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Old 10-21-2010, 04:58 PM   #16
Jason Abbott OP
Long time Idaho rider
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Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
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Day 3

From this mountain I could observe high rugged mountains in every direction as far as I could see ... began to snow about three hours before day and continued all day ... I have been wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life, indeed I was at one time fearful my feet would freeze in the thin moccasins which I wore. After a short delay in the middle of the day, I took one man and proceeded on as fast as I could about six miles to a small branch passing to the right, halted and built fires for the party against their arrival which was at dusk, very cold and much fatigued (William Clark, September 15–16, 1805, Bitterroot Mountains, present-day Idaho).
· · · · The day would demonstrate that little of these mountains has changed since they were traversed by Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and their party 205 years ago.
· · · · Wary of overnight precipitation after the previous day’s rain, I had setup a quick carport. Experience had taught the value of a little shelter when trying to pack in the rain. Of course, the better prepared you are for something, the less likely it is that thing will happen. So it wasn’t surprising when we awoke to a dry morning—not even dew on the ground.
· · · · It was dry but not so warm—about 42°F. We made hot breakfasts on a long abandoned folding table, its original color long lost, and sat around the fire while Jeremy and Jesse recounted their late night escapades.

my cold toes
· · · · Apparently a man-eating deer had repeatedly approached the fire like a ghost out of darkness until Jeremy felt he had no choice but to launch a spear he’d carved. He actually hit the deer, the story goes, but the spear bounced harmlessly (supernaturally?) off its hide. Hoof prints around our tents suggested the deer contemplated revenge as we slept.

the jug of yellow fluid on the left is Casey’s tablet-purified water
· · · · The two of them had also walked down the road for what reason I didn’t catch. They said they came across our late night “Forest Service contractor” asleep in his car. Weirdo. We didn’t see him again.

“Sunday Breakfast” from Jill
· · · · By that second morning we were all curious to see what Joel’s surprise meal would be (like Jesse’s MREs last year). “Hold still a second,” I asked him so I could focus in on the bit of bacon in the bite of potatoes he’d prepared. “It’s good,” he assured with a smile. Whatever the taste, the packages seemed all to contain a little merriment.
· · · · We quickly gained a few thousand feet of elevation from our campsite along Cayuse Creek travelling north toward the Great Burn area. I expected the day to warm up but if anything it was getting colder. I activated the heated grips while the others endured.

Joel, Casey, Jesse and Jeremy with cold hands
The Great Burn is a geological wonderland at the northern end of the Idaho Batholith. Glaciation is evident with many U-shaped valleys and cirque basins ... Some of the higher ridges in the southern portion are defined by granite pinnacles called “dinosaur rocks” because they resemble the backs of these prehistoric creatures.
· · · · This primeval landscape burned heavily in the Great Fire of 1910 leaving charred snags, grassy slopes, and expanses of sub-alpine tundra-like meadows. High cirques, impressive stands of mountain hemlock, and dozens of clear lakes also adorn the high country (“Great Burn Wilderness,” Sierra Club).
· · · · A rough jeep trail splits from Road 581 to climb the final steep mile to the summit of Blacklead Mountain (7,326 feet) at the southern entrance of the Great Burn. Navigating the rocks was a welcome distraction from the cold.

· · · · We parked at a clearing to look out across untamed peaks under low, dark skies—perhaps a taste of Lewis and Clark’s experience. I felt small and vulnerable looking at the infinite desolation stretched before us.
· · · · The cold air penetrated jackets and gloves us as we stepped off our bikes. Heated grips and fat fairing had kept me warm but the others were clenching their fists as they ambled stiffly around. I suggested a little fire to warm up but generated little interest. Better to keep moving.
· · · · In spite of the cold, I was eager to see the Great Burn country I’d read of. A double-track trail open only to motorcycles headed in the right direction but ended in a small saddle after just a few hundred yards. Vehicles were prohibited from the obvious trail onward but after a moment looking around we noticed an unmarked single-track trail continuing up the ridge.

· · · · The path was so narrow I several times expected my panniers to strike trail-side rocks but managed somehow to squeeze through. When Jeremy and I saw the trail enter thick trees, we decided to hang back and wait for a verdict from our younger brothers. Threading that needle would require some reward.

· · · · Casey followed ambitiously behind Jesse and Joel but stopped short of entering the woods when one of his panniers struck a rock, tearing loose the zip-ties that held bracket to frame since one of his bolts rattled loose the day before.

zip-tie down
· · · · Jeremy and I offered sage advice while Casey cobbled it together a second time with my remaining supply of zip-ties.

look, pocket portable coffee

· · · · Joel and Jesse returned without major discoveries. With the sky looking ready to unleash a torrent, it seemed further exploration of the Great Burn would have to wait. “I think I’m gonna go home, guys,” Casey announced. The rest of us reacted similarly: “Okay. Good luck.”

· · · · Casey left in the middle of last year’s ride too. He avoided dirt naps this time but was concerned about his panniers. We weren’t going to twist his arm. “Before you go, can you get a picture of us,” I asked.

next year: hat

· · · · We congregated back at the intersection with the main road where Casey would go his separate way. Frozen pellets—not quite snow, not quite hail—began to fall and accumulate as we sat there on our motorcycles. Far from discouraging, it was kind of exhilarating. We could only laugh and be on our way.
· · · · Precipitation relented but roiled clouds continued dark threats as we followed the road along Toboggan Ridge toward Cayuse Landing Field, a little airstrip along a lower section of Cayuse Creek.
· · · · Low bushes in fiery autumn dress framed our expansive view of endless mountains, dark under grey skies, and swirled in the mists of low clouds. It was easy to understand why these mountains were the hardest part of Lewis and Clark’s journey from near St. Louis.
The explorers took eleven agonizing days (September 11–22, 1805) to traverse the trail—the most arduous stretch in their entire journey to the Pacific. Battling rain, sleet, and deep snow, as well as hunger and dangerous mountain terrain, often hacking their way through dense underbrush and around fallen timber, gasping for breath in the rarefied mountain air, and eating some of their horses for sustenance, the half-frozen and thoroughly exhausted men trudged wearily onward. For some time, it appeared they might be stranded in the mountains or forced to turn back (“Lolo Trail,” National Park Service).

· · · · Appetites urged a break as we descended from the mountains to a wide road along the enlarged Cayuse Creek. Jeremy and Jesse put a line in the water while we ate. The wide but shallow creek held little promise of fish so after eating, we wasted no time getting back on the road by the airstrip, back up into mountains cloaked in clouds.

· · · · Our pace was cautious on the hard-pack road, dark and slippery with a persistent sprinkle of rain. The forest was quiet and green. A spray of water was the penalty for veering too close to leafy branches bowing into our path under wet weight.
· · · · We wound upward and then followed switchbacks back down to Moose Creek Road. Jesse immediately recognized where we were, having made several fishing trips up the North Fork of the Clearwater River, to which the world famous Kelly Creek is a primary tributary.
· · · · Sun and rain were dueling for dominance as we hopscotched along the road, following Jesse’s lead to fishing holes. Slow and deep, the water was green with the reflection of verdant moss and encroaching forest. Entire schools of fish could be seen, silhouettes swaying in the shadows. Abundant boulders were home to lichens and tiny flowers, and a perch from which to fish or photograph.

· · · · Joel and I were content to watch, to let our thoughts slow to the creek’s languid pace, as Jeremy and Jesse caught a dozen fish in as many minutes.

· · · · When sprinkles became steady rainfall we packed up and accelerated down the road in search of clearer skies. We unwrapped snacks and unzipped our jackets to dry a little when finally, after quite a few miles, road and sunshine temporarily coincided.
· · · · The inevitable subject of Joel’s meals came up again as we stood together at river’s edge. “She scowled,” he said of Jill, when she saw he’d thrown in some extra granola bars out of concern she wouldn’t pack enough food. “I ate granola bars the first day and I’ve been behind ever since,” he lamented. He really had it rough.
· · · · We hadn’t gotten much into the Great Burn so I wanted to actually reach our next and final high destination, Flat Mountain. It was hard to tell which way the weather would go. Probably intermittent rain and sun. If we got wet, just wait a few minutes for the sun to return and dry us out.
· · · · It began sprinkling almost as soon as we turned up Cold Springs Creek toward the summit. The road became more primitive as we climbed, from gravel to dirt, then ruts and rocks.
· · · · Flowers and berries, purple, orange and yellow, were welcoming garlands. It was a strangely threatening beauty, drawing us onward even as dark sky and canted trail whispered doom.
· · · · My brothers were cold—perhaps as cold as they’d yet been—when we reached the top of Flat Mountain. Somewhere below was Ring Lake and Pete Ott Lake but we had no view from the cloister of large evergreens we’d stopped within. I think the others could not have cared less about the view at that point. They immediately began gathering wood to build a fire. Expletives may have been muttered.
· · · · “I’m gonna go see what’s up that trail,” I announced, referring to an ATV trail heading off from the road there. I was still on my motorcycle, still warm. I wanted the view. The path was smooth dirt along an undulating forest floor carpeted green with small shrubs and grasses. It rose and fell steeply and veered sharply between giant trees.
· · · · From “this is pretty nice” I began thinking, “this is truly great.” Navigating the dirt roller-coaster required some attention but it wasn’t strenuous. It was perfect. I wanted to go and go but decided I should turn back to invite my brothers along.
· · · · Visibility suddenly dropped and the sky became thick with snow. Crazy! The trail grew quickly slippery. We’d have to wait for this to clear.
· · · · The snow—or snow pellets, to be more exact—was falling heavily when I parked next to the other motorcycles. I pulled my tarp from its straps on the motorcycle and walked to where my brothers stood to setup a shelter next to the roaring fire. “This would be a great campsite,” we observed, if not for the weather.

· · · · We realized this was something unique when lightning cracked the sky above us as close as I’ve ever experienced it. The rare phenomenon is called thundersnow. When it happens, the snow muffles the sound so that if you do experience it, you must be very close. The snow had a second effect, reflecting the light like a prism. The sudden, deafening brilliance appeared blue and red. It was truly awesome.

· · · · The lightning subsided but the snow persisted. Our enthusiasm waned. We thought we’d wait it out but it didn’t seem to be stopping. If it didn’t stop then we’d have to descend the rough trail under that inch or two of snow.

· · · · It didn’t stop. Jeremy did a little test run around camp then Joel and Jesse took the lead to leave a track in the snow for the heavier bikes to follow down the mountain.

· · · · A thousand feet lower, it was raining. Dips and ruts were filled with large puddles. We continued, perhaps cold and uncomfortable, but nonetheless glad for such an elemental, shared experience. I wouldn’t trade it. My only regret is being unable to follow that ATV trail through the forest on the ridge. Another time.
· · · · Mountaintop camping was apparently out for the last night of our trip. Jesse took the lead to find us a site back along the North Fork of the Clearwater that was familiar to him. We were back in RV country which meant sites were elaborately occupied or undesirable.
· · · · The road led us through time from afternoon to dusk. Nearly out of daylight, we had little choice but to camp at the next place we came to.
· · · · We were unhappy to compromise on our final campsite and a bit snippy—I should say brotherly—with each other as we setup. More rain seemed likely so I setup the tarp a fourth time while Joel and Jesse worked on a fire. In no time we were huddled around the crackling campfire exchanging drinks and silly barbs. It was happy times again.
· · · · Then a bullet discharged in Jesse’s face. He was leaned into the fire more than the rest but we all recoiled, momentarily deaf and stunned. After a few seconds we realized there’d been a live round in the fire pit. Nothing was hurt but our hearing. We had unkind words for whoever had left it there.
· · · · We weren’t sure what to do. Were there more? If so, we reasoned they weren’t likely to hurt us. The lighter casing would fly, not the lead. And the casing probably couldn’t escape the logs we’d piled on. That’s what we told ourselves. It took a little more whiskey before we were convinced.
· · · · The night wore on. I had a bag of pepperoni in my luggage left over from the last trip. We decided they would be good roasted so we carved a stick. After the grease dripped out there wasn’t much left.
· · · · Another bullet exploded. Again, Jesse was the one leaned in close. This time I thought he was hit. He yelped and darted behind a tree. The rest of us jumped up and took several steps back.
· · · · It was quite annoying. We had more unkind words for whoever left bullets in the fire pit. What to do? It was cold, dark and damp. We didn’t want to go without a fire. But none of us were willing to sit around that one.
· · · · A single option came to mind. I grabbed my little folding shovel and began a new fire pit adjacent to the existing one just as fast as I could dig. Dirt was flying. Then Jeremy and I quickly pushed the rocks from the old to the new pit and carefully picked out a few coals to build up a new fire. And finally I took the loose dirt and buried the old pit. Safe at last.
· · · · We weren’t sure which way we would go the next day. Would we have rain or sun? Would Jesse be able to dry his gloves that way or would they perish in the bullet-free fire? And what would Joel have for meals?
these images are hosted at flickr
this post was automatically generated from my blog
text and images are © Copyright 2011 Jason Abbott. All Rights Reserved. ■
Photo ride reports: _

Jason Abbott screwed with this post 05-03-2011 at 03:09 PM
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Old 10-22-2010, 05:49 AM   #17
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Great read. Enjoying it.
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Old 10-25-2010, 07:58 AM   #18
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yes...can't wait for the finale!
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Old 10-26-2010, 05:10 AM   #19
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enjoying the rr and great pic's.
what a beautiful country this is!
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Old 10-26-2010, 06:18 AM   #20
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Great pics and narrative
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Old 11-25-2010, 07:36 AM   #21
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Very nice- keep it coming!
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Old 11-27-2010, 01:49 AM   #22
earthbound misfit, I
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Diggin the report, but having flashbacks of my biff at Cayuse Junction post WestFest.
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Old 11-27-2010, 07:26 AM   #23
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Looks like a great ride. JG
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Old 05-05-2011, 03:57 PM   #24
Jason Abbott OP
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Somewhat delayed ...

We had little love for the campsite that tried to kill us. Whether the fog and low clouds would bring rain or burn off, we couldn’t tell, but we weren’t sitting around to find out. We didn’t even care to stay for breakfast. We would stop at a nicer spot to catch up on pleasantries.

By the time we were packed for departure, thinning clouds gave reason to hope for sunshine. Jesse led us out of the wet thicket and down the road to a beautiful, isolated area along the river, the North Fork of the Clearwater.


We parked our motorcycles and clambered down the roadside bank to an otherwise inaccessible rocky bar where Jeremy and Jesse threw in a line while Joel and I fired up cook stoves balanced atop jumbled stones to prepare breakfast and coffee.


The North Fork of the Clearwater flows through a remote and relatively pristine area with crystal clear waters. It greatly resembles its sister drainage to the south, the Lochsa. Giant blond boulders of granite are highlighted with green mosses. The river cuts a path through vast stands of primordial western red cedar. Its two major tributaries are the upper North Fork of the Clearwater and Kelly Creek, a Blue Ribbon trout stream (


Places like that put me in a mood that makes every leaf, twig and spot of moss seem a wondrous thing. We spent the morning quietly enjoying that setting—water rippled green and orange while flowing gently through sun and shade—and the bond of brothers. Everything was the way it should be.


Well … until Jesse took his shirt off.


Rather than tempt fate on the untested routes I’d charted for the return to Moscow, we decided to finish the trip on a positive note and just follow the roads and highways well known to Joel and Jesse.


County Road 250 is a narrow band of asphalt curving along the river through ferns and trees that seem eager to reclaim the artificial space. An exhilarating but comfortable speed let us enjoy beautiful river scenes even as we imagined ourselves speed racers, leaning left, right, right some more, and left.


We knew all along that the distance between gas stations was near the limit of the range for the smaller gas tanks so it wasn’t surprising when Jesse sputtered to the shoulder not long after the highway had turned and climbed from the river. Jeremy generously sacrificed his water filtration tube for a syphon but no matter how I pushed and twisted it into my large tank, I sucked nothing but air.


The KLR had the second-largest tank so I returned the tube to Jeremy. After further syphoning shenanigans that we chalk up to KLR peculiarities (stealing gas from my old XRs was always so simple), we were back on the road again.


A Subway Sandwich shop in Orofino off Highway 12 is part of Jesse’s fishing trip repertoire. It maybe didn’t matter a lot to Joel, who had all those lovingly prepared and packed meals from Jill, but to the rest of us, some prepared food sounded quite alright.


The chicken jalapeno sandwich special and Mountain Dew hit the spot.

“You want to ride it for a while?” I asked Joel, nodding at my motorcycle as we walked out of the restaurant. He seemed to have something on his mind the last day, lagging behind on the highway and passing up easy opportunities for sarcastic remarks. I thought he might enjoy a change of pace.

“No thanks,” he answered.

We decided to take the somewhat longer route through Juliaetta and Kendrick to stop at Bethel Cemetery where our dad is buried. I realized I hadn’t been through those small towns since I was a kid which seemed odd since they were once such a part of my lexicon.


As we rolled through, it was like entering a memory. The towns seemed unchanged. No glass office buildings, rise of cheap apartments or sprawl of subdivisions, just the same main street lined with the same simple shops and houses I’d always seen.


Except for the few birds we scared into flight, the day was golden and still as we wound up the highway from the Potlatch River Canyon onto the Palouse Hills that we’d all called home.


Moscow Mountain

Like any place, genealogy becomes cartography for the generations who’ve made their lives there. Our dad was just a toddler when his own dad, James Abbott, died. His mom remarried and became a Yockey and it is down Yockey Road that we might find the headstones that punctuate the end of their lives.

But we were on motorcycles so of course took a shortcut onto a different, narrow gravel road leading to a windswept hill overlooking the farm where our dad and his brothers grew up, the site of Bethel Cemetery.


We had visited separately over the years but it was the first time we’d stood there as four brothers since carrying our father’s boxed body from hearse to hoist nine years ago, almost to the day.


I didn’t say, “dad would have enjoyed riding with us.” The words that came to mind seemed as trite as they were sad. I’m sure our dad would have been glad that his sons were enjoying rivers and mountains as he had, and doing so together. But that hardly needed to be said.


We stood a moment as shadows grew across empty hills and I remembered an admonition that once seemed ridiculous. “You should be nice to each other,” our dad cautioned his four bickering boys. “Someday you’ll be best friends.”


As Jeremy and I hosed the bikes down back at our mom’s place in Moscow, I made a fateful choice to double-check the shaft drive I’d greased before the trip. Everything looked good so I bolted it back up.

We returned Toni’s KLR with our sincere gratitude. I don’t think we could have all ridden together without his generosity.

Although evening was upon us by then, Jeremy was eager to be home. We said our “good-byes” and he set off in his Jetta for Camano Island, north of Seattle.

I too was eager to be home, see my family and have a little down time before resuming work. I wasn’t ready to ride another six hours that same day but I set an alarm to rise early the next morning.

After a welcome night outside the confines of a mummy bag, I woke to pull on liners against the cold half-light of morning, stocked up on snacks for the road, hugged my mother, and pointed south.

I made good time.

The coffee always hits about the top of Whitebird grade. I turned into the summit pull-out while looking for the best of the sparse trees to step behind. Then my heart sank. What happened?! There was oil sprayed all over the back half of the motorcycle.

As dismal as that was, after a second to think, I realized I was also lucky. I’d been aggressive through miles of curves on a tire soaked all around with oil. It could have been worse.


after the oil was wiped off

With no cell service and no one else there, I knew I’d be walking. First I had to figure out what sort of help to seek. The amount of oil led me to expect catastrophe. Perhaps I’d cracked the case on a rock in the mountains.

I removed the rear wheel to look for the problem. It didn’t take long. When I’d unhooked the speed sensor to expose the shaft drive in my mom’s driveway, a penny-sized o-ring had dropped unnoticed to the ground, allowing gear oil to seep out onto the spinning wheel the last two hours.

It was still a big hassle but the fix would be straightforward. Nothing was broken. And of all the places to be stranded, in the mountains with sun on my face wasn’t a bad option. I felt relieved.

A sign along the highway, that I hadn’t really noticed before, said Whitebird Summit Lodge was 1.2 miles up the hill above the turn-out. I was skeptical since I’d never heard anyone mention the place but it was miles closer than anything else.

The young ladies in the pickup seemed wary of the sweaty astronaut. Climbing the hill to the lodge in my tall boots and silver riding gear warmed me up plenty. The place was vacant when I arrived but a truck pulled in before I could despair.

“Can I help you?” the driver asked. I got the impression she was the daughter of the lodge owners. I explained my predicament and she led me to a phone in the house.

While an audience of dead animals watched from the walls, I first tried to call one of my brothers in Moscow. Ring, ring. No answer from Joel. Ring, ring. No answer from Jesse. I waited a few minutes and tried again. Same result. Then I figured I could call my mom to relay the message to them. She didn’t answer either.

I was a little nervous about the bike and several belongings spread out for the taking back along the highway. I needed to get back there.

It wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last that I put my fate in my wife’s hands. I called her at work, explained the situation and specific needs, and gave her my brothers’ and mom’s phone numbers. I would be incommunicado, relying on her to make it come together.

After returning down the hill and carefully wiping all the oil from the wheel and motorcycle, I started working on a self-rescue. I used a knife to cut a couple o-rings from rubber sheeting under the seat. They seemed a little flimsy.


I knew I could do better when I found a piece of radiator hose off in the dirt. It took a long time to whittle out and test a couple o-rings but I finally got a tight fit. It was plan B if help didn’t arrive.

I had a nice little camp setup when a police car pulled in. “Just seein’ how you’re doin’,” he explained.

“Just fine,” I answered. “Somebody should be coming along. Besides, I have all my camping gear and plenty of food. I could survive here for days.” He laughed. I didn’t mention all the whiskey.

I learned later that my mom, hearing of my situation, called the Grangeville police department and asked them to check on me. Jeez, mom.

“Funny place to be detailing your bike,” a man remarked from an RV pulling slowly toward my spot. Turns out he’d been thinking about getting the same motorcycle. I enjoyed talking with him a while.

I visited for some time with another fellow in an RV making the fiddling competition circuit. Yeah, I didn’t know there was one either. I began to wish for peace and quiet as more people starte coming through. Everyone felt obligated to stop and make a remark.

Finally, some five hours after I pulled off there, my mom showed up. Hooray mom! She had stopped in Lewiston at a motorcycle shop or two to ensure she had everything I might need. She handed over a bag of micro-fiber rags, exactly the right oil and several o-ring choices.

I expected one of my brothers to make the drive but you can always count on moms to mother. I was very appreciative. With the right parts, it took only about twenty minutes to button things up and get back on the road.

The Brother Ride 2010 looked like it might end on a sour note, at least for me, but in a strange way my time atop Whitebird ended up being a highlight—a little added adventure, a lesson learned, and the help of family, my wife and mother. And a reminder that these rides are always about taking what comes … and choosing to enjoy it.

these images are hosted at flickr
this post was automatically generated from my blog
text and images are © Copyright 2011 Jason Abbott. All Rights Reserved. ■
Photo ride reports: _

Jason Abbott screwed with this post 07-28-2011 at 09:21 AM
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Old 05-05-2011, 05:06 PM   #25
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Thanks for the "rest of the story" Nice ending.
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Old 05-05-2011, 07:51 PM   #26
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Well now, better late than never! It was long enough ago I had to reread the RR, The ending was a moving and stoical refection on ones youth, so, has your fathers "self fulfilling prophecy" been fulfilled?
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Old 05-05-2011, 08:11 PM   #27
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Great Report Jason! I love seeing the pictures of the Northfork area. I lived in Headquarters when i was a kid and we used to take a lot of trips down to the North Fork. Not much left of Headquarters now..... It was quite the logging town back in the 70s.
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Old 05-05-2011, 08:12 PM   #28
Jason Abbott OP
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Originally Posted by Idahosam View Post
has your fathers "self fulfilling prophecy" been fulfilled?
The gist of it, yes. We're not able to hang out like pals all the time but when we're together, all I hear from our women is, "oh god, yours does that too!?" We don't have to say much because we already know we're all thinking the same things.
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Old 05-05-2011, 08:12 PM   #29
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Great story!

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 05-05-2011, 08:31 PM   #30
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Great report and glad you completed it as I'd never have seen it otherwise
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