Sunday, April 30, 2006

Top Yough

Well finally, after much anticipation we managed to get on the Top Yough. It was running low, but so was everything else and it seemed to be the best option. I had gotten confilicting reports about the quality of the run. Some people said it was great fun even low. Others warned that we'd be disappointed. We decided to see for ourselves. The level on Saturday was only a bit lower than i had run Swallow Falls before so i figured it couldn't be bad. We got a good group together (me, Mark, Ben, Justin, Rick T, and Tim B) and the weather was perfect. The level was around 210 cfs.

Maggie at Swallow Falls

Mark at Swallow Falls

Mark at Swallow Falls

Justin at Swallow Falls

Rick at Swallow Falls

Mark at Swallow Falls

Tim at Swallow Falls

Swallow Falls from top

Maggie at Swallow Falls

On our first run Rick and Tim, who had both run it before, did most of the leading. We got out and scouted Swallow Falls and Suck Hole. The sieve at Suck Hole had filled with wood and at this low level posed very little threat. Though i could totally see how at higher water it would be a challege to stay away from it. On the following runs we got out to take pictures at Swallow but didn't need to scout any more.

Scouting Suck Hole - Sieve filled with wood on right

Near the end of the run we reached a fairly narrow/shallow rapid that Rick warned had a sticky hole at the bottom. The eddies were small and we all got a bit bunched together. Rick and I got a little too close as we approached the drop above the hole. The close proximity wasn't comfortable and i certainly wasn't about to have us both go over the drop at the same time so i powered forward to get in front of him. I got a good angle and bounced over the hole cleanly. Rick unfortuantley was way too far left and wasn't able to get enough speed or adjust his angle well and got flipped in the hole. It pushed him to the slightly undercut left wall. It wasn't particularly dangerous but was making it hard for him to roll. He flushed off the wall but was getting tired, missed a few rolls and swam (he said he didn't mind me posting about this btw). Luckily there was a nice pool below so the swim was short and relatively safe. Justin and i were right there to help out too.

Justin went after Rick while i went for his boat. But as i tried to push the boat to shore i watched as Justin flipped in the process of trying to help him. Seemed like he had some trouble rolling with Rick holding on to his boat but he managed to get up. For a second there i thought we'd have two swimmers! lol. In any case we got Rick and his boat to shore and after a short rest he was back in his boat. Ben and I later started reffering to this drop as "Rick's Rapid".

Ben at Rick's Rapid

After that run Rick, Tim, and Justin decided to head home. Justin dropped Mark, Ben and i off at the put in for a second run. We'd debated going to the Upper Yough instead but decided we wanted to learn this run better. Our second run was great as well. We ran into one other group who were scouting their way down but otherwise saw very few people all day.

That night we camped at Piney Mountain. In the morning we checked the Sang Run gauge and decided that since it hadn't changed too much that the Top Yough would probably still be good. We drove to the put in and walked down to Swallow Falls for a visual. It didn't look much different so we decided it was good to go (~180 cfs, AW min).

Since at this point we only had one car we needed to find other people. We'd gotten up pretty early though so we didn't expect to see anyone. We chained the boats to a tree at the put in and drove to the takeout, prepared for the long hike. We were content with just doing one run and heading home. As we gearing up two boaters came off the river. One of them, Shawn, was interested in doing another run. So we lucked out and didn't have to hike afterall. Shawn ended up joining us for 2 runs.

Despite the low levels the Top Yough was fantastic. We all had an absolute blast. We did a total of four runs. Mark and i hiked back up and ran Swallow Falls twice on our last run for a total of 5. On his first run Mark got too far right, kinda like i had when i ran it back in '04). He did not hit the rock though got spun around on the pillow. Justin opted to run the left side. This seemed like an odd choice to us as there was very little water going over it, but he was pretty determined. It looked like it could be fun with more water but at this level there wasn't really much to push you away from the drop. He pulled it off fine but it didn't look like much fun to me.

On my first run i ran the line just to the left of the right shore, neatly missing the pillow (as Tim and Rick had done). On my second run i got surfed to the left by the curler at the top and ended up running the middle line in between the piton rocks at the bottom. It was a little scarry because i didn't know what to expect. I saw myself heading right by the big pothole and for a moment was afraid of getting stuck in it but i zoomed right by and bounced nicely down to the bottom. I think that was probably the scarriest but most fun line. On the one of Sunday's runs i ran the far right line, bracing on the pillow. It was very clean though and i felt totally in control. Great lines overall.

Ben had scouted the rapid each time but for the first three runs chose to walk. It's a pretty visually impressive / intimidating drop and i totally don't blame him. On our final run, after much contemplation, he decided he was ready and followed Mark down (see video). Everyone had great lines. Mark ran the middle as i had before while Ben and Shawn went farther right. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Video 1 of Maggie running Swallow Falls

Video 2 of Maggie running Swallow Falls

Video of Mark, Ben and Shawn running Swallow Falls

Ben scouting Swallow Falls

The rest of the run was great as well. Ben, Mark and I all agreed it was super fun despite the low level. Each rapid had something fun to do. Either a cool boof or a nice clean slot (great practice for me as i'm not very good at slots) or some great eddy hoping. Some of the boofs were a little shallow in places. I actually managed to hit the driest part of one of them and came to a dead stop at the lip of the drop. It was fairly amusing sitting there looking down at everyone. I then pushed myself off and ran the boof farther right on the next runs.

Maggie at finding the shallow boof

On the second day Shawn showed us some new lines we hadn't seen the day before, more fun and easy slots and cool moves. He and Mark did the room move at Suck Hole which required ferrying across the the top hole into an enclosed eddy and then ferrying back out. Pretty neat. There was also a small drop with a hole that was backed up by a big rock. The hole was small and Shawn could surf back and forth across it, in front of the rock. Mark managed to do it as well though it was more difficult due to the length of his creek boat vs. Shawn's playboat.

Mark exiting the room

After our final run we hiked up to Muddy Creek and scouted it down from the falls. We decided it looked like it could be fun with some water on it but only if you could get in on the left to avoid the big slide the went directly into a big undercut rock.

Muddy Creek Falls

Muddy Creek Slide

I am adding the Top Yough to my list of favorites for sure (as is Mark). Even at low level it was super fun and definltey incredibly beautiful. I look forward to getting to see it when there are leaves on the trees.

Maggie running the less dry side of the boof



Maggie running Suck Hole


Ben running Swallowtail

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Response to a reader

Well i knew it would happen eventually. Someone read one of my posts and left me a fairly nasty and ill informed comment (anonymously of course!) regarding how one of my early trips was handled. I felt that i needed to post a response and clear up some things that maybe weren't portrayed in enough detail in my original post. Here is the original post about my high water Lower Yough trip. You can see the related comments on the bottom:

Yough Ivy, May 2004

Thanks for taking a look!


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Can't see the river through the trees

Not five minutes after Ben and Andy drove off, the group that had put on after us on Bear Creek got to the takeout. Apparently they'd already done some other runs that morning and still weren't finished. We chatted with them while they waited for their shuttle vehicle. They were headed to Meadow Run (the one that flows into the LY below the put in) and invited us to come along. Mark and i had hiked this at one point and it seemed like it would be doable. He had paddled with one of the guys in the group before. So we followed them towards Ohiopyle.

On the way to the put in they all pulled over to look at a small creek. It looked to be running pretty good. Beaver Creek, a tributary to the Meadow (listed as IV-V on AW but there is no info). They wanted to go for it but only one guy in the group had run it before. I asked what it was like and was told that it was basically in between the difficulty of Bear Creek and the Meadow. There was also apparently about a dozen runnable dams most of which were completely straight forward. Sounded like it could be fun. I was just wondering how much wood there would be in it. Mark was full of encouragement. He kept telling me i was doing great and just to catch lots of eddies and look out for things and that i would be fine. I had no problems on Bear that afternoon so a step up didn't seem unreasonable.

At this point we were a group of six, with only one person having run it before. This didn't seem like a very good idea on such a small creek. But we were pretty excited about getting to run Meadow so we went on ahead to run the Beav. We put all our wet gear back on and got in our boats. Two of the guys got in first and Mark followed. By the time i got my skirt on and slid into the water they were nowhere in sight. Although it was just some fast moving flat water at the beginning i was already not liking the look of it.

The creek was no more than 15 feet wide and there were lots of tree branches hanging close to the bank and not many eddies. I got down to where Mark was but there really wasn't enough room for both of us in the small eddy. He pealed out and continued on. One of the other guys was on the other side and yelled to me to go left ("See the gap?" he yelled, "right next to the tree"). I couldn't really stay in the eddy anymore so i followed his instructions (Mark later told me that he had instructed the guy to make sure i knew where to go, glad he did). I saw the tree (that was growing basically in the creek) that he meant for me to paddle next to and went for it. All the overhanging branches were making it very hard to see more than a few yards in front. I made my line perfectly sliding up right next to the tree and realized what was going on. There was a river wide log blocking the right side with just that small gap on the left that was deep enough to paddle through. Scary. We continued on, catching eddies whenever possible.

The creek was so thick with trees on the banks and branches hanging almost down to the water that it was more like bushwhacking than kayaking. Most of the time i couldn't avoid running into the branches. Often even if there was a way around them it would take me too far off line so i had to just ram through them rather than risk being on the wrong side of the creek. This was scary because to go through the branches i had to lower my head so as not to get hit in the face, meaning that for a few seconds i couldn't look at where i was going. This was after i had already gotten whacked in the chin pretty damn hard (it hurt like hell and left a few scratches on my face, nothing too serious but damn that hurt!!!). Paddle strokes were fairly precarious as well. You had to be really careful with the angle of your paddle lest it get caught in a tree. This meant not being able to take many good vertical strokes and resulted in just a lot of low bracing. Thankfully at this point the rapids weren't particularly serious so this wasn't too big a deal.

At one point Mark and I caught some eddies and looked downstream. One of the guys was yelling "You can boof it on the left!". I was about to follow his instruction when i realized he didn't mean a drop. There was another river wide strainer with a small gap on the left where you could boof over the log. The move didn't look too hard but the consequences of missing it didn't look at all pleasant and with the good chance of getting your paddle caught in some tree branch i wasn't going to take my chances. So I made the call to walk around it. Mark followed and we were able to easily walk around it on river left.

Continuing on was more of the same, dodging/running into tree branches every step of the way. This wasn't fun. I was scarred of what was around each corner and worried that with four people in front of me there wouldn't' be room in the tiny eddies. We had to stay fairly close together otherwise we couldn't' see each other for instruction. At one point i caught an eddy behind another guy and realize that just below there was a thin log crossing the creek with only a small gap on the left. The guy in front of me pealed out and headed for the gap while another got out of his boat to try to move it out of the way some for everyone else. Unfortunately i couldn't stay in the eddy and got flushed out not to far behind the first guy. I was scarred that he would get caught on the log and that I'd run right into him but there was really not anything i could do. Luckily though he made it to the left fine and was clear of the log as i approached it. I had no problems getting by it and breathed a sight of relief. I turned around to watch the second guy pull the log more out of the way for everyone else.

Next the creek opened up some and we ran what was IMO a pretty easy class IV rapid. Under different circumstances it would probably have been really fun. No one seemed to be having any problems and neither was i really. I was paddling fine and the rapids felt good. But i was terrified of would could lay below and although i was paddling well i started to fall apart mentally. Every step i was wondering at what point we'd run out of eddy space or if I'd get my paddle torn out of my hands. I was getting really nervous now and was definitely not enjoying it. I got to the point where i was thinking that the put in wasn't that far away and we could hike back out.

Eventually everyone eddied out again. A few of the guys were in an eddy on river left. Mark caught an eddy on river right and tried his best to leave me as much space as possible, there was no room left in the other eddy. I caught it but realized it was pretty damn flushy. I had to grab onto something to keep myself it in. The other guys were obviously stopping for some good reason. One guy was out of his boat scouting. I saw a vine hanging down and cautiously held it while still steadying myself with my paddle somewhat. I was afraid that it would just rip out in my hand. If that happened i was sure I'd flush out and i had no idea what horrifying log jam could be waiting below. I tugged on the vine cautiously and to my utmost relief it didn't budge. I held onto it tight and looked down toward Mark.

He had gone low in the eddy to leave me room and was having a hard time staying in. I watched as he nearly got pulled out of the eddy and just about flipped as a result. Thankfully he was able to brace despite all the branches that were in his way. I was horrified. All i could think of was that if he did flip there was no way he's be able to roll up. Just a few feet below the rhodo branches were hanging so low that he'd be caught in them and have no room to roll at all. Thankfully he managed to pull himself back into shore and was holding onto branches as best he could. It looked horribly awkward.

We yelled to each other asking if the other was okay. He asked if i could ferry over and catch the eddy on the other side where the other guys were. It seemed that i very likely could easily make the ferry but there was no more room in the eddy and they weren't moving. I tried asking them to get out of their boats (the bank there wasn't steep at all and it would have been very easy for the rest of them to get out and give us space). But they still weren't moving and it was too hard to try to communicate and it was tiring for both of us holding on to our respective tree limbs. Mark asked if i could get out. I said i could and he told me to do it and come help him. The bank on this side was pretty steep but i was able to put my paddle on shore, pop my skirt and get out. I had to pull my boat up a good ways up the hill before i could help Mark otherwise it would have slid back into the water. By the time i had done this he was able to get out of his boat and just needed some help pulling his boat up as it was steeper there.

Even after we were safely out i was feeling pretty panicked. This was not a pleasant experience at all and i really wished we'd never met these people and certainly not agreed to run this creek. I signed up for the Meadow, not this, and was angry for letting myself get roped into it. The rapids may not have been that hard but the trees were taking any enjoyment out of it. One of they guys started yelling instructions too us thinking we were planning to scout. He said there was a 5 foot drop below and started to explain the line.

"This is insane!!" I yelled back. "I'm not doing this, i don't want to die here!". I told him we were done. We had paddled probably less than a mile of the four mile run and i wasn't in the least bit interested in dealing with this anymore.

I was really hoping we could walk back along river right and then cross the river near the top where it was less congested with trees and flat. Unfortunately that side was steep and way too difficult to try to carry our boats along so we had to get back across. We carried a little ways but couldn't go too much farther without some serious hiking and the last big rapid we had run was just above so it would be a long hike. So we put in just a few yards above. Mark went first, slid into the tiny eddy and ferried across. He got out of his boat and positioned himself to grab my boat if need be. I followed and after some nervous positioning in the eddy was able to make the ferry over to him easily.

We looked down and couldn't see the rest of the group anymore so we assumed they'd headed down. We grabbed our boats and hauled them back to the road, which thankfully was fairly close. We walked back to the truck, drove back, picked up the boats and called it a day.

Without all the wood in the creek and trees surrounding it it probably would have been a really fun run. But it wasn't worth risking my life on for sure. Mark wasn't nearly as uncomfortable on in as i and would have liked to have finished it. I felt bad but there was just no way i was going to do it. Woody micro creeks are definitely not for me. I'll stick to larger rivers and creeks for now. I also will be more cautious when meeting up with random people. It can be a good way to get on new runs but its also a big risk. This group seemed to be a bunch of competent boaters but i didn't trust them and didn't feel good about putting on with them in the first place. Any new runs i do i would much prefer to be on with someone i know at least a little.

Unfortunately i wasn't it the state of mind to take any pictures but suffice it to say that it was a small creek, average 95 fpm according to AW, with a shitload of trees and rhodo. I'm sorry to have missed Meadow Run. Hopefully we'll get to get on that one at some point as well. This was the first run i'd ever walked off of and i feel that it was the right choice. I probably could have made it to the end without incident but it would have been extremely stressful and certainly no fun. It certainly wasn't worth the risk.

We headed back to Friendsville and checked gauges. Nothing we wanted to run looked like it would be anywhere near a reasonable level for us the next day and we didn't really feel like driving any farther so we decided to head home. Hopefully this water would hold out till the next weekend.

Careful what you wish for...

Would you believe it possible that after months of drought we finally get rain and we still had very limited options as to what to paddle this weekend? With the rain predictions i was excited about getting on the TY, Sandy or Lower Blackwater at good levels. It rained all night friday and by saturday morning everything was spiking. Mark and i met Ben and Andy in Friendsville and debated what to do. The Upper and Top Yough were already too high as was the LBS and certainly the Blackwater. We considered the options of various local creeks but since none of us new anything about them and things were spiking drastically this didn't seem like a viable option for the group we had.

Bear Creek, right there in Friendsville, was at a decent level and seemed like an okay backup. Mark and i weren't too excited about it since we'd already run it once and there really aren't any significant rapids. The Little Sandy and UBS seemed like the next possiblities so we we decided to head out there and take a look. As we drove over the bridge on the Little Sandy we were amazed to see it. At normal runable levels the put in is usually pretty shallow and very slow moving. This looked very deep and was moving fast. It was also pouring rain (we could just about have paddled in the parking lot!). That evening we found out that the Big Sandy had crested at almost 11 feet (AW max = 7 ft), Top Yough at over 4,000 cfs (AW max = 1,000 cfs), the UY at 5.75 ft on the online gauge (AW max = 4 ft) and the Lower Blackwater at over 1,000 cfs (AW max = 500 cfs)

We decided it wasn't worth risking a super high water run and headed back to Bear Creek. I wasn't thrilled about this as i remember it having a good bit of wood. It was a nice run though. I'm a much better paddler now then i was the last time we ran it and had a nice clean run with no problems. Mark volunteered to probe for us and we eddy hopped our way down checking for wood around each turn. We had to portage a log jam at the begining (same place as the first time we ran it) but found no more wood of any real consequence along the way. Mark really enjoyed probing and although it wasn't a difficult run it was definitely good practice.

Andy on Bear Creek

Ben on Bear Creek

Afterwards Ben and Andy headed home and we debated what to do. We planned on checking gauges and heading off to camp. Turns out though that our day wasn't over yet...

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Saturday, April 15, 2006


Maggie at Wonder Falls

After a nice run on the Tygart we were ready for something higher gradient. Mark was really hoping for the Top Yough but the level wasn't too great looking and everyone in our group was pushing for the Lower Big Sandy. It was at 5.4, just slightly below the AW minimum. We'd never run it below about 5.9 and were slightly skeptical. But as many people have said they'd run it even lower we decided to go for it. It turned out to be a very nice run and a gorgeous day. We met at Little Sandy's restaurant in Bruceton Mills and split up into smaller groups. I was surprised at the huge crowd there to run the LBS below min but it did look to be the best choice in the area. Mark volunteered to lead a few people down who hadn't been before (Josh from NY, Pete, and Paul). Ian joined us and we had a nice group. The lower level made things less pushy overall but all the rapids and boogie water were still fun. Ian got out and took some sweet pics of us at Wonder Falls.

Mark at Wonder Falls

Everyone got out and scouted Zoom Flume but i decided to just boat scout and found it much easier than normal to get over to the flume on the left and avoid the cheese grater. Very fun.
We all got out and walked Big Splat as always and got some cool shots of rock launches. Overall still a good level and definitely worth running.

Mark at Zoom Flume

Paul at Wonder Falls

Ian doing the rock launch at Big Splat

Mark launching at Big Splat

Maggie at First Island

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Friday, April 14, 2006


Maggie running Moats Falls

Of course it always rains when we're not around. While we were on our southeast trip WV got lots of rain and everything was going off. Of course by the next weekend things were starting to dry out . Figures! Mark had good friday off and we had family plans Easter sunday so we decided to head out for friday and saturday. There were limited options so we decided to do the long haul out to the Arden Section of the Tygart. I'd wanted to run this for quite some time. We met up with Paul and a friend and had a nice run.

Moats falls was rather scrapey. Mark decided he wanted to go first so he could take pictures of the rest of us. There was some confusion as to what hump to paddle off of and he ended up hitting a dry spot and stoping at the lip. Not wanting to go off sideways he did a rock spin on the lip and ended up going off backwards. Must have been quite the sight from below! After that Paul got out and directed us more precicely so that we'd hit the one spot that really had enough water.

The rest of the run went without incident. We got out and looked at Wells Falls which honestly wasn't all that impressive. I decided that i wouldn't make too much effort to avoid the hole. It looked totally punchable. So i headed down and generally aimed to miss it but basically just let the water take me where it wanted once i got near the hole (which btw was really just a big powerful wave at that level, 1900 cfs i think). Overall i liked the rapids on the Arden section but found the amount of flatwater in between to be a letdown. Definitely a pretty run but i doubt i'll be going back often as the drive is rather long.

Maggie at Moats Falls

Paul running Moats Falls

Moats Falls

Moats Falls

Mark at Wells Falls

Mark at Wells Falls

Maggie running the meat at Wells Falls

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Monday, April 10, 2006

April 06 Southeast Summary

Well we had a great trip to the southeast. We spent two great days at the Tallulah, stopped at the Cullasaja along the way, ran Section IV of the Chattooga, hiked the Horsepasture River and Green Narrows, ran the Nolichucky, Nantahala Cascades, and the Cheoah. We also got to see Looking Glass Falls / Mtn and the Linville Gorge. Overall a fantastic trip. We got to paddle with some great people and got excellent guidance. Despite a serious deficit of water in the SE we got to get on some great runs. I got to add four new states to my paddling resume (Georgia, S. Carolina, N. Carolina, and Tennesse). We drove 1900 miles and it was well worth it. Looking forward to returning soon.

Click on the links above to read about each run / hike. Also check out the camping trip report too.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


After hearing so much about the Cheoah since the releases began last fall I was somewhat eager to find out what the hype was all about. I was surprised to see just how many trees there were growing in the riverbed (that’s what happens when its been dewatered for 80 years!). The run was indeed pretty fast and continuous. That day the release and natural flow from the previous nights storms brought the level to about 1300 cfs. I was pretty sketched about all the trees but didn’t have any problems at the beginning of the run.

I started off following behind Jim but our group was large and I got a bit behind during a calm section. I realized I didn’t much like this since I had no idea what was coming up. After a fairly beefy rapid everyone scattered and eddied out in different places. Jim was on the opposite side of the river and a few of us were crammed into a small eddy.

Hanging out in the eddy above the Big One

I realized that we were right above the Big One (Bear Creek Falls). I few people ran the right line but it was impossible to see much of it. We waited a while but no one was going anywhere and a few people were blocking the eddy by the shore and not getting out. This really pissed me off as I had no idea what the line was (and neither did anyone else around) and I couldn’t even get out to look at it. I started to try to attain up to a higher eddy when Jim came over and told me to follow him down the right. I was thankful to not have to fight to stay in the eddy so I followed him down.



From the pictures I’d seen of the right line it seemed pretty straight forward. I had no idea that there was a fair sized hole at the bottom of the drop and as I came around the corner I was too far right and smacked right into it. The correct line (as I later found out) was to aim left around the corner and punch a tongue on the left side of the hole. Would have been nice to know, but oh well. I ended up in a side surf with my bow of course pointing to the right. So I ended up doing something of s stern squirt to try to turn myself around and eventually dug down into the water with my paddle to get out. It wasn’t too hard but still would have been nice knowing the correct line in the first place.


I have to admit though that getting out there would have been a pain in the ass and I was willing to risk running it somewhat blind. At the eddy below the drop I turned around and was surprised to see just how but it was. I guess I had expected a smaller drop. The rest of the run was fairly uneventful, lots of big waves and holes. The paddle out on the lake (yes I do believe that all southeast rivers really do end in lakes!) was short and painless. We paddled past the dam from which Harrison Ford’s character jumped in the movie The Fugitive:

On the way back to the put in we stopped at the Big One to get another look and take some pictures. When we got there we saw a guy sitting in the middle of the river on a rock at the top of the drop. At first I thought he had jumped there somehow from sore but then I realized that that was impossible as the jump would be very long. He had swam at the rapid above and had miraculously managed to swim to the rock before going over the drop which most certainly would have ended in serious injury. We hung out and watched more carnage. An open boater swam above (luckily he managed to get himself to shore). His boat headed over the falls on its own and would have had a good line but as it couldn’t boof it got pretty well hammered at the bottom of the drop. It was eventually freed an proceeded to float down a good ways before pining on a rock a ways downstream. Overall it was a pretty great show. Soon after a rescue was put together to get the guy off the rock in the middle. Some rafters from the NOC lowered a raft down to him using ropes.

Rescue Video 1
Rescue Video 2

Stranded swimmer at Bear Creek Falls

Nice run on the Falls

Canoe solo run on the Falls

Cheoah scene

Below is a series of pictures of Mark and I:



Hanging out near the end

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