Mount Tacoma | 2 Days in Mount Rainier National Park

Just looking through the photos for this post is making me want to go back pretty badly. The worst part? I know that we have a busy summer ahead of us and probably won’t make this happen. I feel I need to admit to myself that Mount Tacoma (Mt. Rainier) and I were just a summer fling. There could have been something great between us, but we both knew we were moving in different directions (okay, Mount Tacoma isn’t exactly leaving). I’m really, really glad we met, and our time together really was great.

mount tacoma/mount rainier

Like I’ve said, I really did love/thoroughly enjoy/do highly recommend all the other parts of the road trip that we took last August, including our Portland, Hood River, and Bend time and our Oregon Coast time. But the two days that we spent in Mt Rainier National Park easily win.

mount tacoma/mount rainier

We had the most gorgeous day for our “long” hike, as you’ll see in the photos. After eight days of campfire bans in state parks, the two nights/mornings with campfires seemed entirely too fun. Camping mid-week meant we even got to enjoy a ranger-led storytelling program, something that we haven’t done before. Everything about these two days was perfect within our little worlds.

mount tacoma/mount rainier

Our hike, the ever-popular and easily accessible Skyline Trail, might be on the beaten path, but was nevertheless lovely. So lovely, in fact, that it actually brought me to tears at one point. I just had to cry at how beautiful everything was and how happy I was in that moment. I know you’re assuming I’m a softy right now, and you’re maybe not entirely wrong, but this sort of thing doesn’t happen that often to me. Clear little streams with tiny wildflowers in the foreground and that towering, glacier-covered Mount Tacoma in the background. It’s hard not to feel blessed beyond measure when you’re placed in this setting. (I didn’t ask the twelve-year-olds who were forced to hike this with their parents, ha).

Ay, okay, I’ll stop my blabbing and leave you with our photos for a bit.

skyline trail, mount rainier national park, mount tacoma

skyline hike mt tacoma/mt rainier national park

skyline hike mt tacoma/mt rainier national park

skyline hike mt tacoma/mt rainier national park

skyline hike mt tacoma/mt rainier national park

As you’ll notice, I look like a gomer person who is actually hiking while we’re hiking. Have you read this article about beauty/travel yet? And yep, I guess I do post photos of myself relatively often, huh?

Mount Tacoma | 2 Days in Mount Rainier National Park

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

After hike one, we spent some time stopping at overviews, visiting waterfalls, and reading at the campsite before prepping our last campsite meal for the trip.

waterfall near mt tacoma

campsite food mt tacoma mt rainier

Like I said, I know that for the foreseeable future there will be no more Mount Tacoma in my life. But golly, even the thought of being able to return later in life makes me giddy. (I do seriously hope that there are glaciers galore remaining). Until we meet again…

skyline hike mt tacoma mt rainier

 

 

Camping the Oregon Coast Part | Sand Dunes, Rolling Waves, and Lots of Seafood

oregon coast short hikeSometimes I’m still awed at how new places can still feel so wonderful and make me feel so small, particularly after I have researched the places I am visiting in depth during the planning stages. I love poring over photos; planning is fun, and neither of these take the wonder out of the actual travel for me. Ahh, vacation, I miss you.

I loved our time in Portland, Hood River, and Bend. But because of forest fires, voracious hunger interest in eating as many things in Portland as possible, and wanting to simply enjoy the company of Leah without rushing around, we didn’t hike too much, even though we spent plenty of time outdoors around campsites and picnic tables.

After leaving Bend and reaching the coast, our trip seemed to open up a little, allowing more time for hikes, morning beach coffee and even beach yoga! Yeah, I know, I’m totally that person you saw while on your vacation.

oregon covered bridge

Our first stop was near Florence, Oregon. We stayed in Jessie M Honeyman Memorial State Park. The campgrounds here are large, and while that means your campsite might not be completely isolated, we still really enjoyed it and found a nice site easily. Trees that large between your site and your neighbors’ tend to help.

campsite and tent

coffeemaker on campsite stove

Our first “real” hike of the trip was the delightful John Dellenbeck Dunes Trail. I still, for the life of me, cannot figure out how there was no one hiking this but us. Well, on the way back, we did see one other hiker, but the dunes were spectacular, and we had the ocean all to our selves at the midway point. For a girl who has never been to the world’s great deserts, I was enamored. If I had known what was in store, I might have packed some Moroccan tea, desserts, and had a real, proper desert picnic. 🙂

The trail starts out as pretty unassuming. You’re still on dunes from the get go, but the vegetation has grown in.

John dellenbeck trail

Then, you reach the expanse.

John Dellenback Dunes Trail Oregon

And it gets just a little more surreal.

John Dellenback Dunes Trail Oregon

John Dellenback Dunes Trail Oregon

John Dellenback Dunes Trail Oregon

John Dellenback Dunes Trail Oregon

sand dunes

plant in sand

man walking on sand dunes trail

Then you reach vegetation again.

vine tunnel on sand dunes

Here’s that ocean we had to ourselves.

John Dellenback Dunes Trail Oregon

At this point, we snacked, watched birds, and read for a bit before heading back. The afternoon winds had picked up, making it harder to see the tracks we’d left in the morning. Thankfully, the trail is marked with posts throughout, so our return trip didn’t end with getting lost in the dunes. As I said, for someone who hasn’t had much desert exposure, this hike felt otherworldly. Loved it!

From here, we hiked and camped our way up the coast, stopping at bakeries, craft breweries, and all roadside attractions. We hiked short stints at Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout State Park, and Cape Meares. We saw the Haystack Rock plus a couple other haystack rocks. We stopped for seafood lunches and made purchases at fish shops for campfire/campsite meals. Every lookout seemed to be a must-stop. And it was hard to put the camera away…

oregon coast

oregon coast

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

We all have hiking skirts, right?

oregon coast camping trip meals

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip

bird with baby birds

oregon coast camping trip

oregon coast camping trip crabcakes

berries in pancakes

oregon coast camping trip buoy brewing

oregon coast camping trip mate at beach

After a few days of coastal living, we wandered back inland. We didn’t reach our last stop of the trip until just after sunset, so we were surprised in the morning to see this giant waiting for us.

mount rainier mount tacoma

But I’ll save this beauty for another post. As always, thanks for reading.

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Here’s a list of the places we visited along the way and would recommend to others for camping, eating, imbibing, or stocking up on interesting foodstuffs.

Camping

Restaurants/good places to buy fun food

Stops for Beer Pilgrims

Biscuits, Breeze, and Brews | A Trip to Portland, Hood River, and Bend

For months I was certain I was going to stop blogging. I was planning to just let it disappear into the web oblivion. My computer had crashed, and I thought I’d–at least temporarily–lost my motivation for blogging. I wasn’t really sure why I was doing it. Sure, I like to have a webspace to track my learning, but I could do that off-blog too.

Portland Guest House

Then a friend asked me about Sevilla and I was able to easily look up our photos from any computer. And then Jordan and I wondered what we were doing for his 30th birthday and we could track it down. And then someone asked me about my home state and I was easily able to share snippets from home by accessing the blog. Friend 1 convinced me I should renew, just in case I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to stop blogging.

And somewhere along the line, although I am still computerless, I decided while I like sharing about excursions but feel a bit sheepish about doing so, I do like having an accessible digital travel and learning journal 🙂

So I’m back. And sharing about our trips and excursions from last year. The good news? We’ve been quite the homebodies in the last six months because we’ve been quite busy, so it won’t take me too long to catch up.

——————-

Last August, the mister and I rented a car and took ten days off to explore the Pacific Northwest of the US. He’s been to Seattle and Olympic National Park before, and obviously we’ve seen a bit of BC, but otherwise, neither of us had really had a chance to explore this area of the continent before. We took off to Portland, met up with our pal Leah (you might be able to see a bit of family resemblance, too), and then explored Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, and Bend together.

Our time in Portland was more limited than we wanted it to be, but we also wanted to save as much money as possible by camping as much as possible. That means we squeezed as much eating and brewery visiting into 36 hours as possible. For the record, the visit to Pok Pok did convince us to buy the cookbook (okay, I used store credit…) upon return.

Portland didn’t disappoint. It was as tasty, as hilarious, as hipster as we had expected. The brews as varied and delightful. The bookstore as great as I’d hoped. The coffeeshops were as pretentious (but still as good) as we’d hoped. I couldn’t hold the giggles in!

portland food truck court
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waffles portland

powells books portland

powells books portland

heart coffee portland

biscuits and gravy portland

pearl bakery portland

After getting our Portlandia on, we headed to the gorge, saw Oregon’s most well-known waterfall, and kept on moving to Hood River. We camped just north of town across that wee bit scary bridge in Hood River. We hit up Pfriem and Double Mountain breweries in the afternoon, took out our bread and charcuterie at the campground and had a mini feast while checking out the scenery.

multnomah falls

mulnomah falls oregon

pfriem brewery

columbia river gorge

pfriem

camping hood river

Before heading to Bend, we stopped a lavender farm (about a month too late for too much purple) for a picnic. The farm was surrounded by orchards as well, so we stopped by one randomly to stock up on some fruit for the road.

mt hood lavender

picnic oregon

mt hood lavender farm

lavender

mt hood lavender

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If you remember all the way back to August, you might remember that the news was full of information regarding forest fires. Our intentions were to hike a few lovely hikes in Bend and then head to the Crater Lake Area. Sadly, the hikes near Bend weren’t exactly easy breathing nor complete with their normally beautiful views. The most convenient entrance into Crater Lake National Park was also closed. Still, we made the best of our time, taking a bit of time for hanging around the campfire pits that we weren’t allowed to use due to the burn ban, visiting Deschutes Brewery, and hiking some easy hikes. And since I’m like referring back to these posts for birthday info, it’s worth noting that I turned 30 years old in Bend 🙂

bend oregon camping

bend oregon hike

bend oregon hike

bend oregon hike

bend oregon rapids

bend oregon

bend oregon lava

bend oregon lava

Sadly this is where we had to part ways with Leah. We were so thankful and grateful that she was able to take the time and meet us for this leg of the trip. Being with these two is always full of laughs and fun 🙂

bend oregon lava

From Bend, Mr. and I headed west, hitting the coast, but I’m most certainly not going to bog you down with all the photos in one post. Happy to be back. Hope it’s for a while 🙂

Two Days in the North Cascades | Weekend Camping and Hiking Trip

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Before we packed our rental car full of cut-rate camping gear, we read that people referred to the North Cascades National Park as the “Alps of North America”. Oh, I had a laugh. First of all, I was skeptical, because any place/thing that has to use another to explain itself always seems to be grasping.

Then we went. And it does have those turquoise lakes that so enchanted me as a study-abroad-Euro-trip-kid. And it has those valleys filled with waterfalls. And it has those snow-capped peaks. It has amazing alpine meadows. I see the similarities. Still, I hesitate to call it the “Alps of North America” because we needn’t refer to everything in the “new world” according to their closest “old world” comparison. Let the North Cascades be their own thing. They merit that.

I squealed with glee a couple times during our first 7ish mile hike. (We hiked Heather-Maple Pass, which is actually located just outside the park).

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades national park trip

north cascades

north cascades

north cascades

I had an ambitious two-day hiking itinerary planned for us. We were to hike 12 miles on back to back days. An ankle roll got in the way, but we still logged about 12 on day one and another mile or so on day two. The fact that we didn’t get my top-pick hike in combined with the fact that our camera battery was not charged before we left means I’m itching to get back. Unfortunately, our fall is already filling up (I’ve now got two job schedules to balance, am heading to SoDak for some weddings, hope to make it to Wisconsin sometime, Jordan’s got his own work and school scheduling conflicts, and I am trying to weasel in a trip to Victoria when my in-laws visit). Soon there will be snow there, and frankly, our travel and weekend trip budget could probably use a bit of a recovery period after we get back from South Dakota. Alas, next late spring/summer might be our next chance to visit.

Still, we made use of our time, reading glacier-fueled riverside, visiting the Cascadian Farms organic fields for an ice cream and berry stop, shopping at the Mazama Store, and eating some less-than-healthy, but delicious barbeque in Marblemount.

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cascadian farms

ice cream at cascadian farms

This park, my friends, is free to visit and relatively un-visited compared to the likes of Yellowstone and Yosemite. Hard for me to understand when it’s this beautiful.

Until we meet again, North Cascades National Park, until we meet again.

We Go Where Sister Wants to Go | A Day Trip in the Cowichan Valley

Cowichan Valley Kinsol Trestle Bridge View

Oh, man, guys. I don’t know how I let these things happen. It’s been nearly four months since my lil’ sis and I visited Vancouver Island. I’m just now getting around to posting. Sure, I’ve had other things going on, I’ve been working a schedule approximating something like full time (sometimes more, sometimes less depending upon the week), but mostly I feel like I’ve just been trying to sneak in as much biking, as many microbrewery visits, and Spanish classes as our schedules allow.

I promise, though, the fact that I let so much time pass before writing about this does not mean you shouldn’t make a point to visit this region of BC. (Alas, so much BC, so little time!)

Before visiting, Sister did some research, found some things she thought looked interesting, and told me she was leaning toward visiting Cowichan Valley. I’ll admit, I was caught unawares. I’ve heard of oodles of things to visit in BC, and this wasn’t really one of them. I even asked some Vancouverite coworkers who responded with, “Where?”

But when a visitor actually researches what she wants to do, I do not get in the way.

We hopped the Tsawwassen ferry to Victoria* and rented a car to explore the valley for the day. Sadly, just a day, but we made the most of it.

Early on we stopped a bit, so Midwest Gal #2 could meet the Douglas firs and moss of British Columbia.

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vancouver island tree

We continued north, making our way to the Kinsol Trestle. (From the parking area, hit the trail, turn left, and walk an easy mile to the bridge. It’s an impressive piece of construction and has been rehabilitated. There’s no doubt it’s safe enough for you to walk or bike across these days, but imagine loaded trains crossing these old wooden trestles years ago. Eek! The bridge really does make for a nice walk, a nice view, and a nice excuse to get out of the car.

The weather was chilly, so the sunny patches on the trestle were much appreciated.

kinsol trestle cowichan valley

kinsol trestle cowichan valley view

kinsol trestle cowichan valley

kinsol trestle

Post trestle, the hour became nearly justifiable for visiting wineries. The Cowichan Valley is home to quite a few–far too many, I assure you, for just one day. You’ll have to do a bit of research and choose those that suit your wants the most. Or, you can just go to one and ask them about the others.

The gentlemen at Enrico Winery were chatty and had some good recommendations for things to do nearby and in Victoria. They also took a good bit of time to explain some basics about BC varietals to us. The owner (too much time has passed, I forgot her name) at Cherry Point Estate Wines is full of fun stories and lovely to chat with as well. Also, be sure to stock up on Lágrimas Negras and a bottle of the Solera dessert wine (a gift that the Mister thoroughly enjoyed). Finally, we visited Averill Creek, which has a wonderful view and terrace. Really, we should have picnicked there, but we were ill-prepared. Still, a lovely visit. Still several other wineries that could be visited on a second trip.

cowichan valley

cowichan valley

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Lavender!!

cowichan valley

cowichan valley

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averill creek cowichan valley

cowichan valley averill creek

I know, I know, I said this about the Okanagan Valley as well, but Cowichan Valley really is a great place to visit wineries for people who aren’t well-versed in the lingo of wine. Asking questions was more than tolerated, it was gladly welcomed. Everyone with whom we interacted was very low-key and wasn’t concerned with whether we knew a lot about wine or if we’d end up buying a lot of it from them. It was nice. It was relaxing. It was worth  it. I’d visit again gladly.

Although winery visits took up the bulk of our Cowichan Valley time, we did manage to sneak in a lunch and flânerie time in Cowichan Bay (I recommend visiting the cheese shop and bakery for some foodie splurges) and a bit of time in Duncan (stop by the Garage–check out some used books and some delicious treats!).

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

the garage duncan

There’s not much in my guide books (why, yes, we actually do have a Frommer’s Canada) about the Cowichan Valley. I hadn’t heard about it, and it’s not typically on the top of bucket lists. But there was a good tourist time to be had nonetheless. This little day trip reminded me that nearly every place, if you look just a little, has a lot to offer.

Thanks for joining me, Sister. Thanks for joining me, reader. Next time we go to the Cowichan Valley, let’s all buy sweaters.

Duncan, Cowichan Valley*Seems like we really ought to have a direct line from downtown to this ferry without hopping SkyTrain to bus. On the way back, we were stuck at the ferry terminal without a bus for nearly 2 hours. Well done, transit planners, well done.

 

When You Need a Moment | Bowen Island, British Columbia

Snug Cove Bowen Island

I get antsy. It doesn’t take long either. It’s weird: I long to live in a place for longer than a couple years and really make it my home, but I also get extremely antsy. It had been approximately one month since our Okanagan getaway, and I’d had a brief escape to Steveston to run a half marathon (Thanks, Verena!), but I was still antsy. This blasted bougeotte, it really needs a fix. And when I’m saving my [already pretty generous and long-advanced-asked] vacation time for things in August and September, I need to find close escapes. Cheap escapes aren’t bad either.

Bowen Island fits the bill.

From Vancouver, you just get on the bus. Then hop the ferry. (Note: your ticket is round trip; there’s nowhere to buy a ticket on Bowen Island anyway). That means you’re spending only about 17 dollars to get here. That, folks, for those of us who don’t own vehicles, is cheap. And worth it.

Bowen Island

horseshoe bay snug cove ferry ride

We even attempted a boat selfie. We’ll work on our selfie focus in the future.

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The tourist’s Bowen Island is known for easy short hikes, kayaking, and paddle boarding. You’ll find all other requirements for the perfect day trip, including a couple nice restaurants with patios, ice cream, an adorable harbo[u]r with a couple quality restaurants. I, friends, recommend Shika Provisions, the healthy, rice bowl restaurant that practically greets you as you step off the ferry.

bowen island bc shika snug cove

From Snug Cove, it’s an easy walk to Killarney Lake, which comes complete with an easy loop trail for hiking (I say hiking, but this is more like strolling, to be honest).

bowen island killarney lake

The hike was full of giant BC slugs. These guys/gals are impressive in size and variety, but I did read that they are invasive and may be having negative effects on native slug and snail species. Still, I had fun finding them.

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Nerd, I am.

Our hike was certainly needed, but now that I’ve visited Bowen Island, I’m certain that kayaking would be a great way to see the island. I intend to return at least once before I no longer call BC my home. Maybe twice. Maybe thrice. All depends on that bougeotte.

bowen island view from garden

Celebrating 7 Years | Our Trip to the Okanagan Valley

This is how the conversation always goes. Someone finds out we’re married. They then lead with, “Oh, that’s nice. How long have you been married?” I now say, “About seven years.” Then I wait for the next question, which always comes with a strange bit of horrified face contortion and pity. “How old are you?/How old were you when you got married?”

There are two main factors contributing to this. The fact that I apparently look 18 (despite Canada’s 19-year-old drinking age, I am IDed nearly ever time I seek out a bottle of Cru Beaujoulais) and the fact that I “got married young.” Yep, I got married at the age of 22. It’s young. When I look at 22-year-olds, even I think, wow, that’s young to get married. Frankly, though, I’m tired of hearing about how incredibly young I was when I got married.

My life hasn’t gone much like I thought it would. I didn’t expect to be married at 22. I didn’t think I ‘d move to Tennessee. I didn’t think I’d ever really learn another language. I never once thought I’d live in a park in Argentina and spend nights camping with venomous snakes and days chasing after Chaqueño woodpeckers. I didn’t think I’d spend my days off pedaling on my bike to watch for seals. But I’m sure glad I have. And more importantly (and oh-so-sappily–deal with it reader, I only get one anniversary post per year), I’m glad I did it all with this fella.

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This year, we chose to celebrate our marital trip around the sun with a visit to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The valley is known for being a summer tourist destination, its orchard fruits, and its wines. Seeing as we were a bit early for the orchard fruit season and we were on an anniversary trip, we decided to visit a few wineries and take in a few good meals.

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Our winery visits over two days included Mission Hill (the obligatory Okanagan stop), Quail’s Gate, Poplar Grove Winery, and See Ya Later Ranch.

We started out at Mission Hill, a winery which leaves an impression, even if the impressee has visited Napa Valley and Mendoza in the last year. The views are beautiful and buildings ornate. It feels a bit overdone compared to the rest of the region, but thankfully casual dress and wine newbie questions are still welcomed. If you want to feel like you’re in Napa, go here. It really is worth the 12 dollar fee to join a quick tour and taste a few of the wines.

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Like good tourists, we took a lot of photos at our first stop.  After that, we pretty much let the camera rest in the rental car. Of the other wineries we visited, we really enjoyed Poplar Grove, for the view, for the wine, and for its eco-consciousness. See Ya Later Ranch, although highly recommended to us, had great views and probably some nice, pretension-free food (we went before the restaurant opened for the season), didn’t thrill us quite as much.

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Naturally, we made a point to eat well on our minication. Our first stop in Kelowna was at The Salted Brick. The Salted Brick is one of those places that offer charcuterie boards, cheeses, simple sandwiches on baguettes, soups, and salads. It seems like you can’t be a restaurant these days without having a charcut and cheese board offering. Trendy as it is, I am grateful for it. I love having these options.

Our other notable food-stop was our annual expensive-taste anniversary meal. We ate at Waterfront Wines Restaurant in Kelowna and although spending a pretty penny, greatly enjoyed our meal. The place has all that you’d expect from a fancy restaurant. The thing is, I did feel as though it was trying hard to be fancy, but seemed to fall just short in terms of atmosphere. Fortunately, we care more about the food. With the food, I found zero faults. Everything we ordered was well-cooked and spot on. Wild mushroom risotto, seared scallops. All delicious.

Unfortunately, our tiny table for two was next to a group of three academics still reeling from a just-finished dissertation defense. Instead of having a romantic anniversary conversation, we passed the meal holding in our snickers during their size-you-up competition thinly veiled as getting-to-know-each-other-outside-of-work chit chat.

All in all, we had a great time. If you’d thought you’d exhausted your North American wine regions, consider the Okanagan. The Okanagan Valley is such a low-key wine experience and definitely worth the drive from Vancouver. The drive itself is beautiful anyway. Ideally, I’d suggest making a three-day weekend in the Okanagan Valley, rather than cramming it into two days like we did.

Here’s to another year! Wish I could tell you I had some idea where we’d be celebrating year 8, but guess that’s half the fun 🙂

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