Fish Family Fun
Greg Kissing Bennett
Crystal adopted Matt as her big brother when they attended college together in Kentucky. Matt married the lovely Catherine, and the Fish family moved to Colorado and had 4 children. Crystal and I have talked many times about visiting the Fishes, but we've never had the chance because the trip is so long. When we realized that Colorado is only a day's drive past the town where we would stay in Utah, we jumped at the chance to add a few days to our trip so we could visit Matt and Catherine and finally meet their kids.
We only spent two days with the Fish family, but we enjoyed ourselves ridiculously. We laughed more than we've laughed in a long time, we had a picnic on the lawn, and we drank coffee and had meals together. Mostly, though, we just enjoyed getting to know the new, enlarged Fish family a lot better. They are a great group of people to hang around and chat with.
Matt and Catherine, thanks again for letting our clan invade your house for a few days. You were gracious hosts, and we enjoyed our time in your home immensely.
The Fish Children
Here are some gratuitous portraits of the Fish kids. Aren't they all just adorable?
Rachelle has been in her residential treatment program for a little over three months now. She's making progress and doing well, so she earned a visit with us. At the end of February, we started the long, long drive to Utah to see our beloved daughter. We barely made it over Donner Pass before snow closed the road, but we sped along the interstate after that. Well, we sped along until we got to Elko, Nevada. As we turned into the restaurant for dinner, the brake light in our new Suburban came on.
Normally, this wouldn't have been too much of a problem, but it happened on a Saturday night. We found a hotel room, and the next morning I called every brake shop in town. Every one of them were closed. We got breakfast at a local coffee shop and then wandered around looking for something — anything — to do. Elko is dead on Sunday. We took some goofy pictures, and lunch, and discovered that the movie theater was open. We spent the end of our day watching Fool's Gold.
The next morning, I found a shop to fix the car. While the work was being done, we had our little impromptu photo shoot with Kate. By the time the shoot was over, our car was ready.
Later that day, we made it to the town where we would be staying during the visit. The next morning, we joyfully hugged and kissed our daughter for the first time since we dropped her off in November. We spent that day and the next meeting Rachelle's friends, meeting the staff at the Ranch, bowling, shopping, eating "real food", and just hanging out. I'm thrilled to report that Rachelle is improving and is doing the hard work that she needs to do in order to come home.
Rachelle, we miss you and love you, and we can't wait until you're able to come back home again!
Posted by Greg on March 11, 2008 at 8:00AM.
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Summer Vacation 2007: Salem and Ashland
Riding the Lithia Park Merry-Go-Round
Super 8 Motel, Ashland, Oregon (August 11)
Sunny and beautiful
- Visited the state capitol building in Salem, Oregon.
- Climbed the 121 steps to the top of the capitol rotunda
- Played in Lithia Park in Ashland
- Shopped in downtown Ashland
- Attended a performance of Tartuffe at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Rachelle, Ariana, and I had never attended a live performance of a play before, so Crystal graciously agreed to hang out with Emily while we saw Tartuffe. We experienced something that I will never forget. Professional actors, great writing, and fabulous comedy made for an excellent production.
This was the end of our trip. :(
Summer Vacation 2007: Columbia River Gorge
Touching Wahkeena Falls
Super 8 Motel, Gresham, Oregon (August 10)
- Viewed the gorge from Women's Forum and the Vista House
- Hiked to Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Shepperds Dell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah Falls
- Saw the roadside view of Horsetail Falls
- Played in the park in Cascade Locks
Seeing six big waterfalls in one afternoon is a special experience. There aren't too many places in the world where this is possible, but the gorge is one of them.
We found a bird's nest on the restroom building at the Bridal Veil Falls parking lot. We were able to see the mother bird fly in several times to feed her hungry babies.
Summer Vacation 2007: Portland
Rachelle in the Lovejoy Fountain
Super 8 Motel, Gresham, Oregon (August 7-9)
Varied. We got a bit of rain one morning, and it was partly cloudy to sunny the rest of the time.
- Took a MAX train from our hotel to downtown Portland
- Walked around the downtown Farmer's Market
- Looked at The Old Church and saw a concert of pieces selected from the musical Honk!
- Toured the Portland Art Museum
- Saw an outdoor concert by Pepe and the Bottle Blondes
- Toured the Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown
Explored the Portland Children's Museum, including the Rembrandt exhibit of works by Dutch painters including Rembrandt himself
- Walked around the grounds of the Pittock Mansion
- Looked at the flowers in the Rose Garden in Washington Park
- Played at the playground in Washington Park
- Examined the Illume outdoor photo exhibit
- Visited the Grotto, a peaceful Catholic shrine in a Portland suburb. Took the elevator to the garden on the top level
We decided to try some new foods when we ate at the Heathman in downtown Portland. Crystal ordered rabbit, and I ordered quail. Both were excellent.
When we were in Chinatown, we asked a police officer where to find the best authentic Chinese food. He recommended a restaurant, and we were treated to the best Chinese food I've eaten.
The Old Church in Portland contains a Hook & Hastings pipe organ that was originally installed in 1883 and restored in 1997. I was given an opportunity to play this beautiful, historic instrument.
The venue for the Pepe and the Bottle Blondes concert included a dance floor that was largely ignored by the spectators. Rachelle walked around asking all of the kids in the front of the crowd if they'd like to dance. She and the children filled the floor for three or four songs.
The Portland Children's Museum offered face painting as an activity for its visitors. First, Rachelle painted Emily's face. She like that and decided that she wanted to paint the faces of her sisters. They are great sports, so they let her. Several minutes later, I had three paint-covered daughters. They spent the rest of the day walking around Portland as highly decorated siblings, drawing looks from most passers-by.
Portland gets the award for nicest big city that I've visited. In fact, it is the only big city that I've visited so far where I feel I could actually live if I was forced to move to a city. It was clean, it was beautiful, and they have great parks and a great public transportation system. The police officers that I spoke too talked about the low crime rate in the downtown area. And it's close to an absurd number of beautiful natural settings.
Summer Vacation 2007: Mount St. Helens
Rebirth in the Monument
Seaquest State Park, Washington (August 5-6)
Cloudy at times. Foggy at times. Rain the first night.
- Drove into Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
- Examined exhibits at the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center and the Johnston Ridge Observatory
- Listened to a ranger talk about the regeneration of life in the monument at Coldwater Ridge
- Built a gargantuan bonfire the last night in camp. We wanted use all of our wood.
The ranger talk that we attended at the visitor center was highly informative. I was amazed at the amount of regeneration that has occurred in the park since the eruption. Also, I found the land surprisingly beautiful in spite of the past destruction.
We never did get to see Mount St. Helens because of the clouds and fog.
This was our last campground of the trip. We all immediately started suffering from camping withdrawal.
Summer Vacation 2007: Mount Ranier National Park
Mount Ranier from Reflection Lakes
Ohanepekosh Campground, Washington (August 2-4)
Partly to mostly cloudy. Foggy in Paradise. Rain one night.
- Shopped at mall in Seattle so we would miss the rush hour traffic through downtown
- Drove to Paradise twice
- Hiked the Nisqually Vista trail
- Saw the Box Canyon of the Cowlitz
- Attended a worship service at the campground
- Walked to the overlook of Narada Falls
- Ate lunch at the National Park Inn
We grilled beef and vegetable kabobs over the campfire one night. We had learned from past mistakes and had proper tools so we didn't burn them this time. I think this was the best camp meal of the entire trip.
Beauty abounded on the Nisqually Vista hike. The wildflowers were blooming profusely, and the greenery was abundant. Whoever named Paradise did so appropriately.
We focused on family time on this trip, including a lot of time playing games. In our campground here, we played Scrabble. Other games we had with us included cards and Yahtzee. Lots of family bonding occurred as a result of our focused time together.
Worship in the natural cathedral of the forest seemed fitting. The experience was special.
I didn't pay enough attention to the National Park Service website when I planned this part of our trip. We arrived at Mount Ranier pretty late because we wanted to miss the traffic through Seattle. We got to the road that we were planning to take through the park only to find it still closed because of severe flood damage. The detour took over two hours, and we didn't get to camp until after midnight that night. But at least we had reservations and didn't have to sleep in the van!
We had clear views of the mountain most of the time we were in Seattle and the San Juan Islands. We only got fleeting glimpses of the mountain while we were in the park, and we never were able to see it up close from Paradise.
Summer Vacation 2007: Orcas Island
On Top of Mount Constitution
Moran State Park, Washington (July 20-August 1)
Sunny and beautiful
- Took a Washington state ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands
- Swam in Cascade Lake
- The girls took a paddleboat ride on Cascade Lake
- The girls and I did a four mile hike around Mountain Lake
- Shopped and dined in the community of Eastsound
- Drove to the top of Mount Constitution and climbed the tower
Coastal Washington is filled with places to buy smoked salmon. Crystal ordered a smoked salmon dish at the seafood restaurant in Eastsound which tasted divine.
One night, we gave Ariana and Rachelle the responsibility of making dinner. They chose to make tacos. They were delicious! They were so good that Ariana ate five of them.
Our campsite bumped against the edge of Cascade Lake. It was peaceful and beautiful. Our stay there coincided with the full moon, and the light shining on the lake's surface at night was particularly nice.
On the hike around Mountain Lake, I carried Emily in a toddler backpack. She fell asleep and awoke several times on the hike. Each time she awoke, she asked me to give her kisses. I contorted myself to bring our faces together but ended up kissing her on the hand instead.
The view from the observation tower on the top of Mount Constitution was mind-boggling. We could see several other islands in the San Juan archipelago, mountains in Canada, and the Washington mainland. Our visited coincided with sunset, so the light was beautiful as well. Being on top of the world is amazing.
The ferry rides to and from Orcas Island win the transportation coolness award for this trip. What other mode of transportation allows you to drive your car onto a boat and then walk around and look at the scenery while being moved across a huge body of salt water and then be dropped off on an island?
Summer Vacation 2007: Olympic National Park
Safeway Parking Lot, Port Angeles, Washington (July 27)
Sunny during the day and cloudy at night.
- Spent an absurd amount of time in traffic trying to get out of Seattle
We were going to take a ferry from just north of Seattle over to the Olympic Peninsula. When we arrived, the wait for the ferry was over two hours long, so we decided to drive around instead. That was a huge mistake. The traffic through Seattle, and it took us over three hours to make the drive. By the time we got to Olympic National Park, the campground we had planned to use was full. We drove back to Port Angeles only to find that every hotel that wasn't horrifically frightening was also full. We ended up sleeping in our van in the Safeway parking lot.
Mora Campground, Olympic National Park, Washington (July 28-29)
Partly cloudy with some fog. Light rain one night.
- Gawked at Crescent Lake in the national park
- Walked on Rialto Beach
- Played at Ruby Beach
- Took a ranger-led hike through the Hoh Rain Forest
- Played in the Hoh River
- Sat around the campfire telling stories about our lives before we met
- Took in the jaw-dropping view of Hurricane Ridge
Ruby Beach was beautiful. It featured huge rocks, driftwood, and a tidal creek. Emily, Ariana, and Rachelle met a little girl who promptly attached herself to them. The little girl followed them everywhere they went for the entire afternoon.
We found a small log sticking out of the ground next to the Hoh River. It screamed, "Ride me!" So, we rode it. We took turns sitting on the log while someone else yanked the loose end up and down. Yeeeee haw!
Hurricane Ridge inspired awe. The flower-filled meadow next to the parking lot and the snow-capped mountain range in the background made for the best mountain view of my life. It brought tears to Crystal's eyes.
Summer Vacation 2007: Seattle
Renton, Washington, Econo Lodge (July 24-26)
Sunny with a few clouds. No rain.
- Toured Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum
- Toured science museum and saw Mount St. Helens IMAX movie
- Went to top of the Space Needle
- Played in the hotel pool
- Toured museum of flight
- Took harbor cruise
- Went to Pike's Place Market
- Saw Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and fish ladder
- Visited Woodland Park Zoo
We discovered Red Robin. Even though it's a chain restaurant, we enjoyed the burgers and chicken sandwiches so much that we ate there twice.
The Experience Music Project has an area called the Sound Lab where visitors can play their own music. We drummed, sang, strummed guitars, and generally enjoyed making music. We didn't even scare any other visitors away.
The Pike's Place Market was amazing. Filled with fresh flowers, vegetables, meat, and fish; it was a feast for the eyes and the camera lens. It was also filled with street musicians, including the first street musician I've ever seen playing a piano! Pike's Place is also the home of the nation's first Starbucks. No, lattes were not on the menu that day, although Rachelle ordered of the best cheesecakes I've ever tasted from a cheesecake specialty shop.
The fish ladder at the locks was fascinating. The engineers kindly installed glass windows instead of concrete sides along part of the ladder. Plenty of the fish had grown to several feet in length, and the fish swam up the ladders in abundance.
We searched and searched for a souvenir to purchase for Emily. She picked a beautiful flower necklace in a shop on the Seattle waterfront. Her excitement was so cute and sweet!
Summer Vacation 2007: Oregon Coast
Harris Beach State Park, Oregon (July 21)
Cloudy with rain/mist at night.
- Played on Harris Beach
- Buryed Ariana in the sand
Crystal and Rachelle were playing in the surf at Harris Beach. Crystal was wearing regular shorts because her husband forgot to pack her bathing suit. (Oops.) At one point, a rather large wave took her shorts down to her ankles. The wave receded, and all of the people looking in her general direction got mooned. They all thought it was hysterically funny, but I was bummed because I missed the whole episode!
Beverly Beach State Park, Oregon (July 22-23)
Cloudy and/or foggy both days. Foggy/misty the first night, clear the second night.
- Window shopped and ate lunch and caramel apples in the historic bayfront area of Newport
- Explored tidepools at Yaquina Head
- Climbed the Yaquina Head lighthouse
- Trash the prom dress shoot on Beverly Beach with Rachelle and Ariana
I woke up in the tent and looked over to see a giant smile on Emily's face. This melted my heart almost every day on this trip. This particular morning I watched my wife jump between Ariana and Rachelle's air mattresses and then proceed to tickle and kiss them until they were awake and begging for mercy.
Emily kept asking to "Take walk!" (To hear this in your mind correctly, you have to pronounce the k's like you are speaking German.)
Summer Vacation 2007: Redwoods
Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California (July 17)
Raining cats and dogs.
- Ate at a small cafe to keep from drowning
- Drove the Avenue of the Giants
Our campsite was beautiful. It was secluded and huge. Also, it stopped raining long enough for us to pack without getting drenched.
We followed our plans to camp here in spite of scattered rain showers in the forecast. After all, it was California in July. How bad could it be? Unfortunately, we had overlooked a major factor in the weather: the Coates Camping Curse. This curse has followed my family since I was a small child. You see, it is nearly impossible for any Coates family member to go on a camping trip without getting rained on or having some other natural problem. For example, not too long after Crystal and I were married, we went camping with my parents in Tennessee. It was nice until the day we packed up to go home. We woke up to a torrential downpour. We hurriedly loaded the car. After about five minutes, we didn't care about the rain so much because it would have been impossible for us to get any wetter. We learned later that the entire campground had washed away when the nearby creek flooded. On another occasion, we took my parents to Crescent City to camp in the Redwoods. A tsunami warning was issued while we were there. Are you starting to get the idea?
When we arrived at the state park, it was cloudy, but the clouds didn't look too bad. We dug the tent out of the van and erected it. No sooner had we installed the rain fly when the rain started. By the time we had our sleeping bags and mattresses in the tent, the sky had opened up completely.
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California (July 18-20)
Varied. We got beautiful sun one day and rain the other two as well as light rain each night.
- Built sand structures and rode waves at a Crescent City beach
- Attended campfire program titled Bear Tales at our campground
- Toured Ocean World in Crescent City
- Walked to Battery Point Lighthouse (no tsunami warning this time)
- Hiked to Fern Canyon
- Drove Newton B. Drury Parkway through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
We had burgers cooked over an open campfire one night. They were extremely good, but if you want to try this yourself I suggest that you use something more sturdy and less likely to melt than a plastic fork to turn them. You'll be less likely to catch them on fire like we did.
We got to pet starfish, anenomes, and sharks at Ocean World. There was also a great sea lion show.
Redwoods are big. Really big. They are so big that I told Emily we were going to see "honkin' trees." She kept asking about honkin' trees for days after we left.
We saw four giant bull elk right next to the road when we drove in to the Fern Canyon trailhead.
I woke up sick the first day in this campground. It was not fun, but at least I recovered quickly
We narrowly missed a pretty nasty car accident on the drive to the trailhead. The car behind us got hit by a tire and axle that came off a semi truck in the lane going the opposite direction. We stopped to help and everyone was okay.
Summer Vacation 2007: Napa and Six Flags
Richard and Tricia's House, Napa, CA (July 15-16)
- Swam in the community pool at Richard and Tricia's house
- Rode big roller coasters (for the big people) and little rides (for the little people) at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
- Walked through the Shark Experience aquarium
- Watched the trained dolphin show
- Emily and Ariana rode an elephant
- Crystal, Ariana, and Rachelle rode the Skycoaster, a giant swing
- Saw the Spirit of Shouka whale show
I rode the Road Runner Express, a small roller coaster, with Emily. She kept saying "Whee!" as we flew up and down the hills. When we disembarked, Emily wanted to keep riding. She said, "More whee! More wheee!"
The animal shows proved how talented dolphins and whales can be. The dolphins can leap several feet in the air. Both can be trained to perform a mind-boggling range of behaviors on command. One of these behaviors is swimming along the edge of the pool and splashing the audience. Rachelle was splashed thoroughly during the whale show.
Rachelle volunteered to pull the ripcord that released the swing when she, Ariana, and Crystal road the Skycoaster. She was instructed to pull the cord when the operator counted to three. He counted to three, and nothing happened. She inquired, "What?" Everyone yelled at her to pull the cord, and finally she got the idea and released the swing.
Rachelle and Ariana rode a ride called Cargo Queen with Emily and Cheyenne. The teenagers taught the younger kids to raise their arms and scream just like the teenagers would scream while riding a roller coaster. How adorable!
All of the older riders loved the Velocity roller coaster. It shoots riders to a speed of about 70 miles per hour in a fraction of a second.
We're home from our big trip! It was truly the vacation of a lifetime. Here are some highlights from the trip.
- Itinerary: Napa and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (CA), Humboldt Redwoods State Park (CA), Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park (CA), Harris Beach (OR), Beverly Beach (OR), Seattle (WA), Olympic National Park (WA), Orcas Island (WA), Mount Ranier National Park (WA), Mount St Helens (WA), Portland (OR), Columbia River Gorge (OR), Ashland (OR)
- Miles driven: 2782
- Nights spent camping: 16
- Nights it rained while camping: 8
- Number of photos taken: about 1800
- A few favorites memories: View of Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, performance of Tartuffe at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, riding the Washington Ferry, view of Mount Ranier, street concert in Portland (Rachelle got a bunch of kids to dance with her)
We have tons of photos to edit, and I'll post details of the trip along with photos as we process them. Stay tuned!
Yosemite and Tahoe Vacation
The day after our adoption party, we left for vacation! My parents had come from North Carolina for a visit, so they came too. We traveled to Yosemite and to Lake Tahoe on our trip.
The first day was spent finishing up the packing that had been delayed because we were so busy with our party. Then we drove to Yosemite and set up our campsite at the Hodgdon Meadows campground. We found a level spot (sort of) for our tent and propped up the stove so the pans didn't slide onto the dirt below.
The next day we started seeing the sights. We started off by driving into Yosemite Valley and having a picnic lunch in the Bridalveil Fall parking lot. Then we joined a bunch of other tourists in taking the short walk to Bridalveil Fall.
By this point, the little kids needed a nap, so we decided to take a drive to Glacier Point so they could sleep in the car. Glacier Point is an overlook on the edge of the rim of Yosemite Valley. From there, we had awe-inspiring views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Nevada Falls, and Vernal Falls. It was truly beautiful. The overlook is on the edge of a vertical cliff that is over 2800 feet tall. That's almost two miles! It made my legs shaky even though I was protected by a sturdy guardrail.
The next day, we decided to stay in the valley itself. We found a picnic area that was right next to the Merced River. It had a great view of Yosemite Falls as well. We ate our sandwiches and then turned the kids loose to play in the creek.
Our next stop was the trail to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. We walked the easy trail to the bridge across the creek below the falls. Normally at this time of year, we would have gotten soaked from the spray off of the falls. This year, though, there wasn't a lot of snow over the winter, so the waterfall was at a much lower flow level than usual. Not only did we not get drenched from walking across the bridge, the rocks at the base of the waterfall were dry. So, we climbed as high as we could.
The next day was our travel day from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe. We started by driving the Tioga Road through the Yosemite high country. We drove through Tuolomne Meadows, through the Tioga Pass, and past Mono Lake. We then took a winding road through Markleeville and the Sierra Nevada mountains. The scenery along the way was breathtakingly beautiful. At the end of our journey was Sugar Pine State Park on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. This campground had large, level sites with lots of room for the kids to run and play. We set up camp for our two night stay.
Thursday was spent relaxing on the beach at Lake Tahoe. We drove the few miles to D.L. Blick State Park, where we were told there was a nice beach. We were correctly informed. The beach was flat and sandy, and the water was blue and very cold. We -- actually the kids and Crystal -- swam, we played ball, and we cooked dinner at the picnic tables across the parking lot from the beach. The kids even made friends with Bob the goose. Ariana even tried her hand with the camera. She got a great picture of Bob the Goose and some excellent photos of our foster son.
The next morning we had to pack up our camping gear so we could head home at the end of the day. Once we had the car loaded, we went on a hike. There is a small lake very close to Lake Tahoe called Cascade Lake. It is so named because a 200 foot waterfall drops just at the edge of the lake. We all hiked about half a mile or so until we saw the picturesque waterfall. At that point Crystal, Mom, and Rachelle hung out with the little kids because the trail got quite steep. Dad, Ariana, and I kept following the trail until we got to the top of the falls. Again, I couldn't get too close because of my hate-hate relationship with heights, but I did get close enough for a couple of pictures. After we took in the scenery, we walked back to the car and made the drive back to Chico.
Posted by Greg on July 2, 2007 at 9:15PM.
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Let's take another little walk down memory lane. Last month, we took our girls to Lassen National Park for a picnic and to play in the snow. We ate sandwiches, apples, and brownies. Then we decided to build a snowman! We rolled the snowballs, smoothed them out with Rachelle's flip flops, and then stacked them up. We added some facial features, and the girls welcomed Mr. Snow into the world with a kiss. All in all, this was a great way to spend an afternoon!
Posted by Greg on May 24, 2007 at 11:15PM.
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Fort Bragg Vacation
My wonderful husband planned a perfectly splendid anniversary getaway to Fort Bragg this last weekend. It is hard to believe that we have already been married 6 years. Time sure does fly by.
Fort Bragg was beautiful and cool -- a stark contrast to the heat wave in Chico. For our anniversary dinner we treated ourselves to a REALLY nice dinner. We ate at a place called the Mendo Bistro
and had quite possibly the best food of our lives! It was amazingly good.
We also spent some time exploring the coastline and the beach. It was awe inspiring. And for the very first time ever we found sand dollars; they kept popping up as the surf rolled back out to the ocean. It was peaceful fun. Greg took the time to take some pictures, and, alas, I was the target of some. :)
We decided to cut the trip a little short and come back a day early. We were missing the kids, and I was still in some pain from the accident I was recently in. All in all it was a peaceful and wonderful time at the beach. Thanks honey, for such a sweet and wonderful surprise. I love you, and I thank God for our six years together!
Posted by Crystal on May 15, 2007 at 8:45PM.
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Columbia River Gorge Trip Report
Last October, my wife and I took a weekend trip to Portland and the Columbia River Gorge to do some photography. This website wasn't around back then, so I'll share our experiences now. The full report is in the new Columbia River Gorge Article.
Posted by Greg on May 25, 2005 at 4:28PM.
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