Thanks for The Springs

I think I know what Martin Luther King meant when he said “I’ve been to the mountaintop!”

Yes, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord” too. That’s why I do what I do. Since my first backpacking foray into the mountains 25 years ago I’ve seen some beautiful places and literally been to the mountaintop. Many days and nights in the back country taught me to see the lay of the land and filled a wellspring of unforgettable images within me. At The Springs I have a unique opportunity to shape the landscape and manifest my vision. It’s slowly becoming reality and the best part is sharing the creative process with other volunteers who have also “been to the mountaintop”.

The last two days I’ve been slashing and burning at The Springs with Dick Jenks and Andy Buchta. This was Dick’s first time working at The Springs and Andy was back again after his initiation last week. I really enjoyed their company and appreciated the way they “got after it”.

Tuesday we worked along the trail on the northeast section of the loop near signpost #13 and an old cranberry bog.

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Dick getting some licks in.

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Andy piling brush.

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We laid down a lot of nasty buckthorn and opened up the views.

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Later, Pati came out to join me for a walk just in time for a snow squall. It dawned on me that tomorrow would be a great day to start burning brush piles.

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The next day (today/Wednesday) I was back with my propane torch and Dick joined me to help work the piles.

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They were relatively easy to light and we had 21 going in a little over an hour.

Note the buckthorn crowding around the burning piles.

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Borrowing a technique used by Mike Fort and the Friends of Lapham Peak, I cut a dozen or so huge buckthorns that were very near the burning piles and we threw the brush right into the fire. Then I cut a whole lot more but it seemed like we barely made a dent in the thicket.

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Andy arrived shortly after noon, returning to the area we worked on Tuesday, and finished piling everything we had laid down there.

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This past week has been our first taste of really cold weather this season and I’m getting used to it and looking forward to Winter.

The Indian Spring.

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Steam rising from the Scuppernong River.

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My favorite time of day!

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See you at The Springs!

Three For All

The coldest day of the Fall season put us on our mettle. Ben Johnson and Andrew Buchta coincidentally converged with me for their first volunteer adventures at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. I met Andrew at the DNR Volunteer appreciation lunch and Ben contacted me via this website. I should have gotten pictures of these hard working men in action poisoning stumps and piling brush.

It’s a good thing we were working right at the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ because it was a frigid day and we had to defrost the tip of the stump sprayer in our vehicles numerous times, even though the mix was 50% marine antifreeze. We eventually figured out that closing the nozzle after each use kept the tip from freezing up. Ben followed behind me with the sprayer and that was a very efficient way to go. I was amazed at how much we were able to cut, poison and pile. Here is how it looked before we got started.

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We cleared so much ground that I ran out of stump poison and sharp chains! There were many dead slippery elms and aspen amongst the lively buckthorn. Check out the excellent results!

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I’m looking forward to working with Ben and Andy again!

Pati had an intense work week and came out to join me for a walk after her last client. We bundled up against the cold wind and just caught the sunset from the Indian Campground on our way around the loop trail.

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See you at The Springs!

Friend Of All The World

I lost control of my truck on the unexpected ice and barely stopped before intersecting the oncoming traffic. What was that? Seconds later, as I waited to turn left into the medical complex, I heard and felt the sickening impact of autobodies as the driver behind me skidded on the same ice patch and smacked me. My hat flew off and coffee erupted from my cup. Damn construction! I called Dr. Campbell, the surgeon who removed the cancerous tumor from my neck back in June 2011, and informed his assistant that I’d be a few minutes late for my annual checkup.

The morning frost was long gone by the time I made it out to the Kettle Moraine Oak Opening on Bluff Road to finish piling the brush we cut last weekend.

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The blue sky silhouetting the might oaks on the hillside was immaculate and I was under Rudyard Kipling’s spell listening to Kim, “friend of all the world”, on audio book. What a tale filled with metaphors: the Great Game, the River of the Arrow, the Wheel of Life… and told in the context of the rich and incomparable Indian culture of the late 1890’s. I blissfully piled brush as Kim simultaneously “ripened” into a secret agent for the British empire and faithful chela to the Teshoo Lama.

Dr. Campbell said everything looked good and that I had “made the right choice” by refusing the radiation and chemotherapy they had strongly recommended after the surgery. I don’t know if I’m “acquiring merit” by volunteering in the forest, and it doesn’t matter, I felt the reward in the present moment and thankful tears welled up.

I finished stacking what we laid down last Saturday and tried to consolidate the piles so they would be easier to light when we get snow cover.

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Then I headed over to the high ground at Bald Bluff to watch the sun down and thank the Creator for giving me another splendid day.

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See you at The Springs!

Oakology

Oak-o-logy

: area of knowledge : theory : science related to the genus Quercus.

Wisconsin DNR Conservation Biologist Jared Urban is one of the preeminent Oakologists in the state. Restoring and preserving oak savannahs and woodlands is an important goal of the DNR’s Endangered Resources Bureau, which has been newly christened as the Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau, and Jared has been focusing on this as he helps manage the State Natural Areas in Southeastern Wisconsin. Organizing volunteers is an important part of this effort and I had the pleasure of participating yesterday, along with the UW Whitewater Ecology Club, in a work day at the Oak Opening SNA in the southern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

The skies were threatening rain as Jared, and fellow Oakologists Ginny Coburn, Zach Kastern and Diane filled ingeniously engineered stump poison delivery dauber devices. Note the use of a sawdust filled tray to catch any spills (thanks Zach!)

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By the way, if you are receiving this post via email, you should be able to double click the video frame above to watch it on the internet. Much to my chagrin, being a 25 year I.T. veteran, none of the links to embedded Youtube videos delivered via email posts have worked since July 1 of this year. Oh well… if you want to see any of the cool videos I have linked to since then, you’ll have to visit this site. Hopefully the video links in the emails are working now.

Jared explains what we are trying to do and how we will do it.

The UW Whitewater Ecology club made an excellent contribution!

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The rain arrived just after noon and I took shelter in Jared’s truck as we shared lunch and conversation. I wanted to finish cutting a swath of brush between two of the brush piles we started, and around 2:00pm the rain quit and I was able to get after it. Here is what it looked like at the end of the day.

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The sun made a brief appearance and I saw blue skies behind the gray clouds that were rushing by so I headed over to Bald Bluff hoping to see a cool sunset.

Sundown at Bald Bluff.

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Instead, the rain returned and chased me back to my truck. Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day.

See you at The Springs!

Return of the Three BrushCuteers

It’s been almost a year since the Three Brushcuteers joined forces to fight the thorny invaders of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. “All for one, one for all!”, they cried as they stacked the fallen enemy in neat piles along the trail just north of the old barn site (see recent post). Porthos, aka Lindsay Knudsvig, looked sharp in his tailored waistcoat and matching brush pants. Aramis, aka Rich Csavoy, although deeply religious, said the buckthorn didn’t have a prayer. Together we resolved to avenge the insult made by the buckthorn against the mighty and glorious oaks of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

Here is what the battlefield looked like before we engaged the enemy.

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As we worked, Aramis reminded us that it was 50 years ago that our king was slain in Dealey Plaza and, apparently, there is a new web of lies in the form of a digitally remastered video that purports to explain the path of the “magic” bullet. Athos, aka Paul, being immune to romantic feelings about the matter, dubiously viewed this conclusion based on the cold hard facts, e.g. the conclusions of the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations and years of research into the matter. Unfortunately, the powers that be refuse to release thousands of pages of documentation. Why?

A last look as we left the battlefield.

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Then we headed over to signpost #2 to reposition the railroad ties that had been dislodged and dragged into the brush.

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Aramis, grabbed a couple loads of oak firewood before heading for home and Porthos and I took a stroll around the trail reminiscing about the many battles we fought at this “world class” site. There is tons of firewood, including well seasoned oak, piled at the worksite and all are welcome to come and take it. You might want to bring a chainsaw, and tools to split wood, to the location to facilitate harvesting.

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I think this might be a Gar swimming in the pool at the Emerald Spring.

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The day flew by and before I knew it I was bidding my dear companion Porthos farewell until next time.

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See you at The Springs!

The Calls of the Kettle Moraine Coyotes

I spent the past week (Oct 27 – Nov 3) at My Shangri-La working at The Springs and enjoying living out-of-doors. There isn’t any real wilderness in these parts but the calls of the local coyotes do evoke wild feelings. Almost every night they made outbursts of yelps, whines, howls and cries; a vocabulary that put the domesticated dogs at the nearby Skydance Kennels to shame (ruff, ruff… ruff, ruff, ruff… ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff etc…). It’s hard to describe the sounds coyotes make, calling them is an art form, and I listened with fascination imagining what they might be communicating to each other.

Pati helped me setup camp on Sunday, staying for wine and dinner as we listened to the Packer game on the radio by the fire. It doesn’t get much better than that! Men playing with balls; the circus that compliments our bread.

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Monday morning I got after it cutting all the buckthorn and thinning ironwood and basswood in the area between camp sites 335 and 334 and in the area between site 334 and the pond and wetlands (please substitute Tamarack when I say Larch Pine).

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On Tuesday I returned to the area just north of the old barn site to cut buckthorn along the trail to show off the mighty oaks and open the views into the cranberry bog.

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Here are before and after videos and pics.

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Back at camp hundreds, maybe thousands, of migrating birds filled the air with songs.

Rain was forecast ahead and I wondered when I’d see the sun again.

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The clouds rolled in on Wednesday and I got in a full day of brush piling on the northeast side of the trail between signposts #2 and #1 and back further towards the parking lot.

Thursday the rain came and I sharpened my chains under a picnic shelter by Ottawa Lake. Later I delivered the rest of the oak, cherry and hickory I cut to open the views west from the sand prairie to a friend here in Milwaukee, who has a wood burning stove. I’ve certainly wasted a lot of potential firewood in the hundreds of brush piles we’ve burned, but I didn’t want to see this high quality wood go to waste (I’m using it in my campfires as well).

Friday I was back at it again cutting buckthorn on the northeast side of the trail from signpost #2 to #1 and beyond towards the parking lot. I got this view of the finished work on Sunday morning Nov. 3.

I still had some ya yas to get out and on Saturday I went back to the area just north of the old barn site shown on the map above to continue clearing the understory beneath some righteous oaks. Here are some views from north to south along the trail before I got started.

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I got this video showing the results of Saturday’s labors on Sunday morning.

Pati came out to enjoy the day and help me pack up. Here are some parting shots of the great fall scenery at The Springs.

The morning view from campsite 334.

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Marl pit bridge perspective.

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On the cut-off trail.

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The edge of the cranberry bog, where I worked on Tuesday and Saturday.

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The beautiful Emerald Spring.

The hotel spring area.

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The south end of the trail.

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The sand prairie.

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Scuppernong River views.

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I was amazed to see these two railroad ties near signpost #2 that I had reported missing a while back. Did the thieves return them? Have they been laying here all this time without me noticing? Now all we need to do is lift them back into place.

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There is an unmaintained trail along the east shore of Ottawa Lake that leads to the north end of the property where springs north of Hwy 67 flow into a little pond and eventually into the lake. Here are some views of where this stream merges into the wetlands. You can see campsites 334 and 335 in the second shot.

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Late afternoon Tamaracks, which I thought were Larch Pines, as seen from site 334.

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Ottawa Lake sunset.

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See you at The Springs!

Wisconsin DNR Appreciates Volunteers

Everything the government has it takes from the people. Try not paying taxes and you’ll soon feel the coercive hand of government in the form of a badge and gun.

Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.

Leo Tolstoy

In what realm besides government do we pay for services at the point of a gun? Worst of all, these “services” including imperialist war mongering, obscenely corrupt cronyism, and zero accountability. I think voluntarism is the way to achieve a peaceful society. If we can each become the monarch, or ruler, of our own lives, respecting other’s rights and obeying Natural Law, then we can evolve into an anarchistic, stateless society, of people freely choosing to associate for the common good.

Yeah, but there are some truly evil people out there and we need government to protect us from them, right? So let’s draw “leaders” from this population, which includes power hungry psychopaths, and give them rights that none of us have (to tax us, to murder with drones, to force us to purchase health care, etc…) empowering them and their agents to govern, i.e. control, us with badges, guns, black robes and prisons; the tools of coercion and violence.

I was very interested to hear Paul Sandgren, Superintendent of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, describing the funding constraints they currently operate under and the role that volunteer contributions make in the maintenance of the properties that the Wisconsin DNR is responsible for.

Paul spoke yesterday at a luncheon held at the D. J. Mackie picnic area organized by Melanie Kapinos and Amanda Prange to thank the many people who have contributed to the maintenance of the hiking, biking, horse riding and snowmobile trails, and land stewardship in general, in the southern unit of the state forest.

How much money would the government need to take from us to fully fund all of work that needs to be done? Can we trust government to prioritize the allocation of dollars to rehabilitating and protecting the land and the environment? I don’t think so, hence my commitment to volunteer my time and energy and I encourage you to do the same.

Earlier in the day, I was joined by Jim Davee, Tara Fignar and Anne Moretti and we piled brush along the main trail in what was previously The Buckthorn Tunnel.

I really appreciated their companionship and hard work! Check out the results.

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Pati joined me for the luncheon and then we returned to The Springs to spend a glorious afternoon digging out spotted knapweed at the sand prairie. We’ll be sowing the seeds that Don, Amanda and company collected here in the near future.

The Fall scenery at The Springs is spectacular!

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Pati and I enjoyed another sunset and, afterwards, we strolled through the Ottawa Lake campground checking out the fantastic Halloween displays at the campsites. We had never seen so many exquisitely carved pumpkins and I’ll be sure to bring my camera along next year. If you are a Halloween fan, don’t miss the annual celebration at Ottawa Lake.

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See you at The Springs!

A Stolen Face

I wonder at the boundaries between what’s yours, mine and ours and who owns things that are found.

I’ve been hoping to find on arrowhead on the sand prairie. John Hrobar gave me a tang from a broken arrowhead that he found near the Indian Spring. I have it on the windowsill above the kitchen sink and it gives me pleasure when I notice it. In the Heart of a Seed, at the end of the last video of the post, I showed this really cool stove door that I found at the ruins of one of the marl pit factory buildings…

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… and I speculated about how long it would remain there. I thought it was interesting and wanted others to see it, but it’s already been found and taken. Or, was it stolen? How is an arrowhead different from a stove door and when does private pleasure trump public?

I combined private and public pleasure at The Springs yesterday continuing the effort to creating something beautiful, that cannot be stolen, by piling the buckthorn I cut recently. I really enjoy working in the woods and all the feedback I’ve gotten so far has been positive; a win-win situation.

Here is video taken shortly after I got started.

And the results…

From there I went to the sand prairie to dig spotted knapweed and I ran into the ecology class from the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. I get easily carried away and tend to talk way too fast, but they listened patiently as I described the work we are doing at The Springs and they had some good questions. I should have gotten a picture!

A crisp Fall afternoon.

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Indian Spring Sunset.

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The view from the sand prairie dune.

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I’ll be at My Shangri-La all next week.

See you at The Springs!

Autumn at The Springs

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
― Albert Camus

I love the menu changes at The Springs and Autumn, like the other seasonings, has it’s own spicy flavors to savor. Maybe it was the weekend I spent in LA at my nephew, Danny Bobbe‘s wedding that accentuated the arrival of Fall back home. It was fun and I loved playing in the surf at El Matador beach

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…and the scene on the strip between Venice Beach and the Santa Monica pier, where Route 66 meets the Pacific.

Kama Kosmic Krusader

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I squeezed in a workday at The Springs on Thursday, October 16 before leaving on a jet plane, and did some brush cutting near signpost #1 and the marl pit factory. It is impractical to try to poison every little buckthorn stub so this effort is to preserve appearances and give other plants a chance. I don’t want to look at flourishing buckthorn resprouts and seedlings until the next burn. A couple days effort with the brush cutter per year is worth it to hold the line.

Here is the area near signpost #1, where the first views of the Scuppernong River Habitat Area open up, after I did some brush cutting.

The area around the marl pit factory before cleanup.

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And after…

Pati road her bike out to meet me and, with the threat of rain, we decided to converge in Delafield and visit the Hartland Marsh on the way home. I lament leaving my work at The Marsh unfinished. Without fire in my toolbox, it seemed futile to continually repeat the brush cutting and poisoning cycle. Now, left unattended, the buckthorn is returning to dominate the understory. I’m hoping that the combination of fire and brush cutting will eventually eliminate the invasive woody species at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.

I little Hartland Marsh scenery.

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I came back to The Marsh yesterday to clear this huge oak branch off the trail.

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Then I headed over to The Springs to finish piling brush on the east side of the loop trail just a bit north of the old barn site.

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I dug spotted knapweed on the sand prairie and enjoyed visiting with friends passing by. Here are some late afternoon Autumn scenes from the valley along the headwaters of the Scuppernong River.

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The spring at the old fish hatchery site.

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Sunset at the Indian Spring.

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Parting shots from the sand prairie.

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See you at The Springs!

Sand Prairie Gardening

It was a flawless fall day for a fool’s errand at The Springs

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and I was delighted to share it with Tara Fignar and Jim DaVee, who usually volunteer with the DNR or Ice Age Trail, and Pati.

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Are we fools for attempting to dig the spotted knapweed out of the Sand Prairie? In any case, it was comforting and thoroughly enjoyable to spend a sunny Sunday morning digging in the sand with friendly people who share my love for gardening and vision of what could be. We made great progress in the area by the spur trail to the Indian Spring, which is now primed for seed sowing.

In the afternoon we headed over to the north east section of the loop trail where I recently did some cutting to pile brush. Tara and Jim were both eager to return and work with us, or independently, either way that is fantastic! I got in a few licks with the brush cutter laying down some half burnt, re-sprouting buckthorn and cherry skeletons that were spoiling the views.

And after…

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There were a lot of hikers at The Springs, the most I’ve ever seen, and I think this is due to the great publicity we are getting from all of our DNR friends at the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

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Another Scuppernong Sunset

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See you at The Springs!