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Trip Report---Grand Canyon, Sedona and Las Vegas...fabulous trip beyond expecations!!!!!

Trip Report---Grand Canyon, Sedona and Las Vegas...fabulous trip beyond expecations!!!!!

Aug 15th, 2004, 01:56 PM
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Join Date: May 2004
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Trip Report---Grand Canyon, Sedona and Las Vegas...fabulous trip beyond expecations!!!!!

We've just returned from the most wonderful vacation to Grand Canyon, Sedona and Las Vegas. Wanted to say thanks to everyone here who gave good advice and suggestions for everything and to give a trip report.I know its long, but this was the most awesome vacation we've ever done and to say any less would be a disservice!

Woke up family (me, hubby and two daughters, ages 11 and 13) in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday to fly from Cincinnati to Dallas and then on to Las Vegas. Right away rented a car and after stopping for cooler, water and supplies at a Walmart, we headed off for Hoover Dam. We didn't do a tour as it was unbearably hot and crowded and after a brief appreciative glimpse, we continued on our way.

We were surprised at how diverse the landscape was across Nevada and Arizona. Parts were scrubby desertland with not a hint of green, other parts with striking rock formations surrounded by tall pines.

We knew this would be a long day of travel after flying and driving, so we planned to stay in Williams, AZ for the first night rather than arrive at the Grand Canyon tired and beat. So we stayed at the Canyon Motel in Williams and LOVED it! We stayed in one of their CABOOSE suites. Its a refurbished ATSF caboose car with a bunk bed and TV in the back for the kids and a double bed and TV, fridge, microw, and coffeemaker in front for the adults. Totally fun and memorable, even for pre-teens! Very quaint, relaxing atmosphere there amidst the tall cool pines. They also have little sandstone cottages to rent but we didn?t see inside those. The kids swam in the pool before we headed out for dinner at Cruiser's Cafe for ribs. Fun place with outdoor dining right on the street so you could watch carriage rides and all the people. Each night on the main street in Williams, they do a re-enactment of a famous gunfight. Hoaky, but fun. The kids loved going through all the little gift shops and found souvenirs at reasonable prices. Nice continental breakfast the next morning and we were off to the Grand Canyon.

Stopped at little roadside Native American stands around Tusayan and found beautiful handmade necklaces for as little as $6.00. Truly gracious, friendly people (Navajo, I believe).

Major goosebumps as we viewed the Grand Canyon for the first time from Yavapai Point. Our girls were awestruck and just couldn't get over the breadth and depth of it all. They had expected it to be much smaller...just proves that photos never do it justice. We stopped at many of the various scenic viewpoints that day and were lucky enough to see a California Condor soaring through the canyon just below us. Rangers warned that hiking to the bottom in the heat of the day wasn't a good idea as it was 102 degrees in the shade below the rim. They said to add about 20 degrees in the sun! We're not avid hikers, but we wanted to get a look at the canyon at least a little bit below the rim, so we took off down the Bright Angel Trail. Simply unbelieveable views and a true appreciation for what those diehard hikers go through on the way back up. Fear of heights (not to mention the hike upward) drove us (well, me) out after a little while. Water, sunscreen and a wide brim hat are a must! I truly would have loved to have gone further, but for this trip, it was enough. We rode the shuttle buses out to Hermits Rest and loved the views along the way, snapping multitudes of photos that won?t tell the tale the same way that being there does. Interestingly enough, we were one of the few English-speaking families along the way. It is truly an international destination as well as a world--wide treasure!

Dinner reservations at El Tovar. Weren't sure that we were going to go ahead with that, but parking was such an issue that we simply did NOT want to venture out and were pleased to have reservations after all. Loved the atmosphere at El Tovar and the meal was wonderful. Husband had the lamb and I had the angel hair pasta with seafood and lobster. Beautiful presentation and tasted superb. Our kids had typical kid menu items--chicken fingers and spaghetti, and were thrilled to find a coupon in the kids coloring book that awarded them a free ice cream for dessert. Hubby and I split the chocolate mint mousse with dark chocolate taco and it was lovely as well as scrumptious. We spent the night at Kachina Lodge in a canyonside room. Nice, clean, recently redone room with a beautifully tiled bathroom and great view.

Awoke early the next morning for sunrise and found that it had already started to get light, so rather than heading off to view it from a more stunning viewpoint, we stayed out in the front of the El Tovar and watched it from there. Kids needed a sweatshirt and hubby and daughter saw several deer roaming about on the way to the car to get the sweatshirt.

We headed toward the eastern points that morning and were NOT disappointed. In fact, we all agreed that the more expansive, awesome views of the canyon were from Grandview, Lipan Point and Desert View. Those views were "drop your jaw" and even scary in their splendor! Loved the architectural highlights by Mary Jane Coulter and was proud to point out to our daughters that a woman had designed the various places!

From there we headed on our way, passing through Cameron and stopping at various roadside stands en route to Sedona. We also stopped at Wupatki National Monument and wandered through there marveling at the array of color and the ingenuity of the people who once lived there. It was fascinating to envision the prehistoric people living and gathering there and our girls were amazed when we pointed out that an area about the size of their bedrooms was the living area for an entire family! Loved Sunset Crater and were taken by the deep dark lava flow areas with all the rich green trees and shrubs popping up out of the black. Never saw a volcano before, so this was very foreign and captivating.

Down into Sedona we went via Hwy 89A. Spectacular ever changing view with gasps from every corner of our car the whole way. The switchback roads got to my stomach a bit, but the views more than compensated for the nausea. So strange and different from the hills of home (Ohio), the red rocks of Sedona were like another planet to us, so vibrant and colorful, unusual, imaginative and majestic! We stopped like typical tourists at every scenic vista and tried to come up with our own names for each of the rocks! Loved the Holy Cross Cathedral in the Rocks, but were disappointed to see the monstrosity of a house (14,000 sq ft) being built into the area directly below the Cathedral. An ostentatious display of wealth unfriendly to the natural setting of Sedona.

Friends drove up from Phoenix to meet us at Oaxaca that night for terrific southwest food. Good times with good Margaritas! And more free ice cream for the kids. Walked around uptown and visitied many of the shops and found fun souvenirs. We stayed at the Sedona Hilton Resort and Spa while there and were very pleased. Excellent view of Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock from our room. Had a "deluxe guest room" with 2 queen beds, fridge, microw, fireplace and balcony. It was terrific. We sat on the balcony and had a little wine and margaritas bought at a local store. Kids loved the pool and while the hottub jets were nonfunctional, we enjoyed soaking in it anyway!

We tried to go to Slide Rock State Park, but to our dismay, they had a sign posted saying that due to bacteria levels in the water, no one was allowed in the water that day. We headed off to Montezuma's Castle instead and were inspired by the work and effort those prehistoric Sinagua people put into their home! Its a short, easy walk down a paved trial to see the cliff dwelling. Its well preserved and elicits imaginings of the folks who lived there. I don't know how those Indian Moms could keep their kids from falling off the cliffs!!!!
We headed off to Jerome, AZ from there and loved the drive up the side of Cleopatra Hill into the quaint little ghost town of Jerome. We c limbed dozens of steps up to the Haunted Hamburger where we had lunch on a deck overlooking the dramatic view of the valley below. Artsy and fun gift shops speckle the streets of what looks like an old tired town.

From there we headed to Boynton Canyon where we climbed to the top of what is said to be a vortex there. (Got a vortex map at a gas station that morning) Followed the red rock trail markers up and up until we reached the top. Spectacular views there and a true sense of peace. I can?t speak to the energy level there and whether it was more charged than anywhere else I've been, but it was truly inspiring to be so far up and in such a gorgeous place! My 13 year old spent a little time mediating there and reports it was uplifting!

Checked out more gift shops that afternoon and hubby bought a Native American Flute there. Very cool and authentic, made by a local. He's a guitarist and plans to make his own tunes of inspirational meditational music. Already since we're home, its sounding great!

Got back to our hotel and swam for awhile. Started out late for dinner and ended up getting pizza from Blue Moon and bringing it back to our room. Tasty pizza. Things seem to close down a bit early there.

Off to Las Vegas that next morning. Checked out some of the psychic shops for our older daughter who wants to learn telepathy and improve her psychic abilities. Shocked by the outrageous prices for crystals and gems and books and well, just about anything in those shops. Hubby and I cautious and wary of the draw of the occult for our teenage daughter.

Drive to Las Vegas felt long and dreary. Maybe overwhelmed by what we've seen so far? Reached the MGM Grand by about 4:00 pm. Checked in and found an awesome room.... 2Q bungalow suite with living room area, 2 TV?s, 2 sinks bathroom with shower and also a tub. Totally lovely. 11th floor, easy access to elevator and a cinch to get around. Completely satisfied. Loved the hotel, got a great price (89.00 per night plus $25 dinner credit and other two-for-one deals) The kids loved the arcade and were intrigued with the casino and the mentality of the folks there. Money doesn't seem to be a problem. Everything is outrageously priced and no one seems to care. Dinner options are tough for a family trying to be frugal, but we managed. Ate at the buffet at MGM one night, which while having good tasting food, was mediocre in the choice. Desserts were, however, wonderful!

Due to excessive heAT (110 degrees) we bagged the idea of hanging by the MGM pool all day and opted for checking out various hotels instead.

Walked for miles and miles seeing many different hotels and casinos...in and out of the heat and it was fine. Loved the feel of New York New York. Kids loved the arcade. Bellagio was snooty. Fountains weren?t running for whatever reason. Venetian was fun to look at and shopping was im- pressive, but way over our budget. Caesars always a fun spot for decor and shopping. Loved the kitsch at Excalibur. Loved the decor at Luxor and ate at Pyramid CAfe which was great food and relatively speaking....good prices. Hubby liked the gambling at Tropicana. Dinner one night at Calyspsos in Tropicana was good for family. Mandalay Bay was truly impressive and would look into staying there next time for pool alone if nothing else.

Due to price skyrocketing for Friday night, we headed for Sam's Town for our last night in Las VEgas. The room was fine, clean and decent with a nice bath. But low class in the sense that they posted a sign saying how much they'd charge you if you took the towels, rugs and pillows from the room! Nice feel to the place other than that. Lots of seniors there. Not especially friendly as far as taking travelers checks. Had to go all over before someone told us you had to go to the main casino cage to cash them. Buffet was a mob scene. Skipped that. Headed to old downtown for the Freemont STreet Experience which was terrific. That felt like the true Las Vegas experience to all of us, but especially the kids. L:ights up close and personal and in your face. Lots of live music in that area, fun and exciting.

Next morning headed home. Las VEgas airport was warning that you should arrive 2 Hrs prior to flight, so we did, but security was not a problem and we got through with no incident or trouble. In Dallas we saw lots of servicemen and women who were walking through the airport. Met an Army sargeant who was so sweet and stopped to chat. He was heading off on a flight with its final destination in Iraq. Nice guy heading back for his 3rd time there, leaving wife and family at home.

Absolutely tremendous trip full of beauty and contrast so different from home! Sincere thanks to all who offered their help in our planning! Any questions, I'm happy to answer..
email me at [email protected]
mwessel is offline  
Aug 15th, 2004, 02:55 PM
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Loved reading your trip report. I had followed some of your questions (love to read about places we've been--helps bring back memories) and glad to hear everything went so well.

I remember the first time I saw the southwest--we drove to the Grand Canyon for our honeymoon 35 years ago. I couldn't believe that it was part of the United States since I had never been farther west than Ohio before that. It's an unbelievable, diverse country we live in.
maj is offline  
Aug 15th, 2004, 05:35 PM
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thanks -- what a great report. Sounds like you had a wonderful time.
mona is offline  
Aug 16th, 2004, 02:42 AM
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Thanks for your trip report! We leave for Vegas, GC, Lake Powell, Bryce and Zion in 10 days. We, too, staying at Kachina so glad to hear it's o.k. How far away did you have to park from the hotel? Also, how far down into the canyon do you think you hiked (how long?). We are planning to go down before sunrise and back out before 10 am. Know that we won't get too far with kids ages 10 and 8 (and mom and son don't love heights) but are hoping to get a sense of the majestically/magnitude of the canyon by doing that.
Finally, how long did you spend going east, including stopping to look?
ccrosner is offline  
Aug 16th, 2004, 03:33 AM
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We ended up finding a very convenient parking spot in El Tovar's lot. Kachina is right next door to there. We probably could have sold that spot when we left. You just see people circling and circling in hopes of getting a spot. We consolidated suitcases down to one duffle containing what the entire family needed for the stay there before even getting there because we worried how far away we might have to park. Get there early is all I can suggest. We were there by about 10:30 am I think.

We probably walked on the Bright Angel Trail downward for about 20 min. I couldn't tell you how many feet down that was, but everyone warns to expect double the time back out so we were afraid to go too far. I'm the one who wanted to turn back. I was ok with the heights thing as long as I didn't get too close to the edge but as we got a lower and lower, it became somewhat overwhelming to me. Plus the heat was incredible. But if you're going before sunrise and out by 10 you'll be great. Kids may need a jacket that early.

We started off our last morning by heading east and exiting the park that way. We did not stop at every single overlook, but rather choose the ones that most of the guidebooks cited as being the most impressive. Its about 25 miles to go all the way to Desert View, but add in stopping to look and shoot photos....we spent a couple of hours driving and looking before we actually exited the park and headed on to Cameron.

I hope your trip is fantastic as well. Much luck to you!
mwessel is offline  
Aug 16th, 2004, 04:31 AM
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Your report on Slide Rock being closed to swimming due to bacteria levels is very disturbing. I have never seen it closed for that in many trips there. What is up? Did you by any chance ask around while you were there about this? I wonder if it is too much development in Sedona that is causing the problem.
emd is offline  
Aug 16th, 2004, 05:10 AM
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The day we arrived in Sedona I could see over the edge down into the Slide Rock area and there were tons of people there. Very crowded. The next day was the day we had planned to go and found it closed to swimming and wading. Kind of made me wonder how the water condition was the day before.

We did not ask around about it. Your hunch could be right. My husband and I had been to Sedona about 23 years ago and were shocked (and somewhat dismayed) at the development which has taken place there. I didn't remember there being so many homes and shops there.

Anyway, the next day when we were leaving, Slide Rock appeared to be open again. I don't understand how the water condition could have improved over just one day, but then who knows.
mwessel is offline  
Aug 16th, 2004, 01:14 PM
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Glad to hear your trip was as great as ours...they were so similar. I am wondering if the horrible bathroom above the creek in Slide Rock Park could be the problem?? It was not at all clean and the smell coming from it was unbearable, we ended up further down the creek to stay away from it. That is a shame the park was closed, but sounds like you made do with other fun things to do. I have never been so excited AFTER a trip, and I used that energy to make up the best ever photo, souvenir album, even pressed desert flowers we picked on one of my son's many pee stops!
luugis is offline  
Aug 16th, 2004, 01:23 PM
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Streams, rivers, creeks, etc. in areas where top predators live (meaning wolves, mountain lions and other meat-eaters) often become contaminated with cryptosporidium and other bacteria from their feces (and from dog feces, too). I'm not saying I know this is what is going on in Sedona, but when I lived in AZ, it occured sporadically in different parts of the state. That is, those bacteria are always present, but when they exceed a certain measurement, authorities close the body of water until they drop back down to acceptable levels. Just FYI...
E is offline  
Aug 16th, 2004, 03:43 PM
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Just came back also. The Ranger said there was a lot of kids on that weekend (maybe due to that school starts the next day, and the human(kids)waste usually contribute to the closing. I know for sure it was closed Tuesday(8/10), and opened on Thrusday(8/12).
BTW, a hike in the "West Fork" (a little North of Slide Rock)must not be missed.
vlee99 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2004, 04:45 PM
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Sounds like a great trip! Thanks for the report.

Would love to hear more about the caboose accomodations as we love that kinda stuff! Not sure how we missed it actually....? Next time consider a night in the concrete teepees of the Wigwam Motel on Rt 66 in Holbrook, AZ. Likely a similar experience; we laughed ALOT!

ellen_griswold is offline  
Aug 19th, 2004, 05:38 AM
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ellen griswold
Heres a website address for the Canyon Motel...the place with the cabooses:


We loved the place. Such a quaint, charming, unique atmosphere. They have a couple of caboose suites and also a pullman car suite. We didn't get to see inside that one though. Ours had a bunk bed in the back for the kids and the top bunk enabled them to see out of the "pop up" section of the train car at the top. The front section had a double or queen size bed in it with TV and fridge, microwave and coffeepot. Inbetween the two sections was a small bathroom with shower stall. Outside there was a deck built on the backside with an electric grill and patio chairs. Inside there were lots of fun little old fashioned signs that had to do with train cars and strange railroad type terminology. These were not luxurious accomodations, but absolutley the most memorable place we stayed. Actual train tracks are nearby and the one evening I was laying in the bed (in our caboose) and heard the train rambling by and it was the strangest thing!

The owners were the nicest people and it was obvious they put a lot of TLC into this place. They also have these little sandstone cottages that were built in the 40's and have been restored. They do a campfire each night with marshmallow roast. There is a pool, a swingset, horseshoes and picnic tables all around. We just loved the ambiance of the place! And the little town of Williams was just as fun, with souvenirs cheaper than anywhere else we saw them from there on.

The wigwams sound like a scream!!!! How big were they? Are there beds in there, or was it like camping out and you needed sleeping bags etc? Where is Holbrook?
mwessel is offline  
Aug 21st, 2004, 07:39 AM
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Hi mwessel, The Wigwam Motel is on the imfamous historic Rt 66 in Holbrook, just east of Winslow, AZ and west of the petrified forest. We'd passed it several times and i always thought it was intriguing and might be fun for a night.

And it was! While it sure isn't the Ritz (i only like those on biz trips anyway) it isn't camping either (altho i really don't know how camping is because i won't do it... )

They're concrete teepees, big enough for two double beds, a dresser, desk, tv and bath. Very close quarters but immaculate and had very comfortable (firm) beds (i called ahead and requested a renovated room, we had #5 in july '03).

There are bathrooms in each teepee, altho DH had to lean to fit under the slanted roof shower! The tv only gets Nick at Night which was a cute touch. While i'd never stay more than a night it was great fun for a quick stop, we laughed ALOT. There's a good mom and pop mexican dinner in the next block(name escapes me). We toured their historic city hall and jail (sent shivers down my spine) and then were entertained by native american dancers on the lawn.

It was a great night that none of us will EVER forget. If you liked the caboose, i would think you'd love the wigwam motel.

ellen_griswold is offline  
Aug 21st, 2004, 08:02 AM
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Great trip report! It brought back memories of my trip last year.
jnn1964 is offline  
Aug 21st, 2004, 08:17 AM
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What a terrific trip report mwessel! I really enjoyed it all--so well written. I'm glad you were able to do some of Bright Angel. Even 20 minutes down gives you a greater sense of the enormity of it all, doesn't it!

Re Slide Rock pollution. Our daughter works for AZ Dept of Environmental Quality in Phoenix, and part of her territory while she was still in the field and in the Water Quality division was Sedona. (Imagine "having" to go to Sedona to work. I know it was not that unusual to have high bacteria counts there but there was more going on in Oak Creek than that--there was also a company that contributed to the pollution and has been fined for it. They are on a camping trip this weekend in the Channel Islands but I'll try to remember to find out more when they get back if you are interested.
OO is offline  
Aug 21st, 2004, 10:18 AM
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mwessel, I meant to add that we saw that 14,000 sq ft house under construction below the cathedral in November when we were there. It is unbelievable, isn't it? Now, if you were to build a house of that proportion, why on EARTH would you build it right next to the road and a road that must be busy constantly with traffic to and from the Cathedral?? Is there an expression about people having more money than sense?
OO is offline  
Aug 21st, 2004, 11:34 AM
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When we were in the gift shop at the Cathedral, the lady working in there told us that the guy who is building that place is a doctor or scientist somehow connected with the patent for the MRI. His wife and him and their two dogs will live there. We couldn't beleive it. We're hoping that they'll at least finish it off with a terra cotta colored roof in the end. That blue roof thats on there now just doesn't work in Sedona!!!! The whole thing just seems like an "in your face" display. Not nice and rather offensive in my opinion.

Also, yes, I'd be interested in hearing the low down on the pollution issue at Slide Rock. I guess with the kind of explosion of growth we saw since the last time we were in Sedona, that kind of thing just comes with the territory. Sad.
mwessel is offline  
Aug 21st, 2004, 06:07 PM
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Here is why Slide Rock State Park must restrict use of the water that flows through it -- from time to time at this time of the year.

It's done, of course, for YOUR protection. From about the 4th of July until mid-September, we are in what is known as the Arizona monsoon. Torrential downpours occur, usually in the late afternoon. The water has to go somewhere, and in Oak Creek Canyon that means -- you guessed it -- into Oak Creek. Also, during that period, we have our highest number of tourist guests using Oak Creek. Result: a lot of stuff gets washed into the creek, including the stuff from cattle which graze the winter months in the forestland high above. Consequently, a lot of bacteria -- the nasty kind such giardia and cryptosporidia -- wash into the water. Combine that fact with higher temperatures and you get ideal conditions for waterborne problems to occur. Nature, however, has a way of taking care of this and the creek clears quite quickly.

As for Sedona's growth, you might be interested to know that the city (at great expense) has installed a state-of-the-art sewage treatment system. Sedona, if you bothered to notice, is DOWNSTREAM seven MILES from Slide Rock State Park. The town's water supply is NOT Oak Creek; it is used for recreation ONLY. Several water companies employ deep wells to supply the city with crystal-clear water.

And speaking of growth, Phoenix adds the equivalent of ONE SEDONA in population every SIX WEEKS. And has done so for years and years. Sedona has about 12,000 population within a five-mile circle. Hardly a big place. Just beautiful -- and we do our best to keep it that way.

USNR is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2004, 06:52 AM
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Thank you for the information.

I was in no way implying that Sedona's water source was Oak Creek. In saying that perhaps the rapid growth of the area had contributed to the pollution in the creek, I was referring to OO's comment in regard to a local company contributing to the pollution and being fined for it.

The face of Sedona has changed a lot since I was there last, (23 years ago) and I don't think it a bad thing to comment on it. Everyone wants a little piece of that beauty, but down the road, just how much of it will be left untouched?
mwessel is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2004, 09:01 AM
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The face of Sedona has changed tremendously just since we've been going there--only the past 5 or 6 years! It is so noticeable simply because the town is/was so small, and is growing by leaps and bounds with more suburb type areas added to the south each time we pass through. It was inevitable, everyone does want a piece of that beauty (I wouldn't mind some myself ) but still it's a shame to see the changes because with them go some of the charm. We have a guide book for many of the hikes, purchased when we first started going, and now if you follow the maps you are quite likely to find yourself in someones cul de sac, rather than at the trailhead!!
OO is offline  

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