Protect the Peel & first pics

Three weeks have passed by now since my return from my six week hiking and packrafting trip in Arctic Canada and I’m ready to show you a first small selection of the many pictures I took on my way through this vast wilderness area of the Peel river watershed.

Before I will come to tell you more about the experiences of the trip itself, I would like to draw your attention in this post to a serious threat. The Peel river watershed is today burdened under pressure by the mining, oil and gas industries to be opened for exploration. Do you know what this means? This vast untouched wilderness area, home to a wide variation of wildlife and the cultural homeland of four First Nations, might become seriously damaged by man’s ever growing hunger for natural resources. Cutting pipelines for oil and gas, dirty gravel roads for heavy truck traffic, mine pits left behind as devastating scars in the landscape,… this will become reality if we let the industry execute their plans.

Today there is a petition going on to preserve this valuable wilderness. If this petition gets many followers, the Yukon government would take measures to protect (at least part of) the area. I want you to please read the whole further situation on the Protect the Peel website and to sign the statement of support. Let’s hope I’ve not been one of the last persons who could travel through this region without being disturbed by human activity.

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Ridge camping with the trailstar in the Wernecke mountains.

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Mountain caribou in the Wernecke mountains.

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Ridge walking in the Wernecke mountains.

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A bull moose bathed in Hart lake.

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A striped ground squirrel in the thickets near Hart lake.

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The dark peaks of the Wernecke Mountains towering above Hart river.

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Hart river and the untouched Wernecke Mountains.

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A North American porcupine at the banks of Hart river.

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The endless limestone peaks of the Taïga ranges from the summit of Mount Kinney.

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An arctic ground squirrel in the Taïga ranges, fattened up by early autumn.

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Ridge camping in the Taïga ranges.

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Dall sheep with young in the Taïga ranges.

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A bald eagle on the lookout above Hart river.

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An atmospheric evening in the Taiga ranges above Hart river.

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Hart river leaving the Taïga ranges.

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Hart river rapids before its entrance in the Peel river.

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Up to Class IV rapids are encountered on the Peel river before the river enters the canyons.

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Portaging the Peel river rapids.

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A Peregrine falcon at the entrance of Aberdeen canyon.

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Evening down the quiet middle section of Aberdeen Canyon.

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Down deadly Aberdeen Canyon with its many unpredictable whirlpools after I almost capsized in an earlier rapid.

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The wide braided Peel river and the Richardson Mountains at the horizon.

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The unpredictable Peel canyon.

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Urinating moose with calf (and yes, I still drank from the river after this point).

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A beaver in the Peel river.

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The lower Peel river on a windy autumn evening.

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Birch bark and stem along the camping spot on a zero day with 6 beaufort headwinds along the lower Peel river.

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A North American red squirrel in a tree in the Mackenzie delta. This must be one of the most northerly living red squirrels in North America.

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The Mackenzie delta and the snow covered Richardson mountains at the horizon.

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Whitened mountain ridges of the Richardson Mountains, photographed from the Air North flight between Inuvik and Dawson.

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Hart river valley and the Taïga ranges after an early autumn snowstorm, photographed from the Air North flight between Inuvik and Dawson.

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Blackstone river (bottom) and Hart river (central) flowing through the Taïga ranges after an early autumn snowstorm, photographed from the Air North flight between Inuvik and Dawson.

A windy day along the Lower Peel

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My footprint beside the wolf.

Hi dear readers!

There hasn’t been much activity anymore on my blog since the summer. However, this doesn’t mean I have been sitting still in the last few months. During last May I hiked large part of the Hautes Fagnes trail, a non-official trail invented and composed entirely by myself, winding through the most interesting hiking area of Belgium (in my opinion) and that I want to introduce to the hiking audience. Due to some knee and foot pains that came up during that hike I prematurely terminated the trip. I’ve now the intention to hike the remaining part in a few weeks and post an informative report about that trail with lots of pictures. I’ve also done several day packraft training trips throughout July (most of them were not so interesting to talk about here) to become in shape for the big summer trip.

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A black bear its footprints.

The rest of July and early August were dominated by the final preparations for this big summer trip, a long trip of 6 weeks in northern Canada, hiking in the Wernecke and Ogilvie Mountains and floating the Hart and Peel river in my packraft. The pictures in this post all show what I encountered on one of the last days along the Lower Peel river while strong head winds forced me to hike along the river instead of paddling through the wind waves while being blown upstream. I wanted to announce the trip here on my blog before leaving but some events in my personal live kept me from writing about the trip plans till the very last minutes. So my blog has been a bit dead over the last weeks, but now here’s the proof I’m still alive!

The Canada trip has been great with lots of unimaginable scenery, a wide variation of wildlife, multiple grizzly bear encounters, and some beautiful canyons on the rivers with also very dangerous whitewater though, all together a very informative experience. You can expect a long trip report later this year. For now I feel I have to make some more hiking or packrafting soon since sitting home and at work for too long makes me longing to go into the outdoors again as soon as possible. So until later!

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… and this is what you stumble upon every few minutes while hiking on the clay beach along the Lower Peel river.

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A few tiny footsteps along Willem’s monstrous Scandinavian thru-hike

A few months ago I spoke already about Willem’s plan to start a very long thru-hike, crossing Scandinavia from the most southern point of Norway to the Nordkinn, the most northern point on the mainland of Scandinavia, a journey of about 2500km. His monstrous trip looks to me as the most interesting thru-hike to follow this year. If you don’t already know his Transscandinavia blog, throw an eye on it now! You can follow his actual progression on a map on its blog and follow him through his Twitter account.

Today Willem should be in Lindesnes ready to take its first footsteps on his immense long trip. When I take a look at his route plan his journey will cross or coincide with a few short stretches of 7 trips I did in Scandinavia in the past. I have been collecting several photos from my past trips here that will give you an idea of these coincident spots Willem will walk along.

The most southern area where I have been making a trip in Scandinavia is Jotunheimen. 2007 was a very wet summer in Norway and together with a lot of snow lingering from the preceding snow rich winter, I especially remember this trip as grey and wet with a lot of walking over wet snow. This summer is starting very rich in snow too this year and as Willem will even pass earlier through Jotunheimen than I did, the circumstances will probably at least be comparable as not to say worse then I encountered 5 years ago.

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Uradalsvatnet (1316m) with Skarbottsnosi (1780m) on the left and Uranostind (2157m) on the right, July 12 2007. Willem will walk along the shore of this lake exactly as I did. On my trip the lake was still almost completely frozen and the ice was still thick enough that I just walked on the lake over the ice for a short stretch. It is very likely Willem will be able to do this on many lakes during the first weeks of his hike.

Vettisfossen Vettisfossen in Utledalen, with 275m Norway’s second waterfall in height, July 14 2007. Willem does not mention Vettisfossen in his route plan even though he will pass by very close. I’m curious if he eventually will make the short detour.

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Deep incised Utledalen with its mouth into Årdalfjord in the background, July 13 2007. Willem will pass exactly on this spot too if he will climb Friken.

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View over Skarvheimen, the area south of Jotunheimen with Utledalen on the right where you can see the mouth of the valley into Årdalfjord, seen from Friken (1503m), July 13 2007. On my trip I spent the night on the summit of this flat topped mountain. Willem undoubtedly has the same plan in mind if the weather will be good.

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My bivouac spot in the ring of stones on the summit of Friken (1503m), Stølsnostind (2074m) in the background, July 13 2007.

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The highest peaks in the Hurrungane massif above the glacier Maradalsbreen as seen from Friken (1503m), July 13 2007. From left to right Store Skagastølstind (2405m), Vetle Skagastølstind (2340m), Sentraltind (2348m), Styggedalstindane (2387m) en Jervvasstind (2351m).

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Skogadalsbøen (831m), a staffed mountain lodge in Jotunheimen, July 13 2007. Willem might buy some food here or read one of the many books from the book shelf as I did.

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The swollen Utla river in Utledalen on one of the many days during my trip the rain just didn’t stop, July 17 2007. Hopefully Willem can pass here in more pleasant circumstances.

The second area where we will have common footsteps will be Dovrefjell. Here I made a snowshoe trip together with Veerle and Ivo two years ago. My companions and myself had to deal with snow storms during much of the trip and eventually we did not encounter musk oxen. I’m curious whether Willem will get the chance.

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Larstinden (2065m), Store Langvasstinden (2046m) and Drugshøi (1957m) in Dovrefjell and the snow covered lake Amotsvatnet (1301m) blending into the landscape, March 7 2010. Willem will be walking along the lake as he will not have its packraft along yet.

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View over the east ridge of Snøhetta (2286m) towards the summit of the highest peak in Dovrefjell, March 10 2010. If the weather will be fine Willem will climb Snøhetta over its north ridge and descend over the ridge you see here on the photo. During our trip the acceptable weather window was too short to try climbing to the summit.

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The view from below the east ridge of Snøhetta, March 10 2010.

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Ivo and Veerle looking around on our way to Stroplsjødalen, March 6 2010. Willem will pass here in the opposite direction heading for Kongsvold.

The area with the most common footsteps, it probably will not surprise, will be Sarek in Sweden as I have done several trips here. Here we are already north of the polar circle. For me Sarek looks like the most beautiful mountain area in the whole of Scandinavia and I wonder how Willem will experience this area compared to the rest of his hike. A few packraft and foot tracks will nearly coincide too in neighboring Stora Sjöfallets.

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The meanders of the river Alep Sarvesjåhkå at the west end of the Sarvesvagge, seen from Tjågnårisvarasj (1207m), September 9 2008. Willem will walk down there below from left to right along the swamp to leave Padjelanta behind and enter Sarek through the Sarvesvagge.

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The upper part of the Sarvesvagge with the snow capped mountain Ridatjåhkkå (1944m), September 9 2008.

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The renvaktarstuga cabin in the Sarvesvagge, September 3 2010. The cabin was unlocked when I passed along here so I decided to spent the night inside. Maybe Willem is able to find shelter here too.

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Skajdetjåhkkå (1830m) seen from in the middle of the Sarvesvagge, September 3 2010.

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View into the Sarvesvagge from near Dielmajavrasj (1175m) with at the opposite side of the valley the north face of Nåite (1620m), the mountain which dominates the whole eastern half of the valley, September 3 2010. Willem will probably bushwhack along the opposite side of the river as this is the easiest side to hike through the Sarvesvagge.

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Another view into the Sarvesvagge from Dielmajavrasj (1175m), now looking onto the peaks in the Gådok massif, September 3 2010.

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On a nice autumn evening in the hart of the Sarvesvagge, September 6 2008.

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Along the Sarvesjåhkå river in the Sarvesvagge with Nåite (1620m) and Luohttotjåhkkå (1875m) in the background, September 6 2008. Willem will probably walk exactly on the same spot along the river as the Sarvesjåhkå is not packraftable anymore after the melt peak of early summer.

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View over Rapaselet in Rapadalen with Stuor Skoarkki (1591m) on the left, September 2 2010. On the right you can see the mouth of the Sarvesjåhkå into the Rahpaädno river. Willem will put in overthere and packraft the Rahpaädno over a short stretch to put out left of the big lake on the picture.

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Almost the same view over Rapaselet and Bielloriehppe, now during winter, March 28 2010.

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At the mouth of the Sarvesjåhkå into the Rahpaädno where I continued my journey over the water through Rapadalen just like Willem will be doing over a short stretch, September 13 2010.

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The view you get through Rapadalen near the mouth of the Rahpaädno river into the large swamp of Rapaselet, September 13 2010. Willem will just continue over the water here.

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Along the Rahpaädno at its mouth in Rapaselet with Bielloriehppe (1830m) towering above, September 1 2008. Willem will probably leave the river somewhere over here.

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View through the woods onto the Rahpaädno river in the lovely birch forest down in Rapadalen, September 1 2008.

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Rapaselet and the Bielloriehppe mountains (1830m), August 31 2008. Willem will be climbing here to leave Rapadalen for the Snavvavagge.

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The Snavvavagge is an elevated valley in Sarek. You can see the mountain Låddebakte (1537m) on the left, the lake Snavvajavvre (977m) and the Ålkatj massif with its many glaciers, August 31 2008.

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In the clouds from the summit ridge of Låddebakte (1537m), August 31 2008. This mountain is mentioned in his route plan too. Hopefully he will get the chance to see one of the most spectacular views you can get to see in Sarek from a mountain summit.

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The spectacular view over Rapaselet and onto Bielloriehppe (1830m) from Låddebakte (1537m), August 31 2008.

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Willem will take the faint path here which runs high above Rapadalen from the northwest end of the Snavvavagge, August 30 2008.

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A bit further down the path he might be admiring this view over Rapadalen and the Rahpaädno river with in the background the east end of the Sarvesvagge and the Gådok mountains, September 11 2010.

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And when looking into the other direction from the same spot he will see the upper part of Rapadalen, September 11 2010.

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The Pielastugan under Bierikbakte (1789m) on my ski crossing of Sarek, March 29 2010. Willem will be hiking here fluently over the tundra, probably the easiest hiking section on its entire route through Sarek.

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The mountains of Ähpar and Skårki with the frozen lake Bierikjavrre (801m) below seen from Vuojnestjåhkkå (1952m), March 30 2010. When the winds will be good, Willem would inflate its packraft for a ride on the lake.

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Paddling on Liehtjitjavrre (788m) while looking back to Ähpar in Sarek, August 31 2010. Willem has the intention to packraft this lake too as long as the winds will be his friend.

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The mountain Ahkka from the Atjek lakes in Stora Sjöfallets during a beautiful red sunset, a view Willem might get to see also when he will pass along or packraft the Atjek lakes, August 28 2010.

Willem will cross the route I followed last year on my Sapmi trip 3 times in the area between Dividalen and the Finnmarksvidda plateau. My trip was walking deeper into the far north of Sweden in order to find an interesting river to packraft and to pull back northward again towards the three countries point between Norway, Sweden and Finland. From there I eventually was pulling east into Finland and packrafted a good stretch of the Poroeno river. Willem will pass here in a very straight line when viewed on the map in order to approach the Nordkinn as fast as possible. He has chosen the rivers Rommaeno and Lataseno instead. I wonder how these rivers will be experienced so late in the season.

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In the rain at Gappohytta at the Norwegian-Swedish border, June 27 2011.

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Climbing out of the birch forest above the Goldahytta, June 29 2011. Willem will be hiking here through the birch forest coming from the mountains around Dividalen in the background of the picture.

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The point where the borders of Norway, Sweden and Finland meet at the lake Golddajavri (493m), the mountain Barras (1419m) in the background, June 29 2011. Willem will definitely put his footsteps on these wooden boards too when he will visit the three countries monument.

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The huge Finnish lake Kilpisjärvi (473m), June 29 2011. Willem’s plan is to packraft this lake to Kilpisjärvi from the right to the left on the photo just like I did coming from the south.

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Saana (1029m) from the birch forest above Kilpisjärvi during the midsummer night, June 29 2011. Willem will hike along the footsteps of Saana fell, a holy mountain for the Sami.

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A pleasant stream in the birch forest near Kilpisjärvi, June 29 2011.

The last area where we might have common footsteps will be on the Finnmarksvidda plateau in Norway near Kautokeino. Unfortunately I can not show the place Willem will pass in pictures from my solo ski trip I did last year between Tromsø and Kautokeino as I got a broken camera during that trip. Anyway, the photo’s I’ve been showing here even don’t cover 1% of Willem’s entire trip. It speaks for themselves that he will have a trip of a lifetime and will see many more interesting landscapes on its hike then you see here. We will have to wait patiently until autumn for Willem to show his Transscandinavia thru-hike in pictures. As of today I will be tracking him daily on the map through his SPOT messages.

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The long reindeer fence on the Finnish-Norwegian border without end, July 2 2011. This is the west border of the Finnmarksvidda. Willem will be hiking and packrafting between the hills close to the horizon on the picture.

Returned from the Verdon Gorge

… alive and safe!

It has been a long time that I had enjoyed a longer trip so much. I’ve been packrafting the Verdon river from close to its headwaters in the Alps till deep in the gorge and encountered a lot of whitewater stuff up to class IV for kayaks. The hiking part was at least as enjoyable. A few snapshots of me while taking a swift class III rapid on the swollen Verdon:

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You probably want to know how this rollercoaster ended? Sorry, you should wait the trip report. I’ll start writing very soon. 🙂

Note: No helmet, no proper PFD, no wet/drysuit and solo in PR4+ whitewater. I know this is not safe and I’m not proud of it. If you copy, you’re crazy too! You can be sure, this will have been the first and only time for me. 😉

Leaving for the Verdon Gorge

No time left for an extensive gear list, just a short note that I’m leaving for an 11-day trip hiking and packrafting in and around the Verdon Gorge in the French Alpes de Hautes Provence. Those of you interested in my gear list can try to analyze the photo below.

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I’ve been composing my own dehydrated meals for dinner during the last days. They are based on potato powder, rice and millet. I’ve changed my tour bread recipe a little bit. For the first time I’ve tried to make the bread with liquid stevia instead of sugar and I notice that this is giving a considerable difference. The bread is now much softer and crumbles easier.

I’ve thrown a thick layer of insulated clothing in the packlist. Temperatures will be struggling to reach 10°c during the first days and since I will be descending the Verdon river in my open Yak, I risk to get wet and cold much faster. The planned trip includes more hiking than packrafting and so I prefer my lighter open Yak however.

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I feel like a child now, starting with something that seems like new again. It has been a while now since I’ve been making a more serious trip.

See you in May!