Finished the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks

Discussion in 'Front Page News' started by Tristan, Aug 22, 2019.

  1. Tristan

    Tristan
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    Finished the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks
    By Tristan


    In July this year I finished a quest that I started in the early 90's... to hike what are known as the 46 high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains.
    First, a quick bit of info & history...There are a lot more than 46 official mountains in the Adirondack Park in New York State but the high peaks designation applies to those peaks over 4,000' (or originally measured over 4,000' - some have been remeasured at less but the original list from about 100 years ago still stands). They may not sound very tall compared to much taller mountains elsewhere, but realize the base elevation for most of these mountain is below 2,000', and often have lots of ups and downs on the way (so ascent is sometimes much more than just the difference between the top and bottom). And many of the trails are very rugged, especially unmaintained ones. The tallest is Mount Marcy (5344') and the easiest approach is from the Loj and is 7.4 miles one way and 3166' elevation gain if you go direct without any other mountains along the way (there are a few options). Another even more scenic route starts at Elk Lake and is 10.7 miles each way and 4200' elevation gain. One of the most remote of the high peaks is Allen Mountain (4340'), and the shortest direct route to this peak is 9+ miles one way. Typically hikers will do groups of mountains together, many like the Dix Range are clustered close enough to do the entire range in one long hard day... the shortest loop route over all 5 mountains in the Dix Range is over 15 miles and about 5200' elevation gain. That's a bit more than I can handle and still enjoy the trip (I broke it into two days as a backpacking trip). There is also a much more strenuous dayhike challenge, the Great Range Traverse, which looped from The Garden trailhead is about 25 miles and 9,500' ascent. No thanks, I broke it into a 3 day trek. Perhaps someday I'll try the more demanding hikes, whether its in the Adirondacks or travel to some bigger mountains.

    Brothers Robert and George Marshall and their friend and guide Herbert Clark were recognized as the first to climb the 46 high peaks, beginning their quest with a climb of Whiteface Mt. on August 1, 1918, and finished on the summit of Emmons on June 10, 1925. The club, as we know it today, started in 1948. Grace Hudowalski, the first recognized woman to climb the 46 was elected as President (and there is a great documentary about her “The Mountains Will Wait for You" and other PBS specials). According to their website: "The organization is dedicated to protecting and reserving the wilderness character of the High Peaks region and sponsors a variety of programs on the conservation principles of “If you carry it in, carry it out,” and “leave no trace.” In coordination with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the club supports an active all-volunteer trail maintenance and trail adoption program."

    On to the hike...

    I postponed this hike to a date that my family could join me for my 'finish', else I would've hiked it last year after I completed #44. But I purposely left Whiteface (and Esther) mountains for the finish since Whiteface is the only mountain with road access to the top, via the veterans memorial highway. This allowed my dad, and avid hiker in the past, to join us at the peak despite health problems that do not allow him to hike any longer and also my son who is not in good enough shape for the bigger mountains. Finally after a year of waiting the opportunity arose we could all be together so we planned the trip and headed for a few days stay in nearby Wilmington, NY.



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    DIY camera harness I recently created.

    I was very excited to get to test out my homemade camera mount on this trip. I had tried a couple different harnesses, straps, etc but nothing would allow me to carry a full size dSLR comfortably and conveniently as I'd like. I liked the Cotton Carrier harness, but it's not really designed to be used with a backpack and it needs a special mounting plate. I wanted the camera to sit flat to my belly, not bounce excessively, to be secure but quick release, and to use the same mount as the tripod. No product I could find matched this, so I made one of carbon fiber with a suitable quick release plate that accepted the same mount as my carbon fiber lightweight tripod I carried. It clips onto the shoulder strap D-rings and also secured at the base to the waist strap. Routing the backpacks chest strap overtop also keeps it nice a snug. I'm happy to report it works fantastic and quite comfortable!

    The first day I'd plan an easy 'warm up' hike that my mom and son could join, Little Crow and Big Crow. These small peaks had some nice views.

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    After hiking through the typical dense canopy of the low lands we finally had our first small view of the nearby mountains.


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    My favorite trail food, wild blueberries!

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    Blueberries and other local flora.

    The mountainside was covered with wild blueberries. Really hit the spot, so much better tasting than store bought too!


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    My son on Little Crow.

    The views were nice from this small peak. I knew Big Crow had a more open and exposed summit so was eager to continue on. However it was getting late and my son was already 'done'. So he and my mom turned back while I attempted to quickly ascend Big Crow as an out-n-back and hopefully catch back up with them.


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    Great views of distant peaks from Big Crow.


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    Evening sun on Big Crow.


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    Back on Little Crow, sun now below the horizon. Probably could've done better with a tripod here, but was in a hurry to get back before it got too dark. I really don't like hiking barefoot in the dark.

    I made my way out just a few minutes past the point that I probably should've got my headlight out. Met up with the rest of my party just as we were all coming out of the woods. A great short trip which I did barefoot, just a hair under 3 miles round trip and 1200' elevation gain.

    The next day Mom and I would hike Esther and Whiteface. The hike wasn't going to be a real long one, so we had a casual morning and enjoyed a nice breakfast. We were getting dropped off so no need to get there early for a good parking space either. We geared up and were dropped off a little after 10am. There are several trails up Whiteface, we picked the easiest one, from the Atmospheric Research Center that was already part way up the mountain. Mom was concerned about how good of shape she was in and this was my first real hike in a year as well. In the future I'd love to come in from the opposite side, which is longer and could involve a combo paddle/hike... kayak across Lake Placid to the Whiteface Landing Trailhead, about 2.5-3 miles paddling I believe, then a 3.5mi hike up the mountain. But since I needed to climb Esther Mountain, and first so I'd end on Whiteface, the approach from the northeast side made most sense.


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    Much of the trail was like this.

    The trail was in nice shape, not too muddy like many of the trails are, and not to rocky or rooty though of course plenty of each. One of the easier barefoot hikes I've done. And I was thrilled the bugs were minimal, its been record setting buggy year so far! With almost 200" of snow and a very wet and cold spring, the stage had been set for massive mud and bugs early in the season.


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    A couple of these old one person shelters were trailside.


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    A large rock cairn at the Esther Mnt intersection.


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    Plaque on Esther Mnt.


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    On Esther Mnt, with Whiteface in the background.

    Esther's summit was wooded, but a small gap in the canopy of trees afforded a sneak peak at Whiteface.


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    Panoramic shot on Esther Mnt.


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    Summit of Whiteface in sight.

    At the beginning of the climb, the forest was dense with mixed hardwoods, turning to white birch a little higher up. White birch gave way to the typical higher elevation thick spruce-fir forest. Nearer the summit, the trail finally emerges from the spruce-fir forest to the dwarf spruce & fir and arctic-alpine plants.


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    46 out of the 46 high peaks now done! Unfortunately the sun wasn't in a good position for pictures.


    At last, my long journey was complete. My parents had completely their 46er journey several years ago, after I moved out of state, got married, and stopped visiting to hike. They never officially registered, and I'm not sure I will yet. I got back into hiking in 2013, and have tried to visit the mountains a couple/few times per year since. In the last few years I have been fortunate that Mom could join me on many of the hikes, though I have done several solo as well.


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    My family all together on Whiteface.


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    Lake Placid in the distance, another trail up I'd like to try next time starts there.


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    Cell phone panorama of the summit including the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC).

    Whiteface is the only high peak in the Adirondacks that is not entirely wild forest, on its peak is the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center's (ASRC) Whiteface Mountain Field Station. Perched atop the mountain, they have the perfect opportunity to study weather. A little more about them here: https://www.albany.edu/asrc/wfm.php There is also the Whiteface Castle at the top of the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway that ends a few hundred feet below the top of the mountain. It has gift shop and restaurant, etc, so as expected the area was pretty crowded with non-hiking tourists. Not the best peak for those hikers who love peace and solitude, but a great peak to meet up with non-hikers so they can enjoy the views too. There is also a big ski resort on the mountain, some may remember it from the winter Olympics. There were some glimpses of the ski trails when the views opened up nearer the top. The tallest lift however appears to be a couple/few hundred feet shy of the peak.


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    Another shot towards Lake Placid.


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    At the top of the Veterans Memorial Highway.


    My dad brought food for a picnic lunch, after which we walked around the gift shop and took a few last gazes from the summit. It's said that on a clear day you can see across Lake Champlain to the Green Mountains of Vermont and to the tall buildings of Montreal to the north. It was very hazy that afternoon, we couldn't see Montreal but we could easily see the Green Mountains of Vermont. The sights were wonderful in person, but did spoil some of the photos. Some of the hazy shots actually turned out kind of interesting too, which I took on the descent.


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    Cell phone panorama from summit.


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    Cell phone panorama near the top of the highway.


    We took plenty of time enjoying the top of the mountain, now it was time to head back. To be official I had to use my own two feet to return to the trailhead, I couldn't hop in the car with the rest of my family. However the road offered a unique opportunity, and I believe it was acceptable to use that for the descent as long I did it on my feet. I heard it takes about 2 hours or so to walk it down, but I decided to attempt to run it. I gave my folks my pack and all my gear, keeping only a bottle of water in one hand and cell phone in the other.


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    Starting the descent.


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    Near the start of the descent.


    On the way down I stopped several times, mainly to take in the wonderful views and take some pictures with the phone. The road was a pretty steady descent, which I'm not really used to running - there are no hills around here other than hills that you get to the bottom within a minute or even seconds. This was by far the longest descent I have ever undertaken, almost 6 miles of constant downhill.


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    Every so often they had these signs indicating the elevation and scenic pull-offs.


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    The road looped around and gave a view back towards the top.


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    All done!

    The feet held up well on the trail, but running down the highway probably wasn't the best idea. It was well beyond my training to be able to comfortably run down such a long descent, I hadn't run much mileage in several days, and my feet and legs were already fatigued from the trek up the mountain. I completed the run down without a bad injury, but I did abrade the contact point on my right foot pretty bad. And wow my quads were toast after that and hurt for a few days! Everything healed up and back to norm soon thereafter, so no worries.


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    GPS track & stats from the hike up Whiteface & Esther.


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    GPS track & stats of my run down Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway.


    Climbing all 46 peaks is certainly not the actual end of my journey, some of these mountains I really enjoyed and plan on revisiting again and again. There are many trails I haven't been up and many great mountains that aren't on the list that I plan on visiting. So many things I want to try, getting to see a sunrise and a sunset, shooting the milky way from a nice dark spot in the mountains. Volunteer for trail and lean-to maintenance. My next goal is to hike all of the 46 barefoot, I'm almost there already since most the peaks I've summited since 2013 I have been barefoot. But still over a dozen from my early years that I need to reclimb, some I've already done since the Whiteface trip but have not gone through the photos. Will post about my next hike before too long. I'd estimate it will take another year or two to get the remaining few hiked barefoot.

    I'll end the post with a few more pics from around the town of Wilmington...

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  2. Tedlet

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    Great achievement Tristan! And nice report with some pretty impressive pictures too..
    Love the look of solitude about the place. I'm guessing you do run into other hikers here and there, but it looks so peaceful in those shots.
    Nice idea to try and chalk up a 100% barefoot record up them all aswell -I don't imagine there'll be too many other people who'll be able to share that record with you!...:barefoot:
     
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  3. Tristan

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    Thanks Tedlet! About the solitude, I am one who likes solitude and love my solo trips in the mountains but I also take any chance I get to hike with my family as that opportunity is more limited. That being said Whiteface is not the place to go for solitude unfortunately - and I fully knew that going in so it was ok. With the road up to the top and the few establishments there, it is probably the busiest peak in the Adirondacks. When I take photos I do wait for less people in the shot, and to get our selfies at the summit sign we did have to wait several minutes until others cleared and we had a gap. The vast majority of folks on the summit took the road up. On the trail it was much less crowded, only passing other hikers every 15 to 30 minutes. That was on a Thursday. On the first trip, up the Crows, there was no one except one local that was watching the sunset from Big Crow. We chatted for a few minutes, I spent a few more minutes taking photos, then I left and allowed him his sunset in peace.

    Yep I doubt there will be many in the 46er Barefoot Club! But Posnerk on here is also a barefooter of the ADKs and I am assuming will beat me to be the first, judging by the rate he was knocking them out. I'll probably make only one more trip up until next summer, and it may take me a couple/few years anyhow, I'm not really sure. I've only ever come across one other barefoot hiker while climbing the high peaks, but I've heard there have been a few recently.
     
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  4. Barefoot TJ

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    Even your cell phone takes great pictures! What's up with that?

    I love that your family supports you in your love for hiking.

    Thanks for sharing, Tristan...mirrored on the home page.

    I'd say this is my favorite picture...
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    But then this one with the rays takes my breath away...
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    This one made me smile and reminded me of my youth, aged 10-11, when I used to hike with a friend to the tops of the mountains around Lakeside/Santee California (not the elevation you have there, but treacherous at times). Don't tell my mom...
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  5. Tristan

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    Thanks TJ! Funny, I was having a similar discussion with someone about the pics... after lugging over a grand worth of camera gear and some of my best shots of the trip are on my cell phone - an inexpensive off brand that no ones ever heard of even (its a Life One X2 made by Blu, bought on amazon for $179 a couple years ago). It doesn't have nearly the range of capability the dSLR has, and after blowing the images up on a large screen its easy to see the quality differences, but it does work great for wide landscape scenes. Of course a lot of it is just luck with the lighting and views mother nature provides, and she did not disappoint on the run down the mountain! The rays through the clouds and haze were beautiful. Maybe the dSLR would have even been better, idk, but all I had was my cell phone at that point after having my parents take my gear.

    That's neat to hear about your hiking at 10-11... thats when I started actually! My dad had hiked as a kid and why we all got into hiking. But after my brother and I were born they had to wait until we were both old enough, and that was 10 for me since my brother was younger. That first year when I was 10 we traveled to New Hampshire and climbed Indian Head and then the next day Mount Lafayette along with the rest in the Franconia ridge loop. I got to say I struggled with the ascent of my first few mountains, and probably complained a lot, but always enjoyed the views on top and found myself wondering when we'd go again.

    I've already taken one more trip to the mountains since this Whiteface trip, climbing a few more with great views I can't wait to share, but have not gone through the pics yet and I didn't want to put more on this post, so in the next few weeks another trip report is forthcoming. I think I was up to 40 pics on this thread already, I hope it doesn't bog down anyone's computer! I'm also heading back to the mountains again next week, probably my last trip until next summer. It'll be a month or two or three on that trip report unless I combine them. I need to write up some race reports too, I am so far behind lol :wacky:
     
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  6. Barefoot TJ

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    Looking forward to it.

    Did you take just your cell phone then on this last hike you're talking about, or did you not risk it and go with the professional camera? I can imagine the weight difference and feeling free leaving the bulky camera behind, but it's so much more reliable.

    Do you not hike in the winter time, minimalist I'd guess? I bet your winter pictures would be incredible.

    Again, I can't believe you aren't a professional photographer by trade. :snaphappy:
     
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  7. Tristan

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    Thanks for the kind words, its just a hobby, I love nature photography. I don't know if there is a lot of demand for that.

    I took my Canon 6D on all of the hikes. With my new harness (first pic) its easy to carry and even feels like it offsets some of the backpack weight! But after I reached the top of Whiteface I gave all my gear & camera to my dad who drove up, so I could do a run down the mountain. I only took my phone and a bottle of water in my hands for the run down the highway from the summit back to the start. I'd have just rode down with them but to be an official 46-r one much go up and down all the mountains under their own power.

    I have not ever taken vacation during winter, so no winter hikes yet and they would not be barefoot at least in the Adirondacks. They get a good snowpack once winter starts so you'd be on snow pretty much the whole way. And usually you need snowshoes and crampons. Sometimes microspikes are ok when its not deep snow. Its often well below 0°F and with wind chill Whiteface gets -50 to -100F often on cold days. The ice formations are really neat on the structures there, often forming horizontal needle ice due to the wind.
     
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    #7 Tristan, Aug 31, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
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  8. Barefoot TJ

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    Naw, I didn't expect you'd go barefoot hiking during the winter. I can imagine though how beautiful those winter pictures of yours would be.

    How about National Geographic, Discovery Channel, or Animal Planet? They're not always about video. I bet they would love your work. Just saying... :cool:
     
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  9. Robin

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    Nice report and what beauriful pics you've taken! enjoyed the read,thank you.
     
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  10. IraR

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    Tristan, You are definitely one of my sports heroes, together with Ken Posner. What a great write-up and pics, too. Must have been a drive from Ohio, but I do love my home state, particularly its upstate regions, where I grew up.
     
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  11. swoggis

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    Great trip report and pics! I really like the design of your camera harness; looks like it has quick deployment and stowing while still being completely bombproof. I have the Peak Designs one that clamps onto the backpack strap which is adequate for skating with my crop-frame DSLR, but I can see why you'd want a more solid harness for hiking with a full-frame camera. Congrats on finishing up your quest in fine fashion.
     
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  12. Tristan

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    Thanks swoggis… yeah it has a quick release plate and I put a stop in it (not in the pic yet) so I just slide the camera in and it'll stop before sliding out the bottom, then flip the latch. Can pull it out quick. Same mount that's on my tripod too which is an issue with some others I have seen & I wanted to have them compatible. I had not found the one you speak of in my searching, that one looks pretty good too! I may have tried that first if I had found it. But I am super happy how mine performed. I had intended to put a little padding behind the piece (the part up against my body) but found it great just the way it is. On a hot day it does block a little airflow to the body, but its a minor tradeoff.
     
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  13. Noodles

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    I love the camera harness! How long did it take you to make? Did you need special tools? Would you mind posting instructions, please (or telling me how much it would cost to buy one from you ;))?

    (I also delighted to learn that there's an Esther mountain :cool: I've added it to my wishlist of places to visit)
     
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  14. Tristan

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    Thanks Noodles! Not hard to make with a well equipped home shop. Took me a few hours to do most of the work, longest being all the prep and deciding on shape. Not counting the year or two I thought about the design in my head, and few weeks of ordering parts. I'm not that good at giving instruction, will always forget to mention things. And my design is specifically for backpacks with D-loops attached to the shoulder straps, but the design can be altered a bit. I ordered carbon fiber plate from amazon 2mmx300x400mm (only needed 1/3 of it), cut it with jig saw and Bosch T108BHM3 Carbon Fiber Carbide Strip Jig Saw Blades. Used a SmallRig Quick Release Clamp. I also used dremel with diamond cutting wheels for the small slots where the straps attach, drill bits and a sanding drum in my drill press to smooth the edges of the cuts. I repurposed op-tech camera backpack straps for the attachment parts, and some velcro straps. Lock tight all screws. I also bought a lighter weight Arca plate that I may fashion my own quick release mechanism to cut down on weight but after using this one with a heavier camera I'm in no hurry to shave a few more grams. Sanded down the edges so they were smooth.
    **An urgent warning, carbon fiber dust is extremely hazardous to your lungs, use appropriate dust collection and respirator**


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  15. Noodles

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    Thank you very much for posting this, plus the photo. I'll get together with my husband and see if we can end up with something as professional looking as yours.
     

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