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Showing content with the highest reputation since 06/24/2015 in Blog Entries

  1. Note: This giveaway ended 7/12/16. For summer, we're giving away a new ZPacks 4-in-1 MultiPack filled with a $50 Gift Certificate to REI and a choice of shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! If you're not familiar with this versatile storage solution from ZPacks check out our Multi-Pack Review from back in Issue 17 for all the details - I personally use one as a ~3 ounce solution to keep my camera easily accessible (in chest pack mode) on every hike. Just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing
    162 points
  2. Note: This giveaway ended 5/16/16. This month enter to win a $100 REI e-Gift Card plus your choice of a shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! Just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing. Full details below. How to Enter 1) Like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post. Simply login with your TrailGroove account and like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post to let us know you'd like to be entered to win. New to TrailGroove? Click here to sign
    144 points
  3. Note: This Giveaway Ended 3/15/17. For our winter giveaway (and just in time!), we're giving away a new Helinox Chair Zero and the choice of any shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! This new camp comfort seating solution from Helinox is a comfortable chair that's both packable and light enough for those backpacking and hiking excursions where some extra comfort might be on your list of priorities - for more info on the Chair Zero, take a look here at REI and read our recent review. Just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd
    136 points
  4. Note: This giveaway ended 10/31/16. For fall, we're giving away a new BearVault BV450 food canister filled with a $50 Gift Certificate to REI and a choice of shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! Check out our full BV450 review in Issue 30 for more info on the BearVault, and just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing. Full details below. Photo credit Mark Wetherington How to Enter 1) Like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post. Simply login with your
    135 points
  5. Note: This giveaway ended 6/2/17 For spring, we're giving away a $100 REI e-Gift Card plus your choice of a shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! Just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing. Full details below. How to Enter 1) Like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post. Simply login with your TrailGroove account and like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post to let us know you'd like to be entered to win. New to TrailGroove? Click here to
    128 points
  6. Note: This giveaway ended 2/22/16. With an eye on the upcoming arrival of spring next month, we're giving away a Platypus GravityWorks water filter system - similar to the system we reviewed here in Issue 25, just in the 2 liter reservoir kit version, plus your choice of shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store. The GravityWorks filtration kit is an easy to use .2 micron water filter system that we've found to be well designed and easy to use, and it's a great choice for anything from a day hikes to longer backpacking trips. Click here to see the exact system the winner will receive.
    117 points
  7. Note: This giveaway ended 7/28/17. For summer, we're giving away a $100 Backcountry.com Gift Certificate plus your choice of a shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! Just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing. Full details below. How to Enter 1) Like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post. Simply login with your TrailGroove account and like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post to let us know you'd like to be entered to win. New to TrailGro
    82 points
  8. Gossamer Gear has been refining their ultralight oriented backpacks since 1998, including multiple iterations of the Gorilla – their medium volume framed pack. The newest version was released in early 2015 using gray Robic fabric instead of the white Dyneema Grid fabric as seen on older packs. The shoulder straps are now unisex, more contoured, thicker,and slightly narrower than the previous version. The hip belt was also redesigned to have more padding with a mesh inner face to wick sweat. Trekking pole holders were also added along with heavier stitching for prolonged pack life. As a result,
    5 points
  9. It is one thing to conceptually understand that you have the gear to bivy at 7,500 feet in the Northern Rockies with a forecast of six degrees below zero. It is another thing entirely to find yourself in circumstances where you end up having to do exactly that. And it was in such circumstances that I found myself on the last night of 2015. Perhaps I shouldn’t have turned down that invitation to a New Year’s Eve party after all. I left home that morning later than I would’ve liked and drove for more than five minutes but less than five hours to the trailhead. Montana, Idaho, Washingt
    4 points
  10. They say fire warms the soul, better yet when that fire is in a potbelly stove set inside a historic cabin atop the spine of the continent burning wood you didn’t have to chop! Rachel and I decided to celebrate my 31st birthday and our recent move to Colorado by booking an overnight stay at one of the over 30 backcountry huts for rent in Colorado through the 10th Mountain Hut Association and the above scenario is exactly what we found. Based on some advice from fellow TrailGroove writer @PaulMags, we decided on Section House – a historic railroad cabin built in 1887, restored in the 1990’s and
    4 points
  11. In the summer of 2009 I was sitting in a hotel room in Hirosaki, a small city in the far north of Japan’s main island of Honshu, eagerly anticipating my upcoming hike. It was to be the second big hike I’d ever gone on in Japan, and I was determined that unlike my first journey into this country’s wilderness, this one would be perfect. Unfortunately for me, though, neither of the two friends I was traveling with seemed particularly enthusiastic about hitting the trails, and we had yet to make the final decision as to whether or not we’d even be going out to the mountain. The reason w
    4 points
  12. After a season of hiking, sleeping and sweating in your down jacket or sleeping bag things can get a little stinky. You might even notice a slight loss of loft as body oils compromise the fluffiness of the down feathers. Or, as in my case, the jacket is just grubby. Fortunately washing your jacket or sleeping bag is a lot easier than you may fear. In this article I’ll go step by step through washing one of my down jackets but the same process can be used for nearly all down sleeping bags. The only difference is more soap (typically a capful) and using a clean bathtub instead of a sink. To
    4 points
  13. The last two winters I’ve spent living in the American southwest, and before I left I planned to take a long bike ride. I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go, but I was leaning towards somewhere way out in the desert. I changed my mind many times in the months before the trip, but eventually decided to leave sunny California, and drive further inland, to Utah. I had driven this highway once before, a scenic route through the southern part of Utah. Highway 12, “The All American Road.” I knew there was a route. I could bike out to this highway, turn right in the town of Boulder ont
    4 points
  14. With so many places to explore in Montana, it might seem a bit strange to visit the same place for a second time – much less a third time. But one lake in particular has drawn me back to it three times over the last few years. My first visit to this lake was coincidentally my first summer in Montana. My eagerness for mountain scenery led me to visiting it so early (late May) that even though it had been a mild winter, the lake was still frozen over and although the scenery was magical I wasn’t able to fish it. That trip also resulted in a memory that made an impression on me and that I’ve succ
    4 points
  15. Note: This giveaway ended 10/30/15. For fall, we're giving away a brand new Helinox Ground Chair, (Reviewed here in Issue 23) a ~22 ounce chair that's great for those more relaxed backpacking trips, day hikes, or even while car camping or just about anything else you can think of. We'll also throw in a TrailGroove hat or shirt of the winner's choosing! How to Enter: Leave a comment below on this blog entry describing the single backpacking/hiking luxury item you'd never leave behind on a backpacking/hiking trip, and why that's the case. Your comment counts as one
    4 points
  16. In typical backpacker fashion, I did my solemn duty of taking off the Thursday before a federal holiday falling on a Friday to schedule a two-night trip followed by a day of rest. A stroke of good fortune allowed me to book Christmas Eve and Christmas night at a small, rustic Forest Service rental cabin in the mountains of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Given the frigid forecast, it was well worth the nominal fee to know that after skiing around all day I’d have four walls, a roof, and a wood stove to wind down in and not have to put in the full effort required of winter
    4 points
  17. The Red Desert of Wyoming holds a unique appeal no matter your approach – it’s a country just as suitable for backpacking as it is for exploring and camping beside your vehicle off a rough and long forgotten dirt road. Either way, you’re likely to be in the middle of the nowhere. Adding to its allure, to begin the year the desert can only be comfortably explored for a short time each spring after the roads have sufficiently dried from melting snow to make passage by vehicle (just to get there) possible, and before this treeless and shadeless expanse becomes too hot for comfortable h
    4 points
  18. The trail before me had become a treacherous, muddy mess. My backpack felt like a sodden weight pulling me down, and my shoes squished and oozed water with every step. I was looking down at what would have been a sharp descent, now transformed into a muddy slide. As I debated between simply sitting down on the trail and letting gravity carry me along or staggering forward and attempting to remain upright, I thought again about how I had let this happen. The answer involved a series of bad decisions and bravado that all began with a hat. It had been the parting gift of a friend of mi
    3 points
  19. While the potential exists to makes one's backcountry cooking setup nearly as complex as the average home kitchen, albeit hopefully a bit more miniaturized and lighter, in most cases the average lightweight backpacker only needs to boil water for freeze-dried dinners, freezer bag style cooking, to heat and hydrate a basic meal within the pot, or to heat water for things like coffee and tea. For these backpackers – like myself - the Evernew Ultralight Titanium Series have been a fairly popular option on the trail and have been my go-to choice for many trips over nearly the past decade.
    3 points
  20. After an introduction to lightweight backpacking chairs a few years ago, my philosophy on this admittedly somewhat superfluous (but many times well worth the weight) camp comfort item has generally remained unchanged; on longer trips where I’m moving daily and pack weight is of more concern the chair stays behind and any rock or log will do. For the amount of time that you’re actually in camp – and not inside your tent – carrying the weight is simply not worth it. But mental and physical comfort levels on when the extra comfort is worth the weight of course, will vary. But on shorte
    3 points
  21. The expression “timing is everything”, occasionally derided as a common-sense platitude, is compelling when applied to backpacking. Hiking along a knife-edge ridge at sunset, watching sunrise from a campsite above timberline, encountering wildlife unexpectedly, getting the tent pitched at the last possible minute before a storm – meticulously planned or completely serendipitous, such moments are part of the thrill of backpacking. The physical act of backpacking, simply walking with a burden of gear and food attached to one’s body, is objectively not an “extreme” endeavor, but many of the scene
    3 points
  22. It’s almost as if the Pacific Ocean is a magnet, pulling me west each time I venture out to explore. While I take full advantage of the natural wonders offered by my home region in the central U.S., if I am traveling very far to hike, it is usually somewhere west of Oklahoma. As a result, I have hiked very little in the eastern United States, though I’ve managed to walk short sections of the Appalachian Trail on trips to Vermont and Maryland. Not much to brag about. Recently, I was in Virginia on business with my husband, Bill, and found myself with a free day, presenting an opportu
    3 points
  23. With time rapidly running out to hike one of the big three trails this year or having run out already, it may be time to consider a shorter long trail once the present situation with COVID-19 becomes settled, hopefully sooner rather than later. Trails like the Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, and Long Trail (see Thru-Hiking: the Junior Version) will certainly get plenty of attention after social distancing regulations are relaxed and when current closures come to an end, but there are lesser known hikes, such as the Sheltowee Trace, worth considering once things return closer to normal.
    3 points
  24. It's an early December afternoon in Yosemite National Park, and I'm watching a bobcat padding down the trail in front of me. In his mouth is a lifeless gray squirrel, so large that he drops it several times. He turns and surveys me with the lazy arrogance of a house cat who's proud of his kill. I'm unsure if I should be following this wild creature down the trail. I think of how animals are protective of their food. Still, the large cat and I are headed the same way, so I continue at a distance. Eventually he turns off the trail, and I draw closer and look up the embankment where he stands. Th
    3 points
  25. Whitecaps swirled in the ochre mixture of water and clay in the flooded wash at our feet. I never knew water so muddy could have whitecaps and now our route lay on the opposite bank of the torrent as it raged over unseen boulders and cut into the edge of its banks. Standing there at the two-track crossing in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, I wondered how many “do not enter when flooded” signs we passed on paved roads in the Southwest. It was late October and the third day in a row of intense thunderstorms that had slapped us around the open desert a hundred or so miles into the Gr
    3 points
  26. Recent books and movies have inspired countless hikers and potential hikers to dream about thru-hiking one of the “big three” of America’s long trails: The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail. However, most people that attempt the feat drop off the trail before completion. A six-month commitment to a hike can become just too difficult. Countless others don’t even try; it’s just too much time away from family and the lives they’ve built. Completing all three trails, the “Triple Crown of Hiking,” is beyond even contemplating. Other options exist tho
    3 points
  27. Wolves, Red Dogs, Grizzlies, & Outlaws A tiny “red dog” – a fuzzy, reddish bison calf – was all but glued to its mother’s side as she fought off a half dozen wolves near Yellowstone’s Slough Creek. The mother had strayed from the herd, and wolves were attacking from all sides in an attempt to separate her from her baby. The stiff-legged little calf wheeled and turned with its mother as best it could, but the outcome seemed inevitable. The standoff was visible to the naked eye, about two hundred yards off Route 212 on the park’s northern perimeter – an area sometimes called
    3 points
  28. Unique among the seasons, winter wields the power to make many hiking destinations inaccessible. Roads are gated due to snow, mountain passes become snowbound and hazardous, and specific four-season gear is required in many regions for those venturing out in the winter months. Human-powered recreation is mostly left to snowshoers, skiers, snowboarders, and winter is also a good time to focus on cleaning gear, summer trip planning, fitness routines, racking up vacation time, and other hobbies. Getting away to a warmer locale for a few days or a week also doesn’t hurt if you’re able to accommoda
    3 points
  29. “Looks like you’re going in circles” is a way to tell someone that they're wasting their time. Talking in circles generally isn’t a compliment either. However, walking in a circle can be a good thing for backpackers, provided they’re walking around something interesting. Think about it. Logistics become pretty easy. No ride back to the start is required. In the case of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), walking in a circle is a great experience. As you may have guessed from the trail’s name, the TRT involves walking around Lake Tahoe. The largest alpine lake in North America, Tahoe is 22 mi
    3 points
  30. There are certain trails which, when hiked in certain seasons, can be so blissfully pleasant as to seem almost otherworldly. Each step is a pleasure. Every view is breathtaking. The scents of the forest are almost intoxicating. Chirping birds, chattering squirrels and rushing creeks create a soundtrack that is almost orchestral. Spending unhurried time in nature seems to be one of the most refreshing things humans can do for themselves and one of the few activities which consistently pays out rewards greater than the time and effort entered. With an eye towards those indescribable and abstract
    3 points
  31. “What are some of the more scenic trails in the area?” my friend Joan asked a local man at a hiking store in Sedona, Arizona. “All of them. They’re all scenic. Everywhere you look is scenic,” he said with a well-practiced manner, unable to hide his weariness with such questions. Even the trail map on display at the store was marked in bold black ink with exclamatory statements: “It’s scenic!!” “The views are amazing!” To say the least, it became apparent that we weren’t the first out-of-towners to ask the locals such seemingly innocent questions about hikes in the area. But aft
    3 points
  32. Chris, Randy and I sat at a local brewery, a map of Olympic National Park spread across the table. We had climbed in the Olympics for decades, but now we were attempting something different – a thru hike from one side of the park to another. You might have thought planning to cross using established routes would be simple, but it was proving anything but. “Even the freaking rain forest is on fire.” Chris traced a route with his finger. The Pacific Northwest was suffering through one of its hottest summers on record, and our choices were dwindling. Park rangers had nixed the north-south hi
    3 points
  33. We had been warned that the Three Fingers Lookout wasn’t for the faint of heart. But that didn’t take away from the shock of first seeing it. The hut was just a speck in the distance, perched precariously on a jagged spire of rock rising up above a crevasse-riddled glacier and a low sea of clouds. From our vantage, it seemed impossible that the wooden hut could balance there for another night, let alone that there would be a passable trail to reach it. My partner, Emily, and I had gotten hooked on the idea of visiting this 89-year-old lookout, in Washington’s Boulder River Wildernes
    3 points
  34. Long before I’d ever shouldered a backpack for a hike into a wilderness area, I found myself intrigued by Arizona’s Superstition Mountains. As the purported location of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, I was first exposed to the Superstitions in books about lost treasures and historical mysteries I checked out from my middle-school library. An episode of “In Search of . . .” with Leonard Nimoy that featured the legend and aired as a re-run on the History Channel further deepened my fascination. Hidden gold and lost maps, murders and disappearances, towering rock formations and an unforgiving des
    3 points
  35. Earth Day was a perfect day, in regards to both weather and spirit, to embark on my first backpacking trip of the year. The destination, the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, seemed particularly fitting as well as a bit daunting. Covering over 2.3 million acres, this area is one of the wildest places in the Lower 48. With the high country still covered in snow, I would limit my hiking on this trip to a mere five miles on the Lower Salmon River Trail and a short way up the Horse Creek Trail to a quaint campsite. While the Salmon River (also known as the River of No Return)
    3 points
  36. Hiking from one beautiful place to another on pleasant and well-maintained trails is a great way to spend five days. Doing so with a good friend and cooperative weather makes a great experience even better. Throw in a few synchronous strokes of good fortune and you end up with an incredibly rewarding and memorable adventure. Neither John nor I had been on a four-night trip since March 2011 when he, myself, and my girlfriend at the time did a trek through the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona. John was working nearby in Sierra Vista, Arizona with the US Forest Service at
    3 points
  37. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that a one-sized fits all approach to gear simply doesn’t work for me – whether it is a mountain bike or a sleeping bag. Finally in 2015, after many years of utilizing a men’s sleeping bag (which dominate the higher end sleeping bag market) I decided to learn from my mistakes, branch out from the mold, and purchase a down sleeping bag designed specifically for women from Seattle-based manufacturer Feathered Friends, who currently offer 9 different women’s-specific models in their complete sleeping bag lineup. I opted for the 10 degree rate
    2 points
  38. The Ozarks of northwest Arkansas and southern Missouri are full of magical places, and thanks to the rest of the world’s inattention to this glorious natural area, solitude can often be easily found. Eye-catching geology abounds as a consequence of erosion of the high plateau that created the peaks and hollows characteristic of the area. Clear rivers and streams lace through limestone bluffs and natural bridges and over waterfalls, making the Ozarks an outdoor paradise. There are so many spots with stunning scenery in the Ozarks that the best thing to do is base your adventure in on
    2 points
  39. Spacious silence and cool, dry air. The sun is always warm in California, even in the dead of winter. Winter time is the off season here in Death Valley National Park, but I can’t imagine why. Boasting the hottest recorded temperature on Earth, it seems funny that most of the park’s visitors come in the summer. If you want to feel some serious, otherworldly heat, then pay us a visit in July! However, if you come to explore at any other time of the year, California’s mild and pleasant weather can be almost guaranteed. Spring is especially nice in Death Valley, when the warm nights re
    2 points
  40. From beaches to rainforests to glaciers, Olympic National Park provides hikers with access to a stunning variety of landscapes. Although I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to do in the park’s 922,650 acres, I have had the privilege of soaking in its hot springs, swimming in its alpine lakes, and walking among the giant trees in its rainforest. The extensive trail network of Olympic National Park allows for memorable backpacking trips of all lengths, from overnight outings to weeklong journeys. The mix of topography, elevation, and cultural history allow for an incredible divers
    2 points
  41. It's always hard to enjoy a backpacking trip when you don't sleep well, and sleeplessly shivering throughout the night is one way to guarantee a rough next day. Here's a list of 10 tips, ideas, and considerations that should help the next time your backcountry trip coincides with those colder nights. A Nalgene Bottle. Trapping your heat utilizing your sleeping bag and insulating yourself from cold ground using a warm enough sleeping pad are highly efficient, but sometimes nothing beats the comfort of a heat source other than your own. Though heavier than disposable water bottles, th
    2 points
  42. Hikers love maps. Maps are more than just navigational aids – they’re permission to let our imaginations run free. Maps inspire childlike wonder. We dream about what’s around the bend. I’ve spent years staring at a map of long-distance hiking trails in the United States. The Arizona Trail runs north-south through its home state, as does the Idaho Centennial Trail. Between the two, there’s a gap where no established trail exists. The gap is not for lack of scenic beauty, however. The state of Utah is chock-full of amazing landscapes: iconic National Parks, little-known subalpine plateaus,
    2 points
  43. While any thru-hike will involve an uncountable number of steps, the biggest step of them all is the proverbial first step – making the decision to go hike the trail yourself. After you’ve watched the videos and read the articles, the inspiration is at its highest, and you finally decide to hike a long distance trail, the second major step into the world of long distance hiking is preparing to walk – up to 25 miles every day for up to 6 months straight. What I found after hiking the length of the Pacific Crest Trail was that thru-hiking isn’t so much a physical feat – and while you certainly h
    2 points
  44. The musical theme from the 1960s Daniel Boone television show ran through my head when, as we drove across southern Kentucky, I saw signs indicating we were entering Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF). The historical Boone was not actually a big man in physical stature, but his legend, and the actual accomplishments of the Kentucky frontiersman, were sizable. Daniel Boone was a man, Yes, a big man! With an eye like an eagle And as tall as a mountain was he! In 1775, Boone blazed his Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap and founded Boonesborough, one of the first American
    2 points
  45. While not an unknown destination by any means, Aravaipa Canyon in southern Arizona is considerably less famous, even among backpackers, than many other destinations in the Grand Canyon State. One of the few perennial streams in the Sonoran Desert, Aravaipa Creek offers those who hike in the area a reliable source of water. This is a welcome treat in arid Arizona, since many backpacking trips in the state must be carefully planned around water sources. Not only does the year-round water in the canyon ease the anxiety about access to water, it also nourishes a lovely forest near the creek and pr
    2 points
  46. Hiking and running in the various models of the Lone Peak trail running shoe from Altra for the past few years and across several different versions I’ve become well acquainted with the nuances of each model, and after a short but rugged trip to the Ferris Mountains of Wyoming early this past summer I did find one thing on the 2.5 model I’d like more of: support. On that trip while consistently side-hilling with a pack my foot slid around side to side more than I’d like, and even resulted in a blister or two on my usually blister-less feet. For more info on the 2.5, which was a great shoe over
    2 points
  47. Prior to becoming what could politely be described as a fanatical backpacker, I might have questioned the wisdom of spending as much on a sleeping bag as I would on a new full-sized mattress. But when your main hobby involves hiking around with everything on your back that you need to be safe and comfortable for days a time, your perspective on such purchases tends to shift. This shift in perspective directly influenced my decision to purchase a Marmot Plasma 30 degree down sleeping bag in spring of 2012. The bag had a retail price of just over $400 dollars at the time which was sl
    2 points
  48. The early-season opportunity to bike portions of Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park without any automobile traffic seems too good to be true. Miles of paved road passing alongside streams rushing with snowmelt, climbing into the high country, weaving through lush forests – all behind a gate and open only to bicycles and foot traffic. I’ve done enough recreational road biking and bike commuting to develop a sincere appreciation of a smooth surface, hard tires, and minimal traffic through beautiful landscapes but rarely plan trips around bicycling. Instead, like most backpackers, I plan m
    2 points
  49. In his beautiful and evocative memoir The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness, acclaimed travel writer Gary Ferguson breathes emotional and humane life into the Mountain West. After 25 years of marriage and as many seasons sharing a USFS ski patrol hut, Ferguson’s wife Jane passes away suddenly in a tragic canoeing accident in northern Ontario, dividing Ferguson from not only his partner and best friend, but from his identity in relation to her. In recognition of her last wishes, he sets out to scatter her ashes in her five favorite backcountry locations, and in doing so begins to
    2 points
  50. Sitting atop the summit of Mount Saint Helens, with views of over a hundred miles in every direction, a passage from a novel came to mind as I sipped a cup of coffee and gazed at distant peaks. Seemingly appropriate when applied to an exceptionally clear autumn day observed from atop a mountain, an experience that makes one feel full of life. It felt like the “most beautiful day in a thousand years. The October air was sweet and every faint breath a pleasure.” As Annie Proulx wrote in the book, Barkskins. My climbing partner Kerra and I had begun the hike up Mount Saint Helens at 5
    2 points



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