Tag Archives: outdoors

Falls Creek hike and Zumwalt drive and writing oh yeah

The day started out kind of gloomy and moody and slow. I needed to work on edits for a short story so that’s how I spent my morning. By the time I was finished, though, the sun had come out. Husband and I were ready for an Adventure, so we decided to go hiking up Hurricane Creek. As we started up the trail, though, we decided to give Falls Creek a try. I’d read that it was both easy and difficult…well, we opted for the difficult hike up the slope, not bouldering along the creek bottom.

Hmm. All the photos loaded at once. Well the first and sixth shots are of Falls Creek Falls. The last three are on Zumwalt Prairie.

Anyway, we hiked uphill a bit over a mile with at least a 1000 foot and probably a 1500 foot elevation gain. Then we decided to go for a cruise out to the Nature Conservancy preserve on Zumwalt and see what we could see.

We ended up taking the old road from Midway to Imnaha, and saw nearly two dozen deer, at least one eagle, northern harriers, a rough-legged hawk, a number of kestrels, several meadowlarks, two chukar, and three turkeys. The road was such that I was glad we were in the truck and not the Subaru, as we had to ford water running over the road in several places (clear, seasonal creeks with rocky bottoms, no problems).

A glorious day.

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Filed under Mountain life

Transitions, new promo banner, and trails on foot and horseback

The big transition news isn’t really news to people on Facebook and all. Like many others, I’m leaving LiveJournal for Dreamwidth. The new terms of service from the Russians are just over the top, especially for a writer person like me. I’d previously stayed on LJ in support of the Russian dissidents who use it as a platform, but this last bit….no, I couldn’t do it.¬† So I’ve been busily adding new people to my circle on DW, and hope that this means perhaps we’ll be seeing some more action there. I’m sad to leave LJ, but knew this was coming. I’d started crossposting from my main blog to DW, and had DW crosspost to LJ. This week I severed the DW/LJ link, then imported all my content to DW. In a few weeks I plan to delete my LJ account entirely, or perhaps just delete all my entries.

The banner news is more fun. This winter, I joined the Wallowa Mountain Quilters Guild and started learning about making quilts. Up until a few days ago, though, my endeavors were limited to making the block of the month, with a vague sense that maybe I wanted to make a book advertising banner that I could have at readings, signings, craft shows, and what-have-you. But it wasn’t until I worked on the April blocks that I realized I had the perfect block pattern to make a quilted banner…and if I followed the basic concept of a table runner, I’d have a banner. I also had leftover space fabric from the curtains I made for the Enterprise bedroom as well as black and silver moon and stars fabric left over from pieces I’d gathered from an old job to help provide craft materials when I was a 4-H leader.

So here it is:

I used it today for a lightly-attended Grange author breakfast. Now I’m thinking about sf-related art quilt ideas….of the wall hanging size, using beads, and perhaps something to take to convention art shows. Have to think about it.

Hubby and I are starting to get out more and hike. Our first year here was full of moving and getting settled in. Last year, the sub testing job in Portland required that I spend at least a week testing students every month, along with working on my current online teaching job. Plus we were busily digging a lot of razor clams–a good thing as the domoic acid levels this winter and spring have kept us off the beach. It is looking now like the season may not open at all this spring/early summer. So this spring we are trying to get out and do more hiking. We’ve done three major hikes–one in Devil’s Gulch near Big Sheep Creek, another at the Chico Trailhead near Sled Springs, and the third with the horse on the Aneroid Lake trail.

All three hikes were fun, but the Aneroid Lake hike with Mocha left me smiling. I had been worried that she might be silly or weird, but instead, she marched right up the trail, was not worried about being with only her human herd, and showed lots of potential for being able to handle a longer hike on a non-icy trail (we ran into patches of packed snow and ice which made us turn back sooner than we might have otherwise). She picked up pretty quickly on the pacing of the husband staying on foot and was willing to stop and wait without fussing. I was worried that the steepness of the trail and some of the things she did to stay upright on the ice (kicking her toes into the ice to gain a foothold) might have made her sore, but no.

Of course, a few days later she was a total idiot on the roads, calling and calling and feeling like a coiled spring under me. But the weather was unsettled, with squalls blowing off of the Wallowas, and a couple of miles of long-trotting on a soft gravel/dirt road took some of the edge off. While we had wind here, it wasn’t as bad as it was further west in the Willamette Valley. All the same, we got hit with gusts that made me sway a little in the saddle. So I can’t blame her for being on the muscle and worried about her herd.

She has moved to a spring pasture with three other horses. It’s set up with two bigger chunks connected by a smaller corridor. I often find the four of them in the back, and bring her up front. What’s funny is she will then call and call until her friends come up front to join her, and then she settles. This is new behavior for her–but they will come. She also starts calling to them when we get close to the place, and they will answer–and come up to hang out until she goes back out with them.

I’m still just amazed about the difference that a couple of years makes. Two years ago, we were preparing to move her here. She was still struggling with the white line disease and I think was in pain from arthritic joints in the process of fusing. She was depressed and sad. The whole change completely upset her, but given all she had been going through the previous year, in retrospect it wasn’t a surprise. Now, as she prepares to enter her third summer in the Wallowas, she’s completely recovered. There aren’t many 17-year-old horses who feel like they’re seven years younger on a stormy day like yesterday energy-wise, and I’m thrilled to have it happen–I’ve ridden a number of horses her age in lessons, and she just doesn’t feel that old under saddle. Her topline has filled in. She still shows a little rib, but the vet has pronounced her as being in good weight.

Mentally, she’s much more independent than she used to be. That comes with running with a big, stable herd over a rough winter. I’m glad to see it because I notice that it seems to contribute to her being more confident on the roads and trails. I would not have dared take her out on the roads in conditions like yesterday last year. Everything would have made her nervous and worried.

So all that is going well.

I’m working slowly on the writing right now. I’m not sure why that is. I can get going in small pieces–I have a couple of short stories out there that will be circulating, and all, plus I am contemplating what Challenges to Honor will be about. I think part of the issue is that I’m not seeing a lot of sales and I just haven’t had it in me to get out there and do the promotional work. Perhaps the cold, harsh winter? Or just a need to recharge? I’m not certain. Part of it may just be that I am dedicating a lot of energy to defeating the myofascial pain syndrome that has been intensifying over the past year and a half. I think I’m on track for a solution, but I’ve thought that before. One problem is that no one solution works for very long. Whatever it is, though, it interferes significantly with my sleep.

On the other hand, perhaps just putting energy into building my community networks in Enterprise may be part of the situation. I don’t know. It may just be recharge and recovery from the intensity of the past few years. It may be recovering from being totally pissed off at being slammed back into the situations of the Reagan administration politically, with less competence at higher levels (and that’s a scary thing to consider). I do think that this last election has uncovered issues that have been festering since Watergate, and need to be dealt with. I really, really didn’t want to live through these sorts of time at my age–oh well, it is what it is.

I do know that I need to get a newsletter out soon. I need to blog more. I need to do many other things.

And maybe it’s just that I am finally settling in and giving myself space to do so. We shall see.

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A breather between stories

It seems like I’ve been flying around dealing with stuff since Netwalking Space got finished, not all of it about the writing. Among other things, I had the day jobbe online work to keep me busy for three days this week, and then I participated in a book giveaway which ended up giving me a rather nice addition to my email list. Good stuff to do, but time-consuming.

And then there was the day lost to stomach objections. This happens once in a while, and it laid me flat for a whole day. Ugh. But the weather has turned, and I’m thinking a lot about writing stuff and art stuff as we’re getting close to bazaar season. IOW, STUFF.

On the other side of things, the Portland house is now mostly painted except for touch-up work. It’s pretty, but not as nice as the Enterprise house (IMO).

One of the things that happened last weekend was a second go-round at the Wallowa Valley Farmers Market in Joseph. I sold a couple of books and discovered in conversation that I am most likely THE science fiction and fantasy writer in Wallowa County. So, hmm. That makes for a nice piece of publicity–Wallowa County’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer.

And then there’s the election. Please, dear God, can it just go away? I have this dreadful feeling that 2016 is going to be too damn much like 1980 and 2000 for my liking, including the almost-20-year bit. Either that or 2016 is going to be a nasty set-up for major ugliness in 2020. Neither really works for me. Yes, I know it’s probably extinction burst of some attitudes, and we do seem to be making progress, but really. I’m fed up with the Purity Brigade on the left that whines and fusses about their presidential election choices, but doesn’t do squat in between those presidential years to organize and put together some real grass roots forces for significant change from the bottom up. I’ve spent too damn much time on Facebook griping at people who clearly haven’t spent time in the political trenches, can’t be bothered to do political organizing, but don’t like their choices.

If you don’t like your party’s choices? Then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Get involved.

But for God’s sake, with the Supreme Court at stake, don’t mouth sanctimonious platitudes about how your vote really isn’t going to get Trump elected if you decide that Jill’s your girl because HRC ain’t pure enough. For the record–you’re wrong. And don’t whine at me that you don’t like any of your choices if you haven’t spent time working for candidates at the local level and put in time organizing. Look, damn it. I worked for Jerry Brown in 1992. I tried to collaborate with people in the 90s to bring about some significant organizing change. The same people moaning about the Clintons being centrists and dragging the Democrats to the right had NO INTEREST in doing the grunt work to change things from the bottom up. The strategy of voting third party to bring about change is worthless, and only gives power to the 1%. Period.

Ah well, hopefully all will be well in November. But I’m worried. And I’m tuning out a lot of politics because I know how I’m voting, I’m not changing my vote, and there are too many people I know who seem to have lost all common sense when it comes to Trump. ARRGH.

And with that, I’m done with the political rants. Oh well, it’s helped me figure out who I don’t want to deal with on Facebook. Sigh.

We do have the prospect of a pretty hunting season ahead. I’m hoping it will be cooler and feature fewer yellow jackets, as I’d just as soon be able to sit down and eat without having to resort to the pickup cab. Or do reading or writing work in camp without having to hide in the pickup cab. Or manage deer/grouse carcasses without having to fight the yellow jackets. One sting this year is plenty.

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That moment of epic earcamness

So this happened today….

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Ten feet away. We rode by him (from the size, I’d say it’s a male) twice. On approach, Mocha was all ears.

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I had one thumb bare and my phone in my pocket, so I was juggling snaffle reins, doing everything on a touch screen with only a thumb, dealing with a Very Alert Horse who was suspicious of the eagle…and sidepassed by him the first time. I was sure he was going to take off but we never got closer than ten feet and he showed no real inclination to go. Just as well by me as a certain little mare was on her toes and ready to go.

After four trot lengths along the back fence, she was somewhat quieter but still energetic, and wasn’t at all thrilled about stopping. But we got within ten feet and I got that first pic–which was the last one I took. Then we headed back to the barnyard to beat the snow shower blowing in.

I don’t think I can top that earcam.

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Sometimes you forage; sometimes you don’t

Now that the domoic acid levels are down in razor clams on the Hammond beach, we’ve gotten back to hunting down razor clams when the tides are low. You’d think that after almost a year of no harvest, you’d be able to dig a limit of clams in under an hour, easy.

Um. Well. We’ve only dug the warm morning spring tides before now. These days we’re taking advantage of the late afternoon tides (morning tides happen in April), and that is entirely different. Especially in a blustery, stormy March. Oh, the clammies are there. We watch the pros digging in the surf and they’re doing well. But for our level and experience? We’re still learning.

Part of that is the mystery of clam shows. Clams appear to be particular about wind and rain, and don’t show as well unless you’re equipped to get out in the surf and forage there. During a tidal cycle, it’s usually possible to go without seeing anything until all of a sudden you can’t turn without seeing clam sign. Not this cycle, this blustery, wild, stormy March. Monday was the best day, where we got a limit between the three of us digging. But we had to watch the surf, the waves not retreating down the beach as far as they would normally. On the other hand, I foraged up some huge sand dollars and cockle shells to be used for various art projects. I’m thinking that perhaps a mobile or two might be just the thing to consider. Heck, if I can only find where I stashed the shell collection I’d have the makings of some fun art projects.

But it was annoying. I’d spot one, two, classic clam shows and get to digging. But I never saw more than three at one time, and it was rough at that.

Tuesday was cold and stormy but the waves cooperated, retreating properly down the beach. But finding clam sign was even more challenging at this point. The wind and rain were enough to drive us back into the rig with frozen hands, and that was in full rain gear.

Today, we looked outside the house windows at the storm raging outside and decided to check the weather report. When we saw the report of near-hurricane force winds, we decided that perhaps the afternoon was best spent on other pursuits. So the guys went off to pursue equipment for irrigating the huge truck garden we’re going to grow this summer as well as seeds. I finished a phone staff meeting for the short-term Day Jobbe, then set up my Payhip account and posted two books. Then I went to work on a short story for a theme anthology.

Productive day all around. Yeah, I didn’t necessarily get a huge word count. But I hammered through some issues with the short story and I think it is better for it. It’s a revision of an older story that didn’t sell, change of tense, change of some plot elements to fit a theme…yeah, it’s working better.

Onward.

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Winter Preparations

With the onset of the fall rains and the maturing of the garden, we’ve launched full into winter preparation mode. The friend we garden with down on the Columbia came up to Enterprise this week with a full load of garden bounty, a bunch of it too much for us to eat before it passes its prime. So in the next couple of days freezing stuff is going to be happening. My canning tools are in Portland and they will probably need to go to our friend’s house for maximum usage. Guess I need to devise a preservation traveling kit.

But with the coming of the fall rains also means that we can be back in the woods to cut firewood for the winter. Between going out with our friend and going out ourselves, we cut 2 cords of wood in four days–basically a half-ton pickup load of wood each day. That filled our first firewood permit of 4 cords. We’ll probably cut more during hunting season but it won’t be as rushed now–this last stuff was lodgepole pine instead of fir, and lodgepole burns a lot nicer than white fir. We’d like to have about 6 cords to get through the winter.

While the guys cut wood I blocked out a short story about gnomes–or maybe brownies, I’m not certain which yet. I want it to be about gnomes but maybe a brownie would be more appropriate. I just don’t particularly want to use the term “brownie.”

Grouse season is open but we’ve yet to bag one. Not for lack of seeing grouse, but the ones we’ve seen have been skittish and quick, and we’re just getting up to speed on the hunting thing for the year. One of the factors of cutting wood with our friend is that we were also scouting locations for deer hunting season coming up in October. We decided where we’re going to hunt and where we’ll set up hunting camp. It’s been years since we’ve been out in hunting camp and this one is going to be luxurious–a wall tent with woodstove inside. Of course since we’re scouting for deer season that meant we spent two whole days out in the woods. Oh shucky darn. Being out in the woods after the first fall rains is SOOO hard to do–not! The huckleberry brush burns flame red right now and the aspens have been changing on a daily basis.

Since the boys wanted to go out all day, I had to rush to the barn first thing to work with Miss Mocha. The first rains were cool enough to leave a dusting of snow on the high Wallowa peaks, at least until the sun melted it, which meant I had really nice views when working on Mocha’s hooves or working with her. One morning we had a very nice and sedate ride in the arena and in the hay field.

The Girl is hairing up quickly. When I pat her back and rump, she feels like a fuzzy velvet teddy bear. Her ongoing aches and pains appear to be heavily arthritis and soft-tissue with hints of anticipation of pain shaping her behavior–nearly a week ago we hauled her to the vet for lameness testing. Results of hoof testers and flexion testing showed her as very mildly lame, nowhere near as bad as her behavior made me think she was. So we’re starting her on Adequan injections next week to see if that helps.

We’re going into one of the nicest times of the year to be in the woods, and I’m loving it. Crisp cool days with a hint of dampness, colors changing daily in the aspen, huckleberry brush, and tamarack. Moody blue-gray clouds over deep canyons, and the deep bellow of elk bulls in the distance or a coyote howl. Haven’t heard the wolves yet.

Winter is coming. But this season of preparation is one of the sweet times, and I’m enjoying every bit of it.

 

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A weird summer moment

This summer has seen some of the worst air I’ve experienced since my childhood in the South Willamette Valley. While it’s never approached the intensity of the worst¬† field burning days, both DH and I have been enduring with sinus and ear blockages. Supposedly the pollen and dust count isn’t that high, but that’s not what our bodies are telling us–and it’s allergic exposure, not illness. Faugh.

Then yesterday turned brooding along with baking. As the temps approached 100F, clouds drifted overhead. Everything went quiet. I expected a thunderstorm but it never happened. Things were just–quiet. Silent. Waiting. No birds. Nothing moving, except the bees in the sunflowers.

The mood held at dawn today. Then we started getting occasional drifts of cooler air. The mood changed. The finches, chickadees, and bushtits showed up at the feeders. Two small woodpeckers (hairy or downy, whichever is the smaller) drum away at the tallest mullein stalk. The ominous mood that’s been hanging over everything has passed, hopefully banishing the heat for a time.

With any good fortune, the run to Spocon combined with the predicted possibility of rain and cooler temps will clear things out enough to settle the allergies. At least one can hope.

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Clamdigging at dusk

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One of the things that our friend S has been talking about doing is checking out digging razor clams on a late afternoon/evening winter low tide. The combination of weather, lower tides, and timing seemed to be just about right yesterday, so we joined him on an expedition to the beach near the wreck of the Peter Iredale to dig clams.

If clams could be found, that is. It was a blustery, stormy day with a couple of rain squalls blowing through and a constant wind that made it hard to identify clam holes. We poked around on the beach for about three hours from 3 pm on, following the tide down while we could see, then going back up closer to the pickup to look for clams using lights.

One clam. It wasn’t the usual firm summer sand underfoot, either, but a softer, more saturated sand that slid away from under heels if you stayed in one place for more than a few seconds. I got vertigo staring at the water-saturated sand after dark and had to spend more time studying the surf–despite the dark and the clouds, the moon above the clouds kept things well lit.

The wind was also stiff enough to push me a little bit, and a couple of times when the surf came up, even though it was calf-high it was still pretty strong. I kept a sharp eye out for sneaker waves just because of the mood of the ocean this time of year. Didn’t get too cold, but I was wearing my ski base layers underneath heavy jeans and a sweatshirt, plus a vest and a rain suit added to my tall boots.

At one point I did get a lovely shot from a sunbreak, early on:

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Afterward, we stopped at the Pig n’ Pancake and I had lovely gluten-free blueberry pancakes with blueberry compote and bacon. Yum.

We’ll try this again, but maybe not on such a windy day!

(on the Oregon coast, in winter, yeah. Riiiight.)

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Hunting 2013

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For the first time in a couple of years, we had a hunting trip where we could see the mountains the whole time. Not just the Wallowas, but the Seven Devils.

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We also stayed in a nice little cabin at Wallowa Lake–for three adults, that ended up being the cheapest and most pleasant alternative. Once again, we kind of went through the homesick phase while we were visiting the County. Even though we only lived there for six months over thirty years ago, that six months was when we lost our hearts to the place. It made us heartsick to leave, but it was the best thing to do at the time, as a young couple without the means or experience to make it in the ranching world. I was nowhere near being able to make it as a writer, and we just didn’t have the supports to try to make it in other viable areas.

But we’ve always dreamed of going back, of living the kind of outdoor life we’ve always loved to do. Despite all our dreams of other places, the Wallowas have had our hearts for years, and the Wallowa country doesn’t let go easily. It also provides fodder for gorgeous pictures.

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The required Grouse Creek picture–setting of “Cold Dish,” recently reprinted in Netwalk: Expanded Edition.

Another hunter girl pinup pic.

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No buck deer spotted where we could see them this year. No grouse spotted, either. That was okay. We had a good two days back in the woods and at the lake. I got two nice hikes in, one on Saturday afternoon where I spotted kokanee and did some writing.

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On Sunday morning, the family wandered down to the lake and we spotted a pair of eagles.

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And a lot of daydreaming about other types of lifestyle happened, too.

Nonetheless, it was a lovely visit and an all-too-short relaxing time. At some point I hope we can spend more time in this heart place. But the reality of that is still very far away, especially for people like us with responsibilities, duties, and–well–obligations.

Dreaming is still pretty darn nice, though.

And now it’s time to get back to work.

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Clams again!

This morning we drug ourselves out of bed very early, sped around the house, then got on the road quickly to meet our friend at his coastal place. Once we switched everything over to his truck, then we headed for the beach and yet more adventures in razor clam digging near the mouth of the Columbia River. DH commented that this is the most often he’s gone by the wreck of the Peter Iredale ever…same for me as well.

After navigating a rather rutted out soft sand passage to the firm pack sand, we drove several miles north on the beach, past the Peter Iredale, almost all the way to the jetty. This was an excellent but not necessarily great low tide, but still rather nice to try to hit around 7:30 am:

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At first the digging was slow. After initially getting a smaller clam, I hit quite a few dry holes. Then I followed our friend over to a spot on the beach which was just packed with big clams. DH joined us and we managed to get a limit for all three of us–45 clams–in less than an hour. It was nothing-nothing-nothing–then hey, look at that! and we were digging hard and fast, twisting the clam guns into the sand quickly yet delicately.

Oh, and I found two whole sand dollars. I’ve never found whole sand dollars on the beach before, so that was really cool–and they’re nicely marked.

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There were a lot of tiny little crabs on the beach this time. I saw a couple of things that might have been tsunami debris, but they might not have been, either. Spotted a big freighter working its way across the Columbia River Bar and another one headed out. There did seem to be a bit of traffic on the river for certain.

A fascinating thing happened when I was rinsing my clams for the last time. As I pulled them out of my bag, one of the clams extended heshe’s foot. While a clam’s foot is webbed, the edges are a bit stiffer and can dig. Well, this clam waved its foot aggressively, grabbing at the sand for three attempts to dig in, then pulled it back in.

We stopped at the Pig-n-Pancake in Astoria for breakfast. They have heavenly gluten-free pancakes, so I pigged out on blueberry pancakes, bacon, and a half-slice of ham. Hey, after doing all that clam digging, girl’s gotta carbo load, y’know. Wet sand is pretty dang heavy.

Then we headed for our friend’s house to finish off letting the clams clean themselves, rinse them, then clean them. Three limits is 45 clams, so here’s what 45 good-sized razor clams looks like:

IMG_0259There were a lot of big clams this time around, many more than from the past two times we’ve gone out this clam season. And we’re starting to get the hang of how to dig razors without breaking the shell. That said, it’s easy enough to break the shell even if you back off with the clam gun and go in by hand–the process of pulling the clam out can take a bit of work to get them without breaking the shell.

Nonetheless, we got a lot of nice clams today. It’s our last expedition of the season, because it closes in mid-July and there aren’t any good tides that match our schedule between now and then.

It’s been a good first year digging these razor clams. I think I like it better than digging for the big blue or quahog clams. It’s easier digging clams in sand than in bay mud.

We put our share of the clams away in the freezer, for a taste of early summer sometime this fall and winter. That batch will be enough for clam fritters and clam chowder. November or December…mmm. A chance to remember a perfect clam day.

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