in that sentence is “lessen” there are no guarantees during a forest fire.  

    The revolving sprayers create a bubble of cool moist air around the house, that should discourage burning, flying ash from a fire, igniting your house or any dry plants, close to your house.  I have two different kinds of sprayers.  One type easily attaches to your gutter, and the other you screw onto the house.   Once the sprayer is on your house, you just screw in a hose, and turn on the water.   The rotating sprayer throws water a surprisingly long distance, and doesn’t require much water pressure.

    My two gutter-attached sprayers were provided by the Regional District and were given out by the McBride Fire Department.  I bought three of the metal screw-in sprayers at Home Hardware.  They were quite pricy at $150 each, but they are much more heavy duty and spray out more water.

    The most difficult part about putting the sprayers on the house was trying to figure out the most strategic and most effective place to put them.

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Tuesday 21 May 2024

A Horrible Stint of Weeding

    Because of an fungal infection in our soil, we can no longer grow garlic or onions in our garden.  Fortunately, our friends the Milnes, allow us to grow garlic in their garden.  Of course, doing that entails some responsibility, mainly keeping our garlic bed clean.  

    Garlic is planted in the fall.  It sits underground all winter, then sprouts in the early spring.  I hadn’t been out to see our garlic until a few days ago.  I was shocked when I walked out to see how our garlic was doing.  The garlic plot had been totally over run by an amazingly thick carpet of weeds.  It was difficult to even see the rows of garlic sticking up.  The weeds were much thicker than they have ever been in past years.

    Obviously, this meant that I would have to set aside time to weed the garlic, and what a odious few hours I had to spend on my knees, pulling out all those thousands of weeds.  It took me sessions on two different days to get the job done, and after each session, I could hardly walk, because of forcing myself into long periods of time in the kneeling position.

    Yesterday, I finally finished the weeding ordeal, and was very happy at doing so as I limped back to the car to go home.  I am glad I got the weeding done, because we are into a couple of days of rain that would have made the weeding even worse.  I will keep a closer eye on the garlic bed in the future, to make sure I weed before things get so out of hand.

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Monday 20 May 2024

Wow, A Chipmunk

    While I have lived here in the Robson Valley for over forty years, I still occasionally come upon an animal that I had never before seen on our property.  That happened the other day when I was coming around the greenhouse after a walk around the pond.  My eye caught a glimpse of some small mammal scampering away.  My first thought was that it was a young squirrel, but as I stood still, the animal came back into view which allowed me to see the white stripes on it’s back, and I realized it was a chipmunk.

    I had never seen a chipmunk on our property, although I knew they lived in the area.  Once when I climbed up to the rockslide, just below the rock bluffs that are situated high on the slope above our house, I did see a chipmunk, but that was the only time.  Last year, our neighbor Glen told me he had a pair of chipmunks spend the summer around his house, so maybe the chipmunks are starting to explore life at lower elevations.

    Chipmunks only eat seeds.  While they can sometimes be spotted “eating” berries and fruit, what they are actually eating is just the seeds inside.  Chipmunks dig two meter-long burrows where they spend the winter.  They stock their burrows with about 2 liters of saved seeds that they gather.

    Yesterday, Kona spent hours of time outside, staring down and chasing some small animal, and I wonder if she too, has now discovered the chipmunk.

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Sunday 19 May 2024

A Gathering at Froese's Farm

    Rick, who I referred to as “our Jam’s roadie,” always helped us put everything away when we were done playing, is moving away.  Mark and Irene Froese held a farewell party for Rick at their farm on Friday.  I had never been out to their farm before, and while I had heard about their amazing barn from friends, I must say I was totally blown away when I saw the beautiful structure for myself.  It is certainly a show piece.

    Mark and Irene raise bison on their farm, as well as other animals.  They are also Workaway hosts.  The Workaway organization enables people from all over the world, to travel and spend time in  interesting and unique places (like McBride), working while they explore their new surroundings.  It is an inexpensive way for the mostly young people, to see the world and to experience new situations and cultures.  Over the years, workaways from all over the world, who were staying at Froeses, have come to our Jam to watch or to join us in making music.

    Froese’s fancy barn is set up to be the home for the workaways during their stay.  The photo below shows the interesting kitchen area for the workaways.  I especially liked the upper balcony-like library, with the heavy-duty fishing net to protect them from falls.  

   After the outside potluck dinner for Rick’s farewell party,  The group gathered around a campfire to continue visiting with each other, as dusk turned to night.  It was a very enjoyable gathering, and I thank Mark and Irene for putting it on.


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Saturday 18 May 2024

Moving to the "Big City": The Village of McBride

    After living in those tiny places of the Silvacan Camp and Avola, we really felt like we needed to put down some roots in a bigger community.  We had traveled through McBride several times, and were impressed with its scenic beauty, and so, after I resigned from my teaching position in Avola, we made some trips to McBride to see what kind of real estate was available.

    We found a 5 acre “hobby farm” down a dirt road for sale, and although the house wasn’t that impressive, we loved the way the land was situated between two mountain ranges, and its agricultural base.  We bought the property for the $30,000 asking price.  

    McBride with its population of about 700 people, had no stop signs or franchised stores, but had a couple of grocery stores, a couple of hardware stores, several gas stations, some restaurants, an art community, and a library, but most important, it had a lot of people our age, who held the “Back to the Land” and “counter-culture” views and values similar to ours.  It was the first place we had lived in, where this was true.  It gave us a wonderful social life.

    Reading back through my diaries, I was amazed at how often we gathered with friends, usually several times a week.  There were dinners, parties, hikes, skiing, playing music, and watching movies (once VCR video tapes came out).  The tiny Village of McBride gave us the real sense of community that we had been seeking.


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Friday 17 May 2024

Avola: The Second Largest Place We Lived In Canada

    After we lived three years in the extremely isolated Silvacan Resources Camp, we had really had enough of the sacrifices that we had had to make, and we needed a bit more freedom of movement.  I resigned my teaching job in the one-room school, and I started looking around for another teaching position.  I found one as Head Teacher, teaching in a two-room school in Avola, BC.  

    We had never been there, and I took the job over the phone, hoping it would be an okay place to live.  It was at least on a highway, so we could at least drive places, unlike the Silvacan job.  The first time we drove into Avola, we were met with threatening dark clouds and heavy rain; an indication of what our future there would be.

    Avola, wasn’t much.  The unincorporated community with a population of about 50, had a gas station, a motel, a pub, and a convenience store, but that was about all.  The school district provided us with a teacherage to live in.  There were very few people in the community that we could relate to or that shared similar values, only a retired couple with a small farm, who held the social and environmental views.  

    While we enjoyed a lot of new freedoms (being able to drive places, regular mail delivery, and television and radio reception), we found ourselves still isolated in many respects.  If we want to buy groceries (or other supplies), go to a library, or do our laundry, we had to drive an hour to Clearwater, BC, which was a larger community.

    My teaching job was horrible, with terrible kids.  In most places, the majority of kids are normal, with just a couple of “bad apples”, Avola offered the reverse.  As a result I resigned after that first year, and we looked around to find a more suitable community to live in.

  The pinkish house is the teacherage where we lived in Avola.  The log building with white windows was an old heritage school building. 

   Tomorrow:  Moving to McBride, BC


Thursday 16 May 2024

Blog Interrupted By This Special Weather Report

    I was going to blog today about Avola, BC, the second largest place we lived in after immigrating to Canada, but instead I am happily going to report that we have gotten RAIN!   The precipitation is supposed to continue for the next couple of days.

    Readers know how worrying it has been for us so far this spring, with our drought, and the extreme forest fire hazard it has caused.  Certainly the moisture we have gotten and will be getting, will lessen our fire hazard several notches, and also our worrying.

    Yesterday, I was given by the McBride Fire Department, two sprayers that attach to the outside of my house to lessen the fire danger.  I also bought three additional ones at the hardware store.  I now have to figure out where the most advantages spots are, to attach them.

    On these rainy days, everything looks so green and the sweet smell of spring intensifies.  I had planted most of my garden, and had been shocked at my soil.  It was like dust.  Hopefully now, the rain will encourage those things I had planted to grow and poke through the soil.

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Wednesday 15 May 2024

Tiny McBride is the Largest Place We've Lived, in Canada

    When we tell city folk that we live in the Village of McBride, they often wonder how we survive in such a tiny place.  I then surprise them by saying that McBride is actually the biggest place we have lived in, since immigrating to Canada.  

    We were able to immigrate in 1973, because I had taken a job teaching in a one-room school located in the wilderness of Central British Columbia.  The school was in a lumber mill and there were no roads into the camp, it was only accessible by plane, a very slow train, or the “water taxi”.   There were just a few families that lived in the camp, most of the workers flew in and out on a DC3 plane that the mill owned.

    The Silvacan Camp was the first place we lived in Canada. The photo above shows the Silvacan Camp in the lower right.  We lived there for 3 years.  There was no television reception, and only rare radio reception on some nights.  For the first year and a half, there was no store in the camp.  Because of the school schedule, we were only able to leave the camp at Christmas, Spring Break, and Summer Vacation (other than medical emergencies).  

    That first year I had no school building and had to I teach in the camp’s recreation building with it’s pool table and coke machine.  That yellowish building in the photo below was our new school building, which was moved in during my second year.

    The photo at the bottom shows the camp during our second year.  The plywood building on the right is the camp “store” that enabled us to buy some groceries.  During our first year we ate at the camp’s dining trailer.

    Tomorrow, I will show you the second place where we lived in Canada

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Tuesday 14 May 2024

Remembering the Fire Escape Chute

    For some reason, lately I have been thinking a lot about Highland School, my old elementary school.  I visualize how the interior looked, and the layout of the rooms.  The most distinct memory I have of the school was the metal fire escape chute that was attached to the side of the 1923 brick building.

     I could find no photos of the chute that was attached to Highland School, but I did find the photo above on the internet, that pretty much matches the memory I have of Highland’s fire escape.  However our chute was bit shorter and didn’t go up quite so high.

    Our fire escape chute was a very attractive temptation to us kids.  We were not allowed to play around it or try to climb around inside it, but of course, if we happened to be on the school grounds on a weekend for some reason, with no teachers around, we enjoyed trying to climb up inside the structure and slide down.

    When I was in the third grade, my classroom was on the second floor of the school building, and in our classroom was the short double doors that opened up onto the top of the chute.  Again, our teacher never allowed us to mess around or open the doors, but I can still visualize those doors, because they provoked a potential adventure in my young mind.

    Thinking back, I remember doing fire drills (as well as tornado drills and atomic bomb drills) during my stint at elementary school, but unfortunately, we never got to do any fire drills using the chute.   That would have been quite exciting.

    Below is an old photo of Highland School, as it appeared in the 1920‘s, shortly after it was built.  By the time I attended the school the landscape had changed, but the building itself looked the same.  The fire escape chute was on the left side.   After about the third year of my attendance, an addition was added on to Highland which included a new cafeteria and additional classrooms, but the old original school building continued to be used for classrooms and for the gym.

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Monday 13 May 2024

Yikes, What Does That Mean?

    Yesterday morning, we heard the “Thump, thump, thump” of a large helicopter getting ever closer to our house.  I went out to investigate, and saw the chopper come through the trees, then hover over the Fraser River, which is just below our property.  After hovering for a while, it rose, and I could see below it, dangling from a longline, a Bambi Bucket.   A Bambi Bucket is a large collapsible bucket used to collect water from a lake or river, which is then dumped on a forest fire.

    Ever since the forest fire we were evacuated from last year, our paranoia about fires has increased.  On Friday, over our mobile phones we heard the evacuation alert for Crescent Spur, the closest community west of McBride.  It is 25 miles, as the crow flies, from our property.  That fire, which was caused by a spark from the railroad, spread, jumped the Fraser River, and has burned 220 hectares (550 acres).  It is still not contained, according to the latest information from the Forest Service.

    When I saw the Bambi Bucket yesterday, I assumed that it was getting water out of the Fraser to fight the fire in Crescent Spur, but then the helicopter turned around, and flew east, instead of west.  This was very worrying, because we were not aware of any fires east of us, and the fact that it was getting water from the Fraser, close to our house, seemed to indicate that there was a fire nearby.  

    The helicopter, flying east, disappeared behind the trees, leaving us very concerned.  About fifteen minutes later, we heard the helicopter again approaching.  However, this time it was flying higher, still with the Bambi Bucket in tow.  It didn’t stop over the Fraser to fill the bucket, but continued heading west at good clip.

    I then assumed that the first time we spotted it, it was just testing the Bambi Bucket, and then once it was clear that it was working, it headed for the Crescent Spur fire.  

    Just as I was writing that last sentence, a helicopter flew by.  I went out on the balcony to see it.  It was a smaller helicopter with no bucket, probably heading to the Crescent Spur fire to check what it is doing.

    The area we live in is presently under “Extreme” Fire Danger, so I guess we have the right to be concerned and suspicious whenever we see something like a helicopter with a Bambi Bucket, picking up water in the river just below our house. 


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Sunday 12 May 2024

A Memorable Hike to the Natural Arch

        In 1977 upon moving to the Robson Valley, I was, of course, very eager to explore the wild and pristine mountain landscape that surrounded us.  Once, while traveling along Highway 16 between Dunster and McBride, a local resident pointed out the Natural Arch, that could be seen from one particular spot along the highway.  The Arch was very distant and high upon a mountain, but with careful examination, it could be seen.

        I was immediately intrigued with the stone arch and put it on my bucket list of places I wanted to explore more closely.  In my early days of discovering landscape photography, I had been very impressed with photos of some of the natural arches in the US Southwest, showing the reddish stone structures arching against the deep blue sky.  I longed to get up to the Natural Arch and take a similar photo.

        In 1990 I got a chance when I joined a group of hikers who planned a trek up to the arch.  There were eight of us that met up for the day hike.   The group was made up of members of the Ozalenka Hiking Club, with one exception:  Harry Barber, the District Manager for our Forest District.  I was surprised that he showed up for the hike, but that was no problem.

    We started up the trail at 10:00.  The trail was a fairly unrelenting grunt up the steep incline.  About 1:00 we had reached the viewpoint where we could see the Arch.  After a very grueling hike to get to a place where the Arch could be clearly seen, the Natural Arch itself was a bit of a disappointment.

        The photos that I had imagined I would take of the arch standing against a blue sky, were just not feasible, because the arch was situated across a steep valley with another steep slope behind it, and wherever I went to take a photo, instead of sky, I always just got the arch in front of the similarly colored slope which didn’t really make for a stunning picture.  The surrounding area was very steep, and so I couldn’t really get very close to the arch, it could only be viewed it from a distance.

    When everyone had had enough of viewing the arch and it was time to hike back down to the vehicles, the group split.  The females among us chose to go down we way we had come, while us guys, chose to hike further up through the snow to the ridge above the arch, then trek to the nearby “Barker Ridge Trail” and go down an old Caterpillar tractor trail that had been made during an old agricultural experiment to encourage sheep grazing the the alpine.

        As us guys began to descend downward, we left the alpine and entered the forested area of the trail.  That is when things turned horrible.  

    The steep “cat” trail was nuts. We were suddenly surrounded by an explosion of mosquitoes.  There was no way to escape them.  We just had to continue non-stop downward.  It was exhausting, my legs began to really hurt, but there was no resting; stopping meant being attacked by the unrelenting aggressive mosquitoes.  

    At one point, Harry Barber, the Forestry District Manager (and the big  boss at Forestry, who had just weeks before warned me I could lose my job if I didn’t quit my environmental activities) twisted his ankle, so he had to make his descent down the steep slope very carefully and slowly.  He could walk, but not very quickly.  He became mosquito food.  I’m afraid the torment of the seemingly thousands of mosquitoes, prompted the rest of us guys just to leave Harry to his slow and miserable descent, while we continued down as fast as we could, to escape the hungry pests.

    Once we had arrived at the parking area at 7:00, we were surprised to discover that the females had not yet gotten there.   We hung around in the mosquito-free area where the trucks were parked, relaxing from our ordeal.  Eventually, Harry made it down, and then a bit later, the group of females arrived, and we all headed home.

    Our hike to the Natural Arch had certainly been a memorable one.  I could hardly walk for the next two days because my legs ached so much from the hike.  That, coupled with the Attack of the Killer Mosquitoes, forever dampened my enthusiasm for ever returning to the Natural Arch again.

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