Gonna rise up. Find my direction magnetically.

Category: Trips (Page 1 of 2)

How much do you trust Google maps?

While on vacation, I use my iPhone as my main source of getting directions. I think most people with a smartphone do this now. Especially when you can just ask Siri to navigate to any location and she’ll give you turn by turn directions to get there. When iOS products had Google maps as the primary map application, I never second guessed the directions I received. After the default app switched to Apple maps last year, I was doubtful at first based off all the noise in the news about it, but I have rarely had issues with it the directions and when I do, it’s usually in the last 1-200 yards (house number location is off a bit, or the wrong side of the road).

So here I am in Page, AZ and trying to get directions to Grand Canyon Village, AZ. I have studied the maps for where we were going to be traveling during spring break over and over so I am pretty familiar with the roads to begin with. I enter my destination into Apple maps and it’s exactly what I expect. On a whim, I put the same location into Google maps… just to double check… and what do the directions come back with? A proposed travel plan that takes me over an hour out of the way! This raised some alarms so I check it against Mapquest, and it shows the same thing as Apple maps… the route I had planned to take.

Why is Google maps telling me to go an hour out of the way!!! And why won’t it let me drag to the route I want to go? Damn you Google! Since I still had a day until we had to travel, I let it go and figured I would come back to it.

We had to travel down the planned route to get to Horseshoe Bend and on the way, we are presented with several detour signs and then a bigger electronic sign that says the road is closed in 18 miles. I found out later that day that the quicker route that both Apple maps and Mapquest suggested I take would not have worked due to a landslide that took place in Feb. and knocked the whole road out (http://www.azdot.gov/us89/). Google, by some black magic, had this road closure already taken into account and gave me the only directions that would have worked!

Google is so close to perfect… they just needed to provide some indication as to WHY I couldn’t take that route. There is nothing in the interface that gives you any clue. Bottom line: Google maps FTW!

Apple Maps

This should be 2 hrs… so Apple has the wrong route, but the time is for the alternative.

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Google Maps

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Utah, Sierras and 360 degrees

Doing some research for our upcoming trip out to CA this summer, I ran across this site that provides 360 degree panoramas of different areas in Utah. I looked around this site for 30 minutes and still can’t get enough. If these don’t convince you to put Canyonlands on your todo list, nothing will. Julie and I haven’t gotten this far East in our exploration of Utah, but it’s on the list and until then I’ll have to simply make due with these virtual attempts to be there.

Here are my favorite:

Mount Whitney part of the Sierra Mountains in California

In regards to the CA trip, an opportunity to possibly climb Mt. Whitney just came up so I did some searching on that as well. Wouldn’t you know it… some 360 degree panoramas of that as well.

http://www.360cities.net/image/mount-whitney-at-sunrise#30.60,8.80,73.5

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7QtvUF8qso (video panorama)

We are also planning on taking the girls on their first backcountry trek (2 nights) during our visit to Yosemite. It’s turning out that while our first week will be the annual family reunion, the second week will be filled with adventure after adventure in the Sierras. Can’t think of a place I would rather be than in the mountains surrounded by my girls and family. SO PUMPED for this trip.

August 30th – September 1st (Kayaking)

August 30th – September 1st (Kayaking)

See Apostle Islands for the intro to this trip report.

August 30th

The entire week prior to the trip I had been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast. Kayaking up in Lake Superior can be a pretty horrible experience if the weather picks up and you can become stranded on one of the islands pretty easily. So as we were preparing to push off at Meyers Beach, the forecast was for rain that night or possibly the next morning. We would be out of communication (no 3g in these parts) for the next couple of days and would have to rely on our old school ways of reading the clouds and taking an educated guess.

The first leg of the trip took us along sea caves that were actually on the mainland. Once we got north of the caves, we would find our campsite. There is only one mainland campsite and it seemed like it didn’t get very much use. There is a 4 mile trail that leads from this site all the way back to Meyers Beach if one was so inclined to hike it. The guided tours that come out here spend the morning looking at the sea caves, have lunch on the beach just north of the caves, and then paddle back to Meyer’s Beach.

The caves were unlike anything I had seen in the water. They certainly had more of a Utah/west coast feel than northern Wisconsin.

There was a very interesting woosh sound that the waves made as they pushed under the rock formations into the caves. You could also tell that this was not a place you wanted to be when the weather or waves picked up. We lucked out and had great weather with a very low chop.

Once we made camp, we were able to appreciate the view and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. One thing that we didn’t appreciate were the damn black flies. Those things were everywhere and bit hard. It got so bad that we ended up bringing our dinner inside the tent just to find some relief. I wore my long johns (top and bottom) for most of the time we were in camp.

August 31st

We were waiting for the rain to come, but it only drizzled a little and the big rain never hit. The next morning there was a stiff westward wind and it created some pretty good chop. This along with some looming clouds had us breaking camp and heading to Sand Island pretty quick… no point in hanging around and seeing if the weather gets worse!!

We paddled for a few hours and reached the bay on the east side of Sand Island. It’s amazing how close something looks while you are on the lake but spend the next 1-2 hours paddling just to realize you are half way. My back was sore from the previous day’s paddling so it probably felt longer than it actually was. Sand Island has a full time ranger stationed on it and it felt good getting back into some type of civilized environment. It was fun to be out on our own the previous day, but with the weather and kayaking in the open water, it just felt good to see some other folks around.

We made camp and then headed out to view the sea caves. These were AWESOME! Some of the best in all of the Apostles. You can get really far back into the caves and it’s shallow enough that you could get out and walk around if you were into that kind of thing. We had a great time paddling around and made our way to Justice Bay. This place looked like it could have been in the Virgin Islands. The sun was out, the water was clear and there was a sailboat right in the middle of the bay.

We hiked up to the lighthouse and got a tour from the resident ranger. It was pretty interesting to hear about the old lighthouse keeper and some of the stories about the area. Included in these stories was an interesting one regarding if the old keeper had killed his wife and then told everyone that she had ‘left’ him.  No one could figure out where she had left to… mystery and intrigue in the Apostles. We were able to climb all the way up to the top of the lighthouse and were rewarded with a view of several of the other islands. I also learned that the markings for a lighthouse on a map give you a lot of information. Height of the lighthouse, the color of the light and the frequency at which the light will flash.

Oh, and guess who we ran into? The guy who was working at the visitor’s center when I came in looking for my camera bag. So my dad took a picture of us with our cameras. Nice!

We enjoyed a nice sunset and I went to bed hoping that the weather would be agreeable enough in the morning to allow us to cross Sand Bay over to the mainland so we would make our scheduled pickup.

September 1st

We woke up, broke camp and made our way across to the mainland without much incident. I have to admit that crossing the few miles in the open lake did make me a bit nervous. Especially at the half way point when you look around and realize just how far away from land you are and that you are in this little kayak on top of the freezing cold water. It’s a good, healthy kind of fear. The kind that makes you glad to be alive and to be able to enjoy a trip like this with the old man.

This ranks up there with the top 1 or 2 breakfast spots I have even eaten at in my life.

I can easily see coming back up here with the whole family and doing another multi-day, multi-island trip. There is a lot to see in this area and it’s truly amazing how this unknown National Lakeshore is just sitting here in northern Wisconsin.

The old man on the hunt.

Mainland sea caves.

Loved this dock. The campsite on Sand Island is 100 yards back from this doc.

My current favorite picture of my dad and I. It turned out great and captures some of the beauty of the area as well.

August 28th and 29th (Bayfield)

August 28th and 29th (Bayfield)

See Apostle Islands for the intro to this trip report.

We spent the first two nights at a campsite just south of town (Apostle Islands Area Campground). It was a pretty quite place but the owner had a very disturbing resemblance to the owner of the cabins the Griswolds stayed at in the movie Vacation.  We had dinner in Bayfield, which was great but a little crowded. We figured this was due to it being so close to the end of the summer that a lot of families were getting in their last vacation before school started.

Sunday morning we went into town for breakfast and found this GREAT coffee shop,  Big Water Coffee. If you make it to Bayfield, WI at some point, you need to make sure to spend a morning here. Lots of locals and they roast their own coffee. Oh, and free wifi.

Our next stop was at Trek & Trail for our kayaking lesson.  You have to take a 3 hour lesson if you are going to take the kayaks out on your own (no guide). This is required by law, so we didn’t really have an option. As it turned out, it was a good thing that we took it since it built our confidence and improved our technique. There was a middle-aged couple that took the class with us, but they were denied the rental because they failed to do the wet exit in the lake. After they watched my dad and I do it, the female of the couple got…. wait for it… cold feet, and chickened out. The water was pretty darn cold, in the low 50s, so I can’t really blame her for not wanting to flip over her kayak intentionally.

We had originally wanted to get a ferry to see a few of the outer islands, but we couldn’t find any in town. Only some local tour boats that go out in the morning. So instead, we drove out to Little Sand Bay and enjoyed lunch while thinking about what the next couple of days had in store for us. We came back into town and I got a 4 mile run in before we went back to the campsite for a shower and to get ready for dinner.

The Camera Saga

When we came back into Bayfield for dinner, I went to the trunk of the car to get my camera bag and guess what… no bag. I searched the back seat… no bag. I went back to the trunk again, then to the car again, then to the trunk. Uh-oh!!! Before we left for the trip, I had put all of the video/camera gear that I own into that bag. My Nikon D90, a Canon SD1100, a Flip, several lenses and other gear. Not being able to find this was, to say the least, a bit concerning. At times like these, I usually start to freak out a little, but oddly enough, I was pretty calm. After discussing where it could be with my dad, we decided I had probably left it at the visitor’s center up at Little Sand Bay. We immediately drove up there, but since it was a Sunday night the center was closed. We walked around the center, trying to find it sitting in there somewhere, but no luck.

It was also at this point that I decided in my mind that if we couldn’t find the bag, I would wait until I got home to tell Julie. Why ruin my trip even more??? Right??? Love you hun.

The next morning we shot up to the visitor’s center to be there when it opened because we had to be back at Trek & Trail to get our ride over to Meyer’s Beach at 10. The guy working at the center had heard something about a bag being found, but he didn’t have any details. He called into the headquarters (located in Bayfield) and it turns out that once they opened it and saw all the equipment ($$), they decided it had to be put in the safe which they had at the headquarters building. So back to Bayfield we went… and we got my camera back. Lots of smiles all around. As a note of warning to others.

Always always always have something on your camera or in your camera bag that has your contact info on it! Stop reading this now and go do it. A label on the camera, a picture on your SD card that has your contact info (you can mark the pic to not be deleted when you sync), anything so someone who finds it can get it back to you.

Apostile Islands

Apostle Islands – August, 2010

I’ve been meaning to post about this trip that I took with my Dad back in August for a while and I finally found the time to put it together. The trip was a birthday gift to my Dad (he turned 60 this year). We planned to spend a few days camping and kayaking in the Apostle Islands. The trip was to be from August 28th to September 1st.

The Apostles

For those of you not familiar, and who could blame you, people I know who grew up in Wisconsin didn’t even know what they were, I’ll give you a little background.

The Apostle Islands are a group of 22 islands in Lake Superior off the Bayfield Peninsula in northern Wisconsin. The islands are a National Lakeshore (managed by the NPS)

The majority of the islands are located in Ashland County—only Sand, York, Eagle, and Raspberry Islands are located in Bayfield County. All the islands except for Madeline Island are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

The islands are the spiritual home for the Lake Superior Chippewa. The islands were named the Apostle Islands by New France historian Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix, who named them after the 12 apostles (even though there were 22 islands).

For more information about the islands, the Wikipedia entry has a lot of details: Apostle Islands.

The Trip

Saturday, August 28 – Drive to Bayfield

Sunday, August 29 – Take kayaking class, hang out in Bayfield (try to get a ferry trip to outer islands)

Monday, August 30 – Get dropped off at Meyer’s Beach and kayak past sea caves to camp just south of Sand Point.

Tuesday, August 31 – Kayak to Sand Island, explore island and sea caves around the island.

Wednesday, September 1 – Kayak across Sand Bay to Little Sand Bay where we would be picked up and then drive home from Bayfield.

Oil Spill Cleanup Effort

While in Florida for the annual Dobson family reunion, we were able to experience the impact of the Deep Horizon oil spill on the Florida pan handle as well as efforts to cleanup/contain the spill. We stayed at Grayton beach which is sandwiched in-between Destin to the west and Panama City Beach to the east. I had been checking the Grayton beach blog for a few weeks prior to our visit so I knew what the beach conditions were and about the local efforts to minimize the impact of the spill. The day before we left, the beaches were all open and clean (according to the site at least).

There was some obvious anxiety in our group what we would see when we finally got down there. This was supposed to be a vacation at the BEACH so if we ended up spending it at the POOL, it would be a bit of a let down.

So what did we see? Nothing for the first couple of days. The water had some algae in it but there was an algae bloom when we were down there last year, so it wasn’t a big deal. The first tarball we saw was found by Julie on a beach in a little town east of Grayton named Seaside a couple of days into our stay. The only other time we them was the last day we were there. We found tarballs on the beach right in front of the houses we were renting.

The Grayton blog seems to report ‘no tar balls’ everyday so I am getting the feeling that they don’t want people to know that there are tar balls showing up there. It wasn’t like the entire gulf was washing up hundreds of these with every wave, but you could easily find them by standing on the shore and watching the waves bring them in.

There were A LOT of cleanup workers at the beach. 100s of people walking the beaches in the area. They had a lot of logistics at work here with getting workers to and from the various white tents setup, bathrooms for the workers, etc. There were a couple of days where it felt like they outnumbered the actual beach-goers. Here are some shots of the cleanup effort to show you the scale of the operation.

Next time, August

Just saw this shot posted on reddit.com of Moraine Lake in Banff and compared it to the view we had. A little lack luster, heh?? Next time we go, and there will be a next time, it will be in August.

Banff / Jasper – The Hikes

We did several hikes while in the Rockies. The girls (6 and 9) were with us for all the hikes so they are all family friendly. I tried to rank them based on the uniqueness of the hike, if what we knew about the hike turned out to be true, and my general feeling about it. I also have several more pictures of all of these locations so if you are interested, just email me.


Banff National Park

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Bow Falls (1 out of 5 stars)

Just outside of the city of Banff. It’s right in town and it was raining when we arrived to town so we felt like this would be easy enough to do and hopefully raise our spirits. It’s not worth it to try and view from the east side. Cross to the west and there is a nice view of the falls from an access road. The river rafting folks drop in just south of the falls and you can watch them from the viewing location.  Bow Falls seemed more like rapids, than falls.

There is a short hike to the top of the falls from the parking lot but the view wasn’t great and the pictures confirm this. On the plus side, it’s right next to town, on the downside, it’s hardly worth the effort.

Johnston Canyon (3 out of 5 stars)

The canyon was pretty nice but it felt a little wrong when we were walking from the parking lot and got to hear a tour guide explain the rules for the stop to a group of 70+ yr old folks that were about to do the same hike we were. It’s a really easy hike and the canyon is very interesting. There is a lodge right next to the trail at the beginning with an ice cream stand that made it feel pretty touristy which made me a little disappointed. There is a very, very cool little hole at the end of the trail that you can walk through and be right next to the falls. The kids loved that!

Lake Agnes Trail (tea house) (4 out of 5 stars)

This was a 3.5 km one way hike. It starts just to the north-west of the chateau and we didn’t realize it before we started, but you can actually see the tea house from the chateau. It’s way up there, but you can clearly see it.

The entire 3.5 km is all up hill and fairly steep. We had to keep Brooke motivated to keep moving but she finally made it. I was proud that she decided to push on to the tea house after reaching Mirror Lake since her attitude seemed to be turning for the worse. The tea house was very nice and the young folks that work up there were great. We did get to experience some foreigners being incredibly rude to the staff of the tea house which was sad and funny. Here we are, up in the woods at this cool tea house and there is one server for a fairly large crowd and this old man felt like he wasn’t being served fast enough. This gentlemen walked into the kitchen to tell them to hurry up with his order. Odd, you think he would have been happy to just be served hot tea in the middle of the damn wilderness!

It was a quick hike back down. The major let down for me was that this hike only provided one view of Lake Louise. I was hoping to get some nice wide-angle pictures but didn’t get any. If you want to get elevation above Lake Louise, don’t hike this trail to do it. The trail also started to get a little crowded on our way back down (around 1pm). It looks like this is popular since the start is so close to the chateau, at least that is my guess.

Did I mention there was a fair amount of snow? Nothing like a little snow-softball to break up the hike.

This is the only view you get of the lake during the hike.


Jasper National Park

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Athabasca Glacier (4 out of 5 stars)

Yeah, we did the mass-tourist thing better known as The Columbia Icefield Glacier Experience. We originally thought of hiking up to the foot of the glacier and just walk on, but there is a stream of water between land and the actual glacier. We were also advised against trying it (by some parks folks, but it felt a little like they were working for the Sno-coach people…). So we signed up to take the bus out to a transfer station where we moved onto the Sno-coaches and out onto the glacier.

You only get 20 minutes on the glacier to walk around which felt like way way to short of a time considering the $50/person cost of the trip. It was also a little sad to see the massive road they had cut into the glacier in order for the Sno-coach to drive on it. I understand that it raises awareness of global warming, but it felt a little anti-environment instead of respecting the glacier.  Julie felt the same way, cringing as we rode in this $1 million huge, gas guzzling Sno-coach but it was the only way onto the glacier.  It was a cool experience nonetheless.

We also filled up some water bottles and enjoyed some very, very cold and fresh tasting water. We have a few bottles left in the fridge!

Athabasca Falls (3 out of 5 stars)

You can tell this is a popular tour bus stop when you pull up. Lots of crazy angles from the various bridges that go over these falls allow for a pretty dense population of people to view the falls at the same time. We needed to fight for a few key photo taking locations when we got there. It was later in the day when we got here so the sun was high overhead and did not lead to any ideal lighting conditions for taking pictures. The kids hiked around a little and it was an overall nice stop.

This is the view if you turned around from the falls and climbed onto a road. This was a pretty nice payoff for looking the other way.


Kootenay National Park

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Stanley Glacier (4 out of 5 stars)

Stanley Glacier was our first real hike of the trip. When we got out of the car at the trailhead, the temp was a nice a cool 36 degrees. Needless to say, we had on multiple layers, gloves, hats, the works. This hike climbs up for the first 1.5 km and then levels out as you get into a valley between two mountains. It was a cloudy day when we started but the sun came out when we reached the valley. It was a really pleasant hike with small water falls cascading off from the tops of the mountains where the snow was still melting. We were hoping to be able to hike up to the glacier, but it was really really high and we were not going to push the kids on the first hike.

We stopped for lunch at the top and had a little snowball fight. We were first on the trail when we went out but a few others showed up as we were hiking back down.

Marble Canyon (4 out of 5 stars)

This little gem of a hike we heard of from another couple while we were in Johnston Canyon. It is a km or two past the Stanley Glacier hike and we had some time in the schedule so we decided to go for it. What an awesome surprise!! This canyon is in the process of being formed and instead of hiking in the canyon like at Johnston, you hike on top of it and can look down to see it being formed. At some points it looks like you might be able to jump across it or would simply miss it if it wasn’t marked, but when you look down into the canyon it falls a couple of hundred feet at some places.

This area was very well blocked off with nice fencing to keep the kids safe. It looks very new and we guessed it was in response to some type of accident based on a sign we read at the end of the hike. This was only a km or two round trip.

Notice the nice railings!


Yoho National Park

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Lake Ohara Shoreline Trail (5 out of 5 stars)

The best hike of the trip in my view. From the moment we walked up from the bus drop off, I loved this lake. Close your eyes and try to imagine the perfect mountain lake: the color, the views, the smell. That is Lake Ohara. I thought about this lake as we were driving home after the whole trip was over and I think I would go back to Banff just to spend a few days hiking the Lake Ohara area. I liked it that much.

This was highly recommended by a co-worker and needless to say, it didn’t disappoint. You have to call the park service a few months in advance to get a bus ride up to the lake and the day we went was the first day it was open for the season. They had been snowed in at the lake as recent as a few weeks before we were there.

We just did the basic hike around Lake Ohara but there are numerous hikes that shoot off from here and there is a lodge as well. The cabins looked really really awesome but when we looked into the price, it would be something like $700/day for our family to stay there. Just a little above our price range (yikes!). The water was clear and the sky was sunny with some clouds to add contrast. The hiking was easy and very enjoyable for the kids.

There is a little shop where you can get something to drink and a t-shirt if you want, but it’s pretty rustic. We took the 10:30 am bus and came back at 2:30. They only run the return buses every two hours so you have to plan ahead a little.

Banff / Jasper – The Wildlife

We saw an amazing amount of wildlife in the parks. Most of it was along the Icefields Parkway as we drove between Lake Louise and Jasper but overall, there was just an amazing amount of wildlife that seems to be everywhere. As spring was in the air and things were starting to thaw out, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise but based on experiences in U.S. National Parks, we were not prepared for the sheer number and closeness we experienced.

Bear

Brown Bear

June 16 – On our way back from the Marble Canyon hike, just past the continental divide, we ran into our first bear on the side of the road. We were not prepared at all for this and the girls briefly got out of the car until we realized that this was not a safe situation for anyone. The bear was maybe 50-60 feet away. Mom got over excited and ran down to get a real close shot. As soon as it turned to look at her, she moved pretty quick to get out of there.

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Grizzly Bear

June 20 – Along the Icefields Parkway

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Black Bears

June 18 – Along the Icefields Parkway

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June 20 – This was the day of the black bear. We saw 4 in total which including the Grizzly, made 5 in one day. By the end of the day, some people in the vehicle had lost interest and just wanted to get back to have dinner. I still can’t believe it. We saw so many bears, wild, up-close and personal, that it was just too much. Amazing. You won’t hear anything like that driving through Yellowstone or Yosemite.

Bear 1

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Bear 2

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Bear 3

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Bear 4

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Elk

June 14, 15, 16, and 20 – Needless to say, these are the most common large mammals in the park. We saw some the first night we were in Banff, right on the shore of the Bow River. We also saw them along the Bow Valley Highway and along the Icefields Parkway.

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Porcupine

June 16 – We saw this little guy on the hillside just to the north-west of the Chateau at Lake Louise. This wasn’t on the kids list of animals to see, but was definitely interesting.

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Mountain Goat

June 18 and 20 – Both times we drove the Icefields Parkway, we saw these mountain goats in the same place. On the way back down the parkway on the 18th, a park service guy fired off some fireworks to scare the goats off the road since they were causing such an issue.

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Bighorn Sheep

June 18 and 20 – I loved this grand-dad of bighorn sheep that we found. He was just hanging out, enjoying the morning. Again, on the Icefields Parkway. Similar location on both days. The older ones are way more interesting than the young or female. Love those horns!

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Marmot

June 19 – I saw a few of these on my way up the trail to Lake Oesa while we were at Lake Ohara. I ran up here to try to get a high view of the lake for a few shots. This litter sucker would not get off the trail. I yelled, threw rocks at it (hard) and it would not budge. I finally decided that I would just walk up to it and if it jumped at me, I would soccer kick the sucker off the side of the steep trail. Luckily, it didn’t come to that and it took off when I was about 2 feet away. Scared the crap out of me when it finally ran off.

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