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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Sleepy Fish in Lewiston Lake

Today was the day for us to fish for trout on Lewiston Lake.  The lake is a reservoir that mediates between Trinity Lake, California and the Trinity River as it flows down to the Klamath River.  Lewiston Lake is known for its rainbow trout and brown trout.  But they start to winter over once the weather grows cold.  We were hoping that the trout were still active.  The lake is certainly beautiful:

In fact, with the colors of autumn, it's downright gorgeous:

This was our day to try our hand at trout fishing on the lake.  We hope to chase Steelhead on the Trinity River later in our stay.  But today, we are after those little trouties we know and love.  So out we went once the temperatures rose to near 60F.

Here's Kathy flashing the sign of victory as we set out on our quest.  The trout will determine:

We felt that the trout were most likely to be cruising along the far shore of the lake, so, after trying our luck among the reeds on the near shore, we headed to the opposite.  There were plenty of coots to divert our attention:

Unfortunately, while we spotted an abundance of mayflies (including some monstrous caddis flies), we saw no trout rises, and, as far as we could tell, the trout had checked out.  That didn't mean there wasn't a lot of beautiful scenery:

After fishing the far bank of the lake, we crossed back to our own side.  We caught a beautiful view of some of the mountains in the Trinity Alps, with Lewiston Lake and doughty fishing boat in the foreground:

It was up to us to find what we could, where we could.  This alder leaf provided some consolation as it floated in the utterly calm waters of the lake:

Our best efforts came to naught when trout were involved.  We were reduced to finding photo opportunities where they presented themselves:

The lowering sun presented us with some beautiful scenes, especially along the banks of this utterly calm lake:

We agreed to make one more attempt at finding trout, at a stream inlet on the southwest shore of the lake.  Alas, nothing was to be found.  Here you see Kathy returning in dejectment from her attempts to roust the trouties out of their subaqueous shelter:

Finally, we gave up and simply enjoyed our paddle on the lake, recognizing that we were not going to catch any trout.  We finally concluded that they must already be hunkering down for the winter, starting their winter sleeps, and simply not feeding at all.  There were huge numbers of flies hatching all across the surface of the lake -- and nary a rise.  Well, at least we had the scenery:

By the time 5:00 pm was arriving, we knew the fishing was over.  We beached our kayaks and sadly gave up our quests for those sleepy fish:

But it was not all lost.  We did salvage some encounters with wildlife, such as
this video of a flock of coots flying simultaneously across the surface of the lake.

Our philosophy is:  sometimes you eat the fish, and sometimes the fish eat you.

Better luck next time.

Lost in the Trinity Alps

Just sit right back
And you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from a mountain camp
Aboard a tiny Jeep

The navigator had map and GPS
The driver brave and sure
The two Jeepers set out that day
For a 3 hour hike, just a 3 hour hike

The road started getting rough
The tiny Jeep was tossed
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
Dusty would be lost, Dusty would be lost

The Jeep went round and round on
Uncharted forest roads
They'll have to make the best of things
And turn the Jeep toward home

The maps and GPS were no help
The satellites were lost
The trailhead they couldn't find
Their day hike was a bust!

So join us here next week my friends
You'll sure to get a smile
As two wayward Jeepers try again
to find the elusive trail!

Here in the Trinity Alps!

(with apologies to "Gilligan's Island)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hi Blog!

You're never truly lost as long as you're still on the planet! 

We put that axiom to the test today as we drove up into the Trinity Alps in search of the trailhead for the Boulder Lake Trail. We had stopped at the Weaverville Ranger Station yesterday and picked up maps and suggestions for some nice day hikes in the area. The Boulder Lake Trail came highly recommended. While the drive to the trailhead would be a 12 mile Jeep drive, the hike itself was only five miles out and back with a chance to see two pretty little alpine lakes. We thought this would be a great re-introduction to the Trinity Alps. We had camped in this area back in 2013, but had to leave due to the government shut down. We are looking forward to do some more exploring during out time here.

On the way, we stopped at a scenic viewpoint overlooking Trinity Lake.

We saw a bridge over what we thought was Coffee Creek and decided to check out the creek before heading off into the woods. Legend has it that a pack train loaded with coffee for the gold fields was washed away in a torrential flood, hence the name "Coffee Creek." Just as we crossed the bridge we noticed a deer entering the brush below.

As we looked upstream we could see one of the granite peaks that gave the Trinity Mountains their Alps-like appearance.

We turned off the Highway 3 onto Forest Road 37N52.

Little did we know at the time that this was the WRONG end of Forest Road 37N52.  We had relied on Google Maps for directions to the trailhead, and Google Maps took us in from the wrong end.  Unfortunately, FR 37N52 is no longer a continuous road.  As a result, FR 37N52 did not connect through to the Boulder Lake Trailhead from this end.  Your hapless travelers were clueless on this score.

So up we drove FR 37N52.  So far so good, the road was well maintained.

We began to climb higher into the mountains with great views of Trinity Lake.

Dusty took a break as we savored the view.

We were really getting up in the world!

That mountain we saw from Coffee Creek was getting closer.

All seemed to go according to plan until we reached a section of forest that was criss-crossed with old logging roads. Several of these roads were not on our map; others were noted in the GPS, but didn't exist. Try as we might, we could not get ourselves over to the trailhead.  As you can see from our recorded track on the topo map below, we drove all over that territory:

We asked the GPS for help by putting in the GPS coordinates for the trailhead (we later learned that Google Maps gave us the wrong location for the trailhead, too -- even though it seemed to be consistent with our National Forest Topo Map). The GPS decided to direct us down an ATV trail with a very steep grade that we had no desire to go back up. We did the best we could and ended up circling back to the highway. Along the way, we stopped to check out some rock outcrops.

Once we decided to give up trying to find the trailhead, it was a beautiful day for a jeep drive in the woods.

We completed our circle and returned to Trinity Lake.

As soon as we got back to camp, we began our research to figure how not to get lost when we try again. We think we figured out how we ended up on the wrong end of Forest Road 37N52. We are going to try again in a couple days to complete our hike to Boulder Lake. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Lewiston, California and Helena Ghost Town

Well, here we are.  As we drove south on Sunday, October 27, 2019, toward Myers Flat, California from our campground in Klamath, California, we noticed that all of the traffic lights in Eureka were out -- replaced by stop signs.  We checked the internet, and -- sure enough -- PG&E had imposed electricity blackouts from Eureka south.  We stopped by the side of the road, reconsidered our choices, and decided to head west across the mountains toward Redding, California to get out of the blackout and wildfire dangers.

How far should we go?  We had trouble finding campgrounds with availability, because everyone in the Redding campgrounds, having heard of the blackouts, weren't leaving.  We worked our way west on Highway 299 and found a quirky little campground in Lewiston, California called Trinity River Resort & RV Park.  There seemed to be availability and we were able to make a reservation online.  Our next three stops are within the area of the wildfires and power outages, so we decided to stay here for twelve full days.  This will be a welcome change of pace from our 3- or 4-day stops coming down the coast.

We ventured off Highway 299, east of Weaverville, and up through Lewiston.  Our GPS's did not agree on an appropriate route and we chose the wrong one.  What's wrong with crossing a narrow, one-lane bridge that was barely wide and high enough for our motorhome?  Nothing -- unless you read the sign that says, "No RV's."  But we made it and continued on Rust Creek Road, a small back road, toward our campground.

When we arrived, the campground was essentially empty.  The owner/manager, Dan, is very friendly.  He helped us pick a site.  We got set up -- actually could get satellites for our DirectTV -- and settled in for a gorgeous fall evening in camp along the Trinity River:

Waking up in the morning on Monday, we found that it was below freezing, but a beautiful blue-sky day.  On our coffee walk, we spotted these two deer, a doe and her fawn, crossing the campground from getting a drink in the Trinity River before heading up the hill behind the campground:

The Trinity River is a major river in northwestern California, and is the principal tributary of the Klamath River. The Trinity flows for 165 miles through the Klamath Mountains and Coast Ranges, with a watershed area of nearly 3,000 square miles in Trinity and Humboldt Counties. Designated a National Wild and Scenic River, along most of its course the Trinity flows swiftly through tight canyons and mountain meadows.  The river is known for its once prolific runs of Chinook salmon and steelhead, which sustained Native American tribes for thousands of years. Due to its remoteness, the Trinity did not feature prominently in the early European colonization of California, but the gold rush in the mid-1800s brought thousands of gold seekers to the area. During and after the gold rush, the influx of settlers and miners into the Trinity River Country led to conflict with indigenous tribes, many of which saw severe depopulation due to fighting and foreign diseases. In the following decades logging and ranching, combined with mining runoff, significantly changed the river's ecology and led to the decline of its fish populations.

Trinity River is still a big fishing river for Steelhead and Chinook Salmon, although the salmon run this year was almost nonexistent.  Locals tell, us, however, that the Steelhead fishing is still exciting and rewarding.  Since we love fishing for trout and salmon, we've decided to try our luck, and today, Tuesday, October 29, 2019, we drove over to the local fly shop to get some local flies and some pointers about fishing the river.

As we drove, we drove the Jeep back across the Old Lewiston Bridge, which almost confounded our motorhome:

We took a side trip up past Lewiston Lake, which we also plan to fish later in our stay, to visit the bottom of Trinity Lake, which is a gorgeous reservoir in the Trinity Alps.  We visited Trinity Lake in 2013, and you can read about that in our blog entry for that visit, "Exploring Trinity Lake," which is a more detailed description of the lake.  Interestingly, when we were here in 2013, the lake levels were substantially lower than they are today, as you can see if you compare the photo below with the photos in our blog entry above:

After visiting Trinity Lake and the fly shop, we headed out to investigate a local ghost town, Helena.  It was settled in 1851 as a mining camp. It was known as Bagdad, North Fork, and The Cove before its post office opened in 1891; the post office was named Helena after the postmaster's wife.

We parked our car by this old building, and as soon as we stepped out of the car, the corner of the in roof on the right front corner of the building (as seen in the photo below) started flapping.  FLAP-FLAP-FLAP.....FLAP-FLAP-FLAP... as if to object to our presence.  We moved away, but then a tree above us took up the objections by creaking over our heads.  Hmmm....maybe there's something to this "ghost" town stuff.

In July 1848, not too long after James Marshall's famous gold find at Sutter's Mill – which started the California Gold Rush – gold was discovered on the Trinity River. The find attracted thousands of miners to the area and created boomtowns such as Douglas City, Francis, Hoboken, Lake City, Lewiston, Junction City and Quimby. Weaverville, located at the end of a trail from the Sacramento Valley to the Trinity, prospered as the main trade center through which gold was exchanged for imported supplies and services. The initial discoveries were placer deposits, carried by the river to settle in gravel bars. The Trinity River gold rush is also noted for the large number of Chinese miners attracted to the area, as many as 2,500 by 1854. Many of the Chinese were from the Pearl River Delta (Guangdong region) of China.

The site of the Helena ghost town was originally a Native American camp going back as far as 4,000 years ago.  After the gold rush began, a man by the name of Craven Lee filed a land settlement claim in 1852 on the North Fork of the Trinity River. This spot would grow into a small mine supply camp that originally went by the name North Fork. Placer mining in the area reached a peak in 1861. A major flood in that year destroyed much of the mining infrastructure in the area.  Mining operations were slowed, but eventually recovered and North Fork persevered for decades to come as a supply center for the mines and a lodging and entertainment hub for the miners.  In 1891 the name of the town was changed from North Fork to Helena to avoid confusion with another town of the same name in California.  It continued to be an outpost on the Trinity River until the 1930's when the new Highway 299 bypassed the town. Today there is nothing left but a few intact buildings from the earliest boom times.

Mining activity was initially concentrated in the eastern (upper) valleys of the Trinity River around Weaverville, as the hostile Native Americans and treacherous gorges around Burnt Ranch precluded the transport of rations and equipment to places further west. For about two decades the area was extremely productive, second only to the Sierra Nevada (the Mother Lode) itself. The rate at which gold was extracted, and new methods pioneered to access the harder to reach deposits, was feverish. The area was soon profiting $1.5 million a year, with hundreds of claims along the Trinity River equipped with flumes, waterwheels and other apparatus to separate fine gold from river gravel.

One profitable way to access gold was hydraulic mining operations, which sprang up across the Trinity River country starting in the 1860s. At one point, there were 307 hydraulic mines in Trinity County alone, of which 145 were "fully operational", all of which depended on the use of pressurized water to demolish hillsides in search of gold bearing ore. This had an enormous impact on the landscape – leveling forests, carving huge gullies and burying streambeds under dozens of feet of sediment – which still characterizes the area today. Elaborate flume, reservoir and tunnel systems were built to supply the massive quantities of water required by these "hydraulicking" operations.  On our drive, we passed an example of the "monitors" or "giants" that were used to wash soil away in gold mining:

After walking around the Helena ghost town, we drove further up the North Fork of the Trinity River, and were rewarded by beautiful mountain and canyon views:

Eventually, it was time to return to our campground.  We stopped at the confluence of the North Fork and the Trinity River and admired it as it flowed west toward its confluence with the Klamath River:

That was it for the day.  We reached our RV and hastened to start Baxter Hour.  David strolled down to the Trinity River to scope out the best approach to fishing it, while Kathy supervised the Big Fat Black Cat.  We felt we had learned enough to prepare us for at least a couple days of exciting fishing.  Stay tuned for that in the next blog entries!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Crescent City Ramble

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Hi Blog!

On our last day in Klamath, we decided to get out and explore north to Crescent City. After a tasty breakfast at the Log Cabin Diner, we couldn't resist a drive through the Tour Thru Tree just across the street from the diner.

Unfortunately, we didn't take the kayaks off before leaving camp. The Tour Thru Tree became the Back Out Tree!

As we drove north on the 101, we read a little about Crescent City. In 1850, there were rich finds of gold along the Klamath River and tributaries. Trappers from the town of Klamath City, established near the Mouth of the Klamath, started exploring north of the Klamath River and found a crescent bay that might be favorable as a harbor.   By 1853, the harbor area had been surveyed into town lots.  The new town was dubbed Crescent City and incorporated in 1854. The harbor proved a favorable spot for newcomers heading to the inland gold fields. Here is an aerial view of Crescent City Harbor.

After a very successful stop at the local Ace Hardware, we decided to check out the Battery Point Lighthouse & Museum. We had about an hour to wait for the museum to open, so we took a long walk out the jetty pictured above. We were intrigued by the odd shapes piled up at the end of the breakwater. Turns out they were dolosse. A dolos works by dissipating, rather than blocking, the energy of waves. The design of dolosse deflects most wave action energy to the side, making them more difficult to dislodge than objects of a similar weight presenting a flat surface. 

Each dolos consists of concrete with steel rods, weighing 42 tons. There are more than 750 dolosse in place; 20 of them have transmitters to monitor possible movement. As we turned and headed back to shore, we could see the Battery Point Lighthouse peeking above the dolosse.

Battery Point Light was one of the first lighthouses on the California coast. In 1855, Congress appropriated $15,000 for the construction of a lighthouse on the tiny islet. The fourth-order Fresnel lens was lit in 1856. The lighthouse was automated in 1953, and a modern 14.8-inch lens replaced the previous fourth-order Fresnel lens.  

The only way to reach the lighthouse is across a narrow strip of rocky beach at low tide. When the tide comes in, the walkway is underwater!  Until low tide, anyone on the island (including the lighthousekeeper!) is on their own.

By the time we finished our jetty walk, the tide had receded and we could see the path across. Once we reached the island, Kathy stopped to admire the breaching whale created from an old tree trunk.

Battery Point Lighthouse was built in a Cape Cod style, with a central brick tower protruding from the roof of a one-and-a-half-story stone keeper’s dwelling. 

The 1964 Alaska earthquake, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in the northern hemisphere, caused a tsunami that reached all the way down the Pacific Coast to Crescent City and its bay. The lighthouse survived. Crescent City was hit by four tidal waves waves that arrived just before midnight. A monster swell flooded the town, killing 12 people and causing an estimated $15 million in damage.

We had a chance to tour the museum and climb up to the lamp room. From our vantage point, we could look down on the Monterey cypress trees planted by one of the keepers over 100 years ago.

Climbing all those lighthouse stairs builds up a powerful thirst. What better way to quench it than a flight of local craft brews from nearby SeaQuake Brewing?

We are hoping to continue south down the 101 toward Mendicino. We are keeping an eye out for the wildfires and power outages. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Redwood National and State Parks

One of the reasons we wanted to drive down the California coast was to see the giant redwoods.  We'd explored them before in the Muir Woods north of San Francisco on previous trips, but this was our first chance to see the redwoods on the wilder Northern California coast.  As a bonus, we could visit Redwood National Park!

The parks preserve a number of threatened animal species such as the tidewater goby, Chinook salmon, northern spotted owl, and Steller's sea lion. They have been designated a World Heritage Site and are part of the California Coast Ranges International Biosphere Reserve.

The Redwood National and State Parks are stretched along the coast of northern California and are made up of Redwood National Park (established in 1968) and California's Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks (dating from the 1920s), the combined parks cover over 200 square miles of old-growth rainforests. The four parks protect 45% of all remaining coast redwood old-growth forests. These trees are the tallest, among the oldest,and one of the most massive tree species on Earth.  It took Kathy about 5 minutes on our first coffee walk into the park before she found the biggest redwood around to hug:

In addition to the redwood forests, the parks preserve nearly 40 miles of pristine coastline.  We had a chance to see parts of it on Friday, October 25, 2019 as we drove a northern loop road to High Bluff Overlook.  The photo below looks north toward the mouth of the Klamath River:

Our second stop along the loop drive was an old military radar station.  The B-71 radar station, also known as Klamath River Radar Station, is a rare surviving example of 65 Army Air Force early warning stations that were arrayed along the Pacific Coast in World War II. It was constructed to look like a farmhouse. The cinderblock structures boast shingled roofs and fake windows and dormers. From the air, the sea, and even the road, these buildings appeared to be part of a working farm. In fact, they housed a diesel generator, electronic equipment, and two 50-caliber anti-aircraft guns.

It was possible to hike down to the buildings and peer into them.  Dusty had to stay up in the parking area, but kept a keen eye on us as we walked:

Our next stop on the loop was the spit at the mouth of the Klamath River.  Modern day native groups such as the Yurok, Tolowa, Karok, Chilula, and Wiyot all have historical ties to the region, and some Native American groups still live in the park area today. Archaeological study shows they arrived in the area as far back as 3,000 years ago. An 1852 census determined that the Yurok were the most numerous, with 55 villages and an estimated population of 2,500 at that time.  One can only imagine how large their population was before they were decimated by diseases introduced by Europeans. They used the abundant redwood, which with its linear grain was easily split into planks, as a building material for boats, houses, and small villages. For buildings, the planks would be erected side by side in a narrow trench, with the upper portions bound with leather strapping and held by notches cut into the supporting roof beams. Redwood boards were used to form a shallow sloping roof.

We saw examples of this construction as we stopped to walk out onto the spit.  This is a ceremonial area that is important to the local tribes.  They have fished this part of the river for thousands of years.

The spit has morphed over the years due to the tides and the force of the Klamath River's current.  While Google Maps shows that the spit curls out into the water from the south (our side of the river) and leaves an opening for the river to empty into the Pacific Ocean along the north shore of the river, when we arrived, we saw that the configuration had reversed:  the north end of the spit connects to the Klamath River's northern shoreline, and the south end is now the mouth of the river.  This was somewhat disappointing, because it prevented us from walking out onto the spit.

Still, we were amply rewarded for our troubles.  As with much of the Southern Oregon and Northern California coasts, the beach is graced with volcanic sea stacks in fantastic shapes:

We walked south along the shore of the river's mouth, looking across to the spit, where dozens of Native American fishermen were doing their best to hook, gaff or net the Steelhead and Chinook (King) Salmon that were swimming up the river.

Oh, yes, and they had fierce competition from the seals and sea lions that were patrolling the breadth and length of the river's mouth:

We stood fascinated, watching the seals swimming at high speed underwater as they chased the fish.  Of course, the gulls and other shorebirds were flocking in attendance, and would descend and float around the scene when a fish was captured.  This happened to the fishermen as well as the seals.

The parks have, collectively, three visitor centers.  The headquarters is in Crescent City, but two are located in the park near our campground, so part of our goal was to visit those two.  Our first stop was the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, located more in the interior of the parks, which has served as the visitor center for Prairie Creek State Park.  It is of classic wood lodge construction, which, by its style and the surrounding stone work, we imagined was CCC work.  Here, Kathy models the interior of the center:

By the time we finished our visitor center, it was lunchtime, so we picked a bench in a pretty location with a view of the small valley in which the visitor center is set.  No sooner had we unwrapped our lunch than a Stellar's Jay and his/her mate flew over and kept a watchful eye on us to see if any food might become vulnerable to their snatch:

Having finished lunch, we headed further south.  Our second visitor center stop was the Kutchel Visitor Center, a modern building faced in bleached wood that blended with its environment in a beach section of the parks.  From that visitor center it is possible to walk out a boardwalk to the beach and view the pristine Northern California coast:

While the parks have a huge number of trails for a hiker's enjoyment, we had one trail in mind -- Fern Canyon, which, due to its haunting rainforest personality, was the location for shooting of parts of "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," BBC's "Walking with Dinosaurs," and IMAX's "Dinosaurs Alive!"

In true Jurassic Park fashion, we drove our Jeep down dirt roads and through streams to the trailhead.  As you can see in the photo below, Dusty enjoyed this part of the hike:

We had plenty of company at the trailhead.  Perhaps a dozen other cars had made it in the rough road.  Some were sedans without high clearance or 4WD, and it appeared most of them were rental cars, because anyone owning a sedan would not have wanted to brave the potholes and stream crossings.  In fact, where Dusty had to cross the stream in the photo above, there were 5 or 6 sedans parked, and, further along the road, we found their occupants hiking the last mile or so to the trailhead parking lot.  We picked up a couple from Florida who had chosen to abandon their sedan and hike.  Somehow, they squeezed into our little back seat which was already piled high with flotsam and jetsam, but they were very thankful for the lift.

Here was our view of the canyon as we entered it.  It is unique because of its narrow, high canyon walls, which are completely covered by trees and ferns.  It is interesting to hike because the floor is comprised generally of soft gravel and sand, interpersed with boulders and huge hunks of trees that have been washed down the canyon over the years. 

Now, as we did, imagine you are in this same place, hunting dinosaurs, and you stumble onto the location set for Lost World: Jurassic Park --

That could be us splashing through the stream!  And, indeed, a stream still runs through it, so the hike involves many stream crossings.  The ranger at the entrance station warned us that we were going to get our feet wet, and she was so right.  We had hiking shoes, so we had to make choices.  Not wanting to wade in bare feet, we chose differently:  David just sloshed through the water and got his shoes and socks wet; Kathy worked mightily to find routes across the water by logs, rocks and such, and found herself making death-defying leaps to keep her feet dry:

The map shows the trail as a loop, but we saw only one route up the streambed through the canyon and we assumed that we would be returning the route we came.  However, some way up the canyon, David spotted a small set of stone stairs that are in the process of returning to nature.  They appeared to lead nowhere.  Curious, he climbed them to see what trail they had been part of and -- lo and behold! -- found a real trail climbing upward from them. 

We had, fortuitously, found the path out of the canyon and were able to return by the loop that wound its way higher on the canyon wall.  It brought us into a magical cathedral of redwood trees, with golden light filtering through to the fern-carpeted floor:

By the time we completed our Jeep drive back from Fern Canyon, it was late afternoon, so we headed back to our campground.  We passed Elk Meadow, a portion of the park housing a large herd of elk.  We had drive south past the same spot earlier in the day and had seen the herd lounging on a grass lawn of a cabin campground near Elk Meadow (preferring, we guessed, the juicy green mowed grass of the campground to the more raw grasses of the meadow.  So we were prepared with our camera as we approached the campground.  We were rewarded with this view of the bull elk resting regally among his harem.  It must not have been rutting season yet, because other males were also relaxing, unmolested, with the herd.

Our campsite alongside the Klamath River inspired us to have a campfire, even though it gets very chilly here as soon as the sun goes down.  No matter.  Once the fire was built, David relaxed next to it for warmth --

-- while Kathy did the same.  Kathy got the river view while David got the mountain view:

As the sun set, we both turned to look at the river and were rewarded with this rosy vista looking toward the mouth of the Klamath River:

And, as we did with our campfire session, we'll end this blog entry with that view.