Fishfinder Test Paddle (day trip)

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The Fishfinder is a keeper, whether or not I ever do any fishing (I hear Glenn laughing in a knowing manner).

The test paddle had a few complications, Tuesday I drove up to meet the family, already camped at a PA State Park lake; the Fish Commission launch permit being valid in PA State Parks as well.

I didn’t drive far. 10 miles into PA, a whopping 16 miles from my home, the highway came to a dead stop. Engine off, windows open for a solid hour dead stop. I should have brought the newspaper; instead I re-read the Tacoma’s Owner’s Manual. I may toss some old paperback in the truck, just to be safe for emergency reading material.

Followed by another hour of creeping forward a few feet at 2mph, not sure which was worse. The inter-State was shut down, all traffic re-routed onto a side road. A side road through small town traffic signals, now carrying thousands of vehicles, still creeping along at 2mph.

I said a very bad word, and was back home in 20 minutes. (Sorry, I needed a little misfortune rant)

Wednesday poured buckets, but Thursday was a decent weather day, the canoe was still racked and gear packed, so I headed to the upper Conowingo Pool, to use my permit at the Muddy Run Fish Commission launch.

The Conowingo “pool” was more of a moving river when I arrived, but I was soon upstream into the interesting areas where the current runs slower. Looking upstream into the rock formations between Peavine Island (actually more of a peninsula) and Upper Bear Island.

P3240004 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Getting into the rocky shoreline, some of the thousands of whirls and potholes become visible.

P3240007 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Up close the broken out whirls along the shoreline rock edges are everyfreakingwhere.

P3240009 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

P3250010 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Including the mother of all whirls.

P3250011 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Seriously, how long to rock swirl scrape out a hole like this?

P3250014 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The eons required for current to swirl small stones in a depression and create those potholes is awesome to think about. There are intact potholes atop the cliffs (flood stage on the natural river course?); some circular cooking pot sized, some the size of a washer drum, fully 20 feet above pool level, with rainwater, little round stones and, in summer, weird invertebrate life.

I could probably have some educational fun there with a magnifying glass and a field guide. Maybe next time; I have a good magnifying glass, and know what I want for my birthday.

https://www.amazon.com/Field-Freshwa...20694574&psc=1

(That peculiar Zoology nerd activity may be likelier than me getting a fishing license)

My usual cross-over attainment routes, east towards to the Lancaster County side, between Crow and Upper Bear, or between Upper and Lower Bear, were a no-go of frothy whitewater and standing waves. I have witnessed spectacular yard-sale capsizes in both those areas with much less current (Chip once, C2G twice). Nope, not today.

Time for a leg stretcher on one of the cobble beaches.

P3250015 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The wind began to pick up from the south, but there seemed to be an increasing amount of current to ride downstream. Down to the end of Peavine Island to do a 180 and explore further. Not really an “explore”; I’ve paddled there most of my life, and know every rock, spring, stream and beach.

I encountered my second person on the (usually busy) water at the tip of Peavine, a kayak fisherman, and paddling nearer, said “I don’t want to disturb you, but I could use some eyes on my canoe”.

Trim checked by the yakker the Fishfinder was (said to be) a touch bow-light, just as I wanted. Even better the ‘yak fisherman paddled over, inspected the Fishfinder outfitting and approved. He didn’t even see the sail, and I think I could have sold it to him then and there, but I was starting to really like the soloization rebuild.

Everything in that retrofitted canoe is functional (I did not have fishing rods, don’t even have a license yet) and located in the right position. The Fishfinder flat-spins 180 with a few strokes, and with a length-to-waterline of 5+ is not a complete pig to paddle. Plenty of depth as a solo (13 ½”) and plenty of rated capacity (820lbs). It’s a keeper even if I never fish.

Up the calm water behind Peavine Island. More whirls aplenty.

P3250017 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That little stretch of river is endlessly fascinating. And we’re not done yet. The hidden paddle-in grotto at the NW tip of Big Chestnut and the battleship-prow cliff on Wolf Island await. The SE wind is picking up. So is the current, and the pool level is slowly dropping; Conowingo must have gates open.

Eh, the hidden grotto and ship-bow cliff will have to wait. Where the main stem current crosses over east to west between Lower Bear and Big Chestnut is now running fast, and there are whitecaps at the grotto entrance.

That’s a nope, but at least I can ride the flow downstream, duck out of the current and sail back up.

P3250019 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

When it is possible to attain between the York and Lancaster county sides that circle route, calm waters north, attaining to flowing waters south is a joy, and the east side of Upper Bear has some nice sandy beaches and rock outcropping mini-islands.

I was rewarded with that near effortless float down/sail back. I could do that all day, but I wanted a look at some of the old locks and aqueducts from the Tidewater & Susquehanna Canal. That man-laid stonework is also way cool to think about.

P3250022 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

P3250024 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Erected with nothing but sweat, muscle, men and mules in the 1830’s, and done in like many canals by the railroads 40 years later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susque...idewater_Canal

On another positive note, back at the take out I received more validation for the Fishfinder. When I walked back from the truck after landing a sightseeing couple at the launch had become fascinated with the canoe, and the lady was taking photos.

I believe I could have sold the Fishfinder twice that day. And I want to thank Glenn again for passing on it. Although I still want the same-ish size in 20lbs lighter composite.

Time to head home. But first, a short drive up to have a look at Holtwood dam. There was a fair amount of water coming across the entire top of the spillway, not just through the gates on the Lancaster side, which helps explain the current. The previous day’s rain had swollen the Susquehanna, and the Conowingo Dam didn’t need to worry about running their eleven giant hydroelectric turbines, and later refilling the pool.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conowingo_Dam

That Holtwood spillway and Conowingo gates makes for a tricky combination to calculate. The USGS gauge for Conowingo will go straight up and straight down as they open gates to run the turbines.

https://waterdata.usgs.gov/pa/nwis/u...65,00060,00010

Where was I that Thursday morning? At 16 feet and eightysome thousand CFS. That damn dam stuff is as complex as figuring out windblown tidal waters, but at least I know where the “sneak” routes are.

P3250027 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

No wonder I nixed any foolish attainment attempt.

All I all the day could hardly have been better. The launch is 42 miles of scenic back road from my home. 42 miles that, from ages 8 to 18 I rode along as a kid, drove, hitchhiked and even walked* twice in my youth.

*I walked it a couple times just for the hell of it. 2+ days with a backpack, with longhair hippie freak brethren routinely stopping to ask if I wanted a ride. And understanding when I said “Thanks, but I’m just having a bit of a walkabout”.

Best memory of a hike there with a friend; we got off to a late start and kept walking into dark to make up distance. We came to some open farm fields along a stream, hopped a couple fences away from the road and found a nice, level grassy spot near the stream ideal to set up the tent.

Fortunately we awoke early the next morning. We were camped, in plain view, on the expansive front lawn of a mansion atop the hill. We might have set the world record for taking down a Eureka Timberline.

Well, OK, that familiar day paddle could have been a little better. I was hungry, and had to bypass one of my favorite diners just a few miles down the road en route home.

P3250029 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Damn Covid; I wanted me an open face roast beef sandwich and mashed potatoes, gravy over everything please. And maybe a slice of homemade pie.

Thanks for bearing with my much ado about nothing trip report. ALSG, and a couple other local paddlers whom I provided a photocopy of the area topo map, what’s keeping you?

I will add one more area visitor suggestion. When you are done paddling drive north along River Rd beside the Susquehanna, cross over Rte 372, drive past the Lock 12 sightseer area and continue towards Holtwood dam.

The last concrete-on-dirt-road bridge you pass before the dam has a small pull off area (I know, horrible oops-you-passed-it directions, just turn around near the dam and head back), is the unmarked trailhead one of the most scenic, short streamside hikes anywhere, through a veritable forest of Mt. Laurel and waterfall cascades.

Bring your camera.
 
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Very cool rocks Mike, and good to see you getting out on the water. I know they don't make those sails any more, but what does the mount look like? Do you have a DIY on one of those?

Mark
 
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Wish you had rung me up for a socially distanced paddle.

Whadda ya need me for? You got roof racks, a canoe and (I think) a photocopy of a topo map, complete with suggested launches, paddling routes and things to see along the way.

If I somehow did not mail you that marked map (I thought I had) I would be happy to do so. Or, mail a map to anyone else local who is interested in that area. That peculiar place is like nowhere else nearby, and endlessly fascinating, even after 50+ years of boating and paddling thereabouts.

Alan, we could try a socially distanced paddle. But this time, I insist, no bro hugs or slobbery kissyface greetings ;-)

Very cool rocks Mike, and good to see you getting out on the water. I know they don't make those sails any more, but what does the mount look like? Do you have a DIY on one of those?

Mark, the whirl-hole rock formations are only the half of it thereabouts. Maybe less than half of the attraction.

Hidden, paddle-in rock grottos, giant battleship bow cliff faces, remnants of the Tidewater & Susquehanna Canal locks and aqueducts, good birdlife during and after migration, PA’s highest density of skinks on the grotto cliffs, decent fishing. Maybe some invertebrate study next time. There is more to see there in a 5 to 10 mile paddle than anywhere in the mid-Atlantic.

The Spirit Sails are sublimely simple for downwind cruising; hands free, to hold the paddle, no lines or sheets . I’m a simple guy, and that is a simple downwind sail. Still my favorite video of a Spirit Sail in use. First time user, and I gave him, uh, perhaps insufficient instruction in adjusting the sail.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jU2mE83Gi0M

Note that there is but a little breeze catching the sail, but Joel is cruising “downwind” at casual paddling speed in very shallow water. I have sail-cruised significant downwind mileage, under 10-15 MPH winds, effortlessly (maybe a little gunwale-held paddle rudder) ripping off easy 15 mile days. Under downwind sail, if you stroke it on the off-wind side, you will fly.

When the canoe gets moving downwind, at tailwind and wave speed, everything just settles in rock steady. Downwind sailing may be most fun you can have in a small boat, including long ago canoe trips with your horny teenage sweetheart. Although I have never had the opportunity to try both at once, so that’s still on the bucket list.

The sail base mount is nothing more than a re-badged Scotty rod base, which fits all of Scotty’s rod holders. That base mount locks the sail attachment in place, but allows turning it sideways in 30 degree increments for sailing on a broad reach.

https://www.partsvu.com/34341-scotty...xoC7yMQAvD_BwE

The sail is a simple, battened vee, held aloft between gust-flexible carbon fiber poles. I’ve made some knock-off vee sails, using Eureka Timberline tent poles or narrow SS pipe, Carbon fiber rods are better; the more flexible carbon rods, as OEM on the Spirit Sail, flex easier, and spill sudden gusts more comfortingly.

Making DIY downwind vee sails, with tent poles/pipe/carbon tubes and fabric is easy peezy simple.

The tricky part is the (discontinued) Spirit Sail Y-shaped connector, that plugs into the Scotty rod base and sleeves the sail battens, properly vee spread and gear-tooth notched to turn at 30 degree increments for capturing broad reach breezes.

Base mount Scotty rod holder, check. Carbon tubes, or old tent poles/sleeved pipe with fabric for the sail, check. All that is left is to fabricate that missing Y piece. I’ve been thinking 3-D printer, using some sturdy, stress resistant plastic that would withstand the bent-batten sail forces.

I have a spare Y piece that could be used as a scanned 3-D example, but have never gotten around to investigating that DIY fabrication Y possibility.

If anyone has easier access, and is more knowledge about sturdy plastic 3-D printing please let me know; I’ll send you a never-used Y piece, to have scanned and 3-D printed.

I expect that scanning and 3-D printing a single sturdy Y connector would be stupid expensive, but I’d like a couple more Y’s for future DIY sails, and know a several paddler friends using Spirit Sails, who might want an extra, so a dozen is isn’t out of the question, keeping a few for yourself.

If 3-D printing the Y-connector works I’ll give someone a bro hug or fist bump, but no slobbery, kissyface spit swapping.
 
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Great report. I am putting that area high on my to paddle list.

Too bad Spirit Sails folded up shop. I expect 3D printing for an application like this will get cost-effective pretty quickly, if it is not already.
 
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If 3-D printing the Y-connector works I’ll give someone a bro hug or fist bump, but no slobbery, kissyface spit swapping.

Well, OK. I was hoping that it would at least warrant a hug and an innocent peck on the cheek. Not for me, but for somebody I know.

Great video, it makes me want one of these even more. There's a good shot of the mounting plate and V thingy at 0:51. So the V thingy is locked at that angle and to change the angle you would have to pull it up and out? Is it locked in place in any way from underneath or does it just sit there in the hole? Here's a universal mount I found on the Scotty web site. I think I could make something to hold the battens out of wood, maybe slathered with fiberglass and epoxy that would hold up, but I wonder if the rest of this is up to the task. Do you think the plastic is strong enough? I see they also have a flush mount that might be able to take the torque a bit better. I guess the weak point would be the "pin" that sits in the mount.

368_02.jpg

I found this setup on the website, it comes with both pieces. The mount looks a bit more stout since it is recessed into the base. I'm thinking small block of hardwood shaped in a V. Question is whether the insert is strong enough? It looks pretty solid and I assume will withstand the torque from a fishing rod with more leverage. Only $20. It's in my shopping cart. I have lots of tent poles and piles of fabric, but none of the see through stuff.


PV3463.jpg


I like the comment about the rudder cables on that boat.

Mark
 
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Strangely I think this picture made me more homesick for the area and the distant past than anything else. I remember many stops there before or after runs on Muddy Creek with good friends that I have lost touch with, and many of whom are no longer with us.

Pete, that was very much a spur of the moment photo on the way home. I miss diner meals and ate there after most Susquehanna trips. We used the upper Conowingo pool as one of the testing grounds for canoe reviews, so I would haul up five or six canoes and a half dozen paddlers to put the boats through their paces, swap hulls and make notes.

Part of that deal was that I would buy them dinner at the Delta Diner en route home. Those boys (and girls) could put away some food, especially if it was free, and I paid some hefty tabs. Thank god they didn’t serve alcohol; I’d have gone broke doing those reviews.

(Part of that deal was that they could tell their significant other “I’d love to help you pick out wallpaper today honey, but shucks, I already promised Mike I’d help test paddle some canoes”)

The take out ice cream counter is still part of the Delta diner. Who was the longtime MCC or GBCC club trip leader with a penchant for post-paddling ice cream, who knew an ice cream stop near most paddling venues?

I bet I could do a photo tour of diners and eateries near various local rivers and make you really homesick.
 
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I wonder if this would be a decent canoe sail.

I like the hands-free and no sheets or lines (other than a “safety” line so the sail doesn’t blow overboard and sink) aspect. Without sheets/lines and cleats being hands-free in a canoe, or any rudderless small boat, becomes paddle blade ruddering and occasionally, if I push my limits, oh-shit bracing important.

90% of the time, even with a ruddered boat in easy breezes, I have a paddle within instant reach just in case. And if I’m not otherwise hands-occupied (camera, monocular, making notes on the map, eating lunch while still making miles. . . . . smoking a bowl or drinking a beer) I hold a paddle across my lap as a comfort totem.

I don’t much like that the (stiff, aluminum, little flex in gusts) sail battens on that sail are held in place by nothing other than wedging your feet against the bottoms. Not sure how that would work with nothing on a canoe floor to help hold them in place.
 
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The take out ice cream counter is still part of the Delta diner. Who was the longtime MCC or GBCC club trip leader with a penchant for post-paddling ice cream, who knew an ice cream stop near most paddling venues?
I forget who was the ice cream guy or gal. Al Chandler? Warren Therien? Will Gallagher?

I bet I could do a photo tour of diners and eateries near various local rivers and make you really homesick.
I bet you could, but that one more than most brings back really old memories of my very earliest paddling days in an old Grumman with a truck tube for flotation no less.
 
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one more than most brings back really old memories of my very earliest paddling days in an old Grumman with a truck tube for flotation no less.

Pete, I could shake the dust of more memories. I kept the old membership rosters as well as copies of the quarterly newsletters, the MCC Smoke Signal and GBCC Gunpowder Gazette.

I grabbed a Smoke Signal at random and whadda ya know, Fall 2004 was the Restaurant Guide issue, with a cover photo of John Duke stuck on a rock on Stoneycreek.

I’m serious; if you remember specific newsletters or want an old membership roster to jog some fellow paddler memories I’d be happy to mail you one.
 
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I like the comment about the rudder cables on that boat.

There is a reason the rudder pedals/cables are reversed on that decked canoe. The initial (real) reason is that, if the rudder cables were installed “correctly”, the exposed cable stuck out way past the sides on the stern. So I cross them, less exposed, as a X over the stern deck.

The other “claimed” but true reason is that, when sailing downwind on a broad reach with a vee sail turned 30 or 60 degrees I shift my weight towards the windward side, to offset the wind in the sail heeling the canoe over.

I don’t “hike out”. I’ll leave that for non-wussy day sailors. I’m still fully inside the hull, but it is weight-shift convenient to be able to put the windward side of my body/leg/knee up against that side of the boat, to help keep the hull more level.

Without having the rudder pedals reversed/crossed that windward side is the foot I need to keep pressed cocking rudder pedal over, so having the cables cross is a sailing benefit. I quickly get used to that reversed rudder steering. Joel has spent a lifetime in ruddered sea kayaks, and it played hell with his mind.

Mark, more to come on a separate thread about DIY'ing downwind sails.
 
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Pete, I could shake the dust of more memories. I kept the old membership rosters as well as copies of the quarterly newsletters, the MCC Smoke Signal and GBCC Gunpowder Gazette.

I grabbed a Smoke Signal at random and whadda ya know, Fall 2004 was the Restaurant Guide issue, with a cover photo of John Duke stuck on a rock on Stoneycreek.

I’m serious; if you remember specific newsletters or want an old membership roster to jog some fellow paddler memories I’d be happy to mail you one.
Susan and I edited the Gunpowder Gazette for some period. I don't think we kept any issues these decades later. I never received the Smoke Signal, but did have many friends in the MCC. I'll pass on the offer for the moment, but will keep it in mind.
 
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I am putting that area high on my to paddle list.

Dave, I have marked a topo map copy of that area, between the no-permit-required Cold Cabin launch and permit-required Fish Commission Muddy Creek launch, as far up-pool (and down pool) as you are likely to paddle.

“Over marked” in fact, with Guthrie-ish “27 circles and arrows and a notation each one, explaining what each one is”, including both permit and non-permit put ins, rock whirls, attainment possibilities, hidden grotto entrance, funky local kayak shop en route (Starrkmoon) and more. I even did my best to print the map notations legibly.

It’s in an envelope, with a stamp, and just needs an address. I can send it to Delaware, or somewhere closer to home if you prefer, just let me know. I don’t believe Poor ALSG’s map, if he can still find it, is as well annotated; you could meet him there so he doesn’t get confused.

Hell, I might even try to meet y’all there, near a whirl or on some sandy beach on a given day.


Too bad Spirit Sails folded up shop. I expect 3D printing for an application like this will get cost-effective pretty quickly, if it is not already.

It would help in finding out if I’d get off my lazy ass and at least investigate 3-D printing new Y’s. Eh, I may have my fishing license first.

Keep the faith about simple downwind vee sails. I want to see what Dogbrain comes up with as a DIY for the discontinued Y piece. Everything else is easily ordered parts and pieces.

Susan and I edited the Gunpowder Gazette for some period.

You and Susan may have edited some sillyassed “Duckhead” trip reports in the Gazette. I had trips listed on both the MCC and GBCC cruise schedules, mostly so I could cherry-pick club members that fit in well with the Duckhead ethos of “Drinkers with a paddling problem”.

I have Gunpowder Gazettes rusticating unread in a file cabinet from 2002 to 2006. An address and cost of a stamp if you are interested.

Looking through that file was good for a laugh. I found a copy of an e-mail from Margie Rose-Innes and the GBCC “Nominations Committee”, asking me to consider becoming an club officer, using tempting bait phrases like “We’re a laid back bunch (especially after sampling the drinks)” and “Board members don’t usually have to do very much except vote”.

She obviously knew my weaknesses, but had never actually met me.
 
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Mike, I pm'd you. IT said they were working on fixing your pm problem, but I never circled back to them to find out if it was indeed resolved.

Mailing address is PO Box 1336, Middletown, DE 19709. This summer sounds good to me.
 
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Dave, I mailed the map this morning.

About summer trips on Conowingo Pool; keep an eye on the gauge at Conowingo for a spell before you go. On hot summer days, when they need the power generation so everyone can run their AC units, the straight-up-straight-down on the gauge can be somewhat dependably weekday vs weekend timed.

https://waterdata.usgs.gov/pa/nwis/u...65,00060,00010

(A gauge further upstream, like Marietta, will give you a better idea of the actual un-gated river flow, and how much water is coming past (over) Holtwood dam.

Depending on the weather on some Sundays some of the gates at Conowingo will close so the pool above can refill in preparation for Monday’s power needs release. The upper Conowingo pool is busier of course on weekends, but the riproaring powerboats stick to the open lake area. No one who cares about their transom, prop or shear pin goes very fast among the submerged rocks between the upstream islands.

The ideal time to visit would be an un-crowded weekday, in temperate weather, with less need for power generation, and when the Susquehanna isn’t swollen from recent upriver rains.

The large reservoir shown on the map atop the hills on the Lancaster County side is the Muddy Run Project, a pumped-storage hydro reservoir. When Holtwood or Conowingo dams, or the Peach Bottom atomic plant generate excess power it is used to pump water from the Susquehanna up into the reservoir, and when more power is needed it runs back down the hill through the turbines.

https://www.exeloncorp.com/locations...orage-facility

Interesting “battery” idea. I don’t know how efficient it is pumping water up and running it back down; I guess it is most useful with a nuke plant running nearby.

The discharge from the concrete face on the Susquehanna when they let the water back down is semi-spectacular, and that water increases the weird currents between Lower Bear and Big Chestnut Islands. By “weird” I mean that, when the dams and the Muddy Run reservoir are all releasing water, the area between those two islands is a mysterious mess of swirls and boils.

It isn’t especially dangerous if you are a skilled paddler, just a bizarre feeling when a boil or mini whirlpool suddenly appears and sucks down one side of the canoe or spins you sideways. That peculiarity, and the attainments, were some of the reasons we went there to test paddle review canoes.

One cautionary tale of attainment oopsies. We were test paddling (IIRC) a collection of new Prospector canoes, including a carbon fiber Bell Prospector. A carbon fiber Prospector on loan from Bell, which I should note had the smallest float tanks of any composite canoe I have ever seen.

Chip and C2G led the way attaining between Crow and Upper Bear, and dumped in the meat of the current. We got Chip and C2G ashore on the rocky tip of Crow with some difficulty. The canoe was still nowhere to be seen and, thinking it was wedged under the cliff face somewhere, I began mentally composing an e-mail to Ted Bell “So, about that carbon Prospector you lent me for review. . . .”

I was sweating bullets when the canoe finally broke water 50 yards downstream, and by “broke water” I mean the top two inches of each black stem slowly poked up barely visible.

I made sure to mention the size of the float tanks in the review. But not the worrisome vanishing act.
 
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That map will be a terrific resource to have in my hip pocket. Thank you kindly. But, of course, nothing beats having a local guide along.
 
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