Forum Index > Trip Reports > Larchy Crow Hill, Graham, Graham Harbor, Pyramid, Squaretop,  10/4-6/2017
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 29 Jan 2007
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostTue Oct 10, 2017 9:41 pm 
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Dates:  October 4-6, 2017
Peaks: Crow Hill 7366, Graham Mtn 7297, "Graham Harbor" 7492, Pyramid 8243, "Squaretop" 8189
Party:  Matt, Carla (Dicey)

For about a decade I have wanted to visit Pyramid Mtn during larch season, but kept deferring it either because of other trips or bad weather.  This year we found the right window for larches and weather. 

The forecast was potentially almost too interesting for this trip – sunny at the start, but then high winds and snow arriving.  That could either make a fresh white blanket for variety our exit, or a miserable cold hike if we got caught out somewhere at the wrong time.

We designed our itinerary primarily to walk among as many larches as possible, either hiking over larch-covered peaks or wandering through larch-filled basins.
Thursday:  Hike over Crow Hill and Graham to camp on Graham Hill.
Friday: Visit Pyramid.  Wander around larchy basins between Pyramid and Cardinal.  Maybe visit Squaretop or Skidgravel.  Escape back to camp before the snowstorm.
Saturday:  Hike back out with fresh snow to give a new look to everything.

GPS Track, yellow lines are travel with packs, red lines are side trips
GPS Track, yellow lines are travel with packs, red lines are side trips


Thursday


Pyramid Mtn Trailhead to Crow Hill

We started from the Pyramid Mtn trailhead, 2.2 miles beyond Shady Pass.  The road there was in surprisingly good condition, with only a few ruts or rough places.  The trailhead is high enough, at 6510 feet, that there were larches right at the parking lot.

My car at the Pyramid Mtn trailhead, with Crow Hill shaded in the background.
My car at the Pyramid Mtn trailhead, with Crow Hill shaded in the background.
View of cars at the trailhead, taken from Crow Hill
View of cars at the trailhead, taken from Crow Hill

The trail traverses around the back of a few intermediate bumps, then around the west side of Crow Hill.  We decided to carry our packs up its easy south ridge and over the summit.

Starting up the trail
Starting up the trail
larches along the trail
larches along the trail
Saddle south of Crow Hill
Saddle south of Crow Hill

As we ascended the ridge, we could see rich larch forests on the north sides of the hills we had passed, meadows with some larches on  the west side, and steeper wilder basins with scattered sweeps of larches on the east side.  This turned out to be the pattern for each of the peaks in the area.

East basin of Crow Hill and Lake Chelan
East basin of Crow Hill and Lake Chelan
Looking ahead to Graham, Graham Harbor, Pyramid, and Cardinal, rising above Pyramid Creek
Looking ahead to Graham, Graham Harbor, Pyramid, and Cardinal, rising above Pyramid Creek

We followed Crow Hill's north ridge out a bit farther north, where it was carpeted with big larches.

walking north on the crest of Crow Hill
walking north on the crest of Crow Hill
Crow Hill larches
Crow Hill larches
more Crow Hill larches
more Crow Hill larches

Crow Hill to Graham Mtn

Getting off Crow Hill didn't go so smoothly.  If we had just gone directly downhill off the summit, it would have been all nice open meadows down to the trail.  However, we had wandered north looking at views, ended up in steepening forest, and didn't find the trail where we expected it to be on the map.  Sometimes the trails aren't where the old USGS maps show them, and we didn't want to wander around the forest looking for it, so instead we traversed to the north ridge and down to the saddle by the trail.  That put us in a known location, but it was an annoying steep sidehill to the ridge.

Anyway, then it was easy trail around to the west side of Graham.  At the trails high point, we dropped our packs near a majestic big larch, and hiked easy meadows up to the summit.

Noble larch where we left our packs to hike up Graham.
Noble larch where we left our packs to hike up Graham.
Me on Graham summit, looking east across Lake Chelan
Me on Graham summit, looking east across Lake Chelan
Looking back south to Crow Hill
Looking back south to Crow Hill
Looking west to Pugh Ridge, Duncan/Choral, and Garland/Devils Smokestack
Looking west to Pugh Ridge, Duncan/Choral, and Garland/Devils Smokestack
Looking north to Graham Harbor and Pyramid
Looking north to Graham Harbor and Pyramid
Carla descending from Graham
Carla descending from Graham
Other side of our landmark larch
Other side of our landmark larch

Back at the big larch, we noticed that it was actually three trunks growing out of a single base.

Graham to Graham Harbor, featuring The Quest for Water

Hiking north from Graham was easier trail through forests of mixed larches and other conifers.  This whole day was a different kind of larch hiking than I'm used to.  Usually I'm hiking up through dark green forests, and then find the larches scattered across high rocky basins.  This area was just solid forest along all the hillsides, which opened up to more meadows and brighter gold higher on each slope. 

Carla hiking along the trail
Carla hiking along the trail
Colors in a meadow along the way
Colors in a meadow along the way
Combination green and gold
Combination green and gold
green and gold rising into the sky
green and gold rising into the sky

Carla suggested camping on a wide flat area on the crest of Graham Harbor, where she had camped on a previous spring ski trip.  Along the way, however, we needed to find water, both to carry up to camp and to stock up for traveling the next day.  After this dry summer, where would be the closest streams that still had water?

We ended up finding water in three places.  At the basin between Graham and Graham Harbor, 0.5 miles before our turn-off there was a small stream and flat meadow for camping, but we didn't want to come back that far for water each day.   The 100 Hikes book said there was water and a campsite at the 6901-foot junction of trails 1433 and 1441, which was also where we wanted to leave the trail to go up to our intended camp.  The junction had neither water nor campsite.  I decided to search ahead for water on the 1441 trail, and found it 0.6 miles ahead at the basin between Graham Harbor and Pyramid.  Meanwhile, however, Carla had followed the1433 trail downhill, and found it just 200 feet downhill.   Altogether, the back-and-forth quest for water added 2 miles and 470 feet of elevation gain for the day.

We filled up all our spare bottles at Carla's stream and headed up to camp carrying an extra 18 pounds of water.  That was heavy, but the camp ridge had a huge flat open meadow rimmed by larches, like a giant luxury balcony on which to camp high and enjoy the area.

Quest for water GPS track (red line)
Quest for water GPS track (red line)
Broad meadow near our camp
Broad meadow near our camp

Graham Harbor Summit

Sunset was less than an hour away, so I dropped my pack and traveled the extra half mile to visit Graham Harbor's summit.  The late sun turned the larches deeper gold and lit dramatic edges along the surrounding peaks.

Larches on the shadowing side of our balcony camp
Larches on the shadowing side of our balcony camp
Deep gold larches in front of Pyramid along the way
Deep gold larches in front of Pyramid along the way
Pyramid & Cloudcomb from the summit
Pyramid & Cloudcomb from the summit
Looking back to our camp balcony, Graham Mtn, and Crow Hill
Looking back to our camp balcony, Graham Mtn, and Crow Hill
Steep shadowed basin below
Steep shadowed basin below
Evening above Lake Chelan
Evening above Lake Chelan
Last light on the balcony
Last light on the balcony
Deepest gold larches, hiking back to camp
Deepest gold larches, hiking back to camp

Evening at Graham Harbor Camp

Our evening at camp had multiple treats yet to enjoy.

While we relaxed for dinner, the afterglow glowed above Lake Chelan.  Walking around to take photos, I also (literally) stumbled across remnants of the phone line that once led to the Pyramid lookout.

Afterglow above Lake Chelan
Afterglow above Lake Chelan
Remnants of the Pyramid Lookout phone line
Remnants of the Pyramid Lookout phone line

The moon came up a deep huge harvest orange.

Carla had brought a package of glowing Halloween bracelets,

Harvest Moon
Harvest Moon
Carla playing with her bracelets
Carla playing with her bracelets
Glowing bracelets hanging inside the tent
Glowing bracelets hanging inside the tent

The brilliant moon lit up the larches, even in the middle of the night.

Moonlight on larches and Graham Harbor summit
Moonlight on larches and Graham Harbor summit
Big dipper above moonlit larches
Big dipper above moonlit larches
Bright moonlit larches
Bright moonlit larches
Our camp exactly at midnight
Our camp exactly at midnight

Day 1 stats: 11.7 miles, 3520 gain, 2790 loss.  (Includes excess mileage looking for water.)

jump to Day 2
Day 3

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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iron
getting old



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iron
getting old
PostTue Oct 10, 2017 10:06 pm 
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new backpack for matt???

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RichP
sin rumbo



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RichP
sin rumbo
PostWed Oct 11, 2017 5:26 am 
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Nice. I thought you'd be hitting up that area around the same time I was in the neighborhood.


Squaretop to Pyramid. Oct 4, 2017
Squaretop to Pyramid. Oct 4, 2017
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geyer
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geyer
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PostWed Oct 11, 2017 11:00 am 
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Matt wrote:
Larches on the shadowing side of our balcony camp
Larches on the shadowing side of our balcony camp

I loved camping here earlier this year. It's just so perfectly flat for campsite! I just wish I'd know what a great fall trip it would be...
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Stefan
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Stefan
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PostWed Oct 11, 2017 11:06 am 
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Great pictures Matt. Great pictures.

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Art is an adventure.
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Nancyann
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Nancyann
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PostWed Oct 11, 2017 11:26 am 
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About time we heard from you. I think I want your larches and Big Dipper picture on my calendar. smile.gif
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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Matt
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PostWed Oct 11, 2017 11:27 pm 
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Day 1

Friday

Morning at Graham Harbor Camp

Pink alpenglow preceded the sunrise, and turned the larches a wild sort of bright orange color.

Alpenglow east of our camp
Alpenglow east of our camp
Campsite 5 minutes before sunrise
Campsite 5 minutes before sunrise
Sunrise over Lake Chelan
Sunrise over Lake Chelan
Morning larch light
Morning larch light

Pyramid Mtn

By the time we left camp, clouds had covered the sky and dimmed the larches.  However, conditions were hopeful.  A strong wind was blowing from the west, where an edge of clear sky was visible.  As we hiked up the trail to Pyramid, peaks began to light up, first in the distance, way out by Daniel and Rainier, then Glacier showing bright white above the horizon, and then successively lighting up each ridge nearer to us – the Maude group, then the Garland-Rampart ridge, then the Duncan-Choral ridge, then Pugh Ridge right next door, and finally our own peak.

High overcast shadowing the ridges of larches
High overcast shadowing the ridges of larches
Sunlight reaches Duncan and Choral (you can see Fern Lake at far right)
Sunlight reaches Duncan and Choral (you can see Fern Lake at far right)
Glacier shines in the distance
Glacier shines in the distance

Pyramid's summit was very windy.  We stayed long enough to read the register and then hurried down.  When I opened the ammo box register and saw the multiple log books, I thought they were successive, but then discovered they were filled with many hundreds of entries.

Carla arriving at Pyramid summit
Carla arriving at Pyramid summit
Front page of the main log book
Front page of the main log book
Our entry in the register
Our entry in the register
Looking back at all of yesterday's peaks
Looking back at all of yesterday's peaks
Cloudcomb looking evil and forbidding
Cloudcomb looking evil and forbidding
Upper Pyramid basin, where we'll spend the rest of our day
Upper Pyramid basin, where we'll spend the rest of our day

Pyramid Basin

Our goal for the rest of the day was simply to travel through the larches in the basin between Pyramid and Grouse Pass, possibly visiting the summit of Squaretop or Skidgravel, but mostly just wandering around to enjoy the beauty of the area.   Watching the trees move from light to shadow, and against the background of rocky peaks or blue sky, it was all good.  We eventually ended up on a ridge of fine white granite in the center of the basin and sat there awhile just looking around.

dropping into the basin
dropping into the basin
big larch growing from a broken base
big larch growing from a broken base
larch amid the rock garden
larch amid the rock garden
larches against the sky
larches against the sky
more larches against the sky
more larches against the sky
sun and shadow shifting across the meadows below
sun and shadow shifting across the meadows below
big larches and sky
big larches and sky
one larch catches the light
one larch catches the light
admiring the view
admiring the view
ridge where we took a break
ridge where we took a break

Squaretop

From the middle of the basin, we could see a relatively easy route up the southwest side of Squaretop, so I went up there.  A rib of larches and meadows led up most of the way, with talus and dirt for the final several hundred feet.  I went around the left side of the summit block onto a wide summit area.  Unfortunately, the register previously left by Fay Pullen had disappeared.

arrow of larches pointing the way to Squaretop
arrow of larches pointing the way to Squaretop
colors en route to Squaretop
colors en route to Squaretop
Clouds blowing fast overhead
Clouds blowing fast overhead

Views from Squaretop:

Looking back to Pyramid
Looking back to Pyramid
Cloudcomb still looking wicked
Cloudcomb still looking wicked
Glacier and Cardinal
Glacier and Cardinal
The basin we've been wandering
The basin we've been wandering
our next destination, Grouse Pass, is right in the middle of this photo
our next destination, Grouse Pass, is right in the middle of this photo

To Grouse Pass and Back to Camp

We could see lots more larches, plus some wide colorful meadows, off toward Grouse Pass, so we went there next.  We enjoyed another relaxing break in an especially large meadow in the middle of the area. 

world framed by larches
world framed by larches
hiking down a colorful drainage
hiking down a colorful drainage
the big meadow
the big meadow
colorful meadow grass
colorful meadow grass
more meadow plants
more meadow plants

Up closer to Grouse Pass, some red hillsides added even more color. 

Hillsides near Grouse Pass
Hillsides near Grouse Pass
more hillside near Grouse Pass
more hillside near Grouse Pass
trail to Grouse Pass
trail to Grouse Pass

Grouse Pass itself was becoming quite windy, so we didn't stay long.

Looking back to Squaretop & Pyramid
Looking back to Squaretop & Pyramid
Looking north to Skidgravel
Looking north to Skidgravel

We hiked back southeast till we were across Pyramid's western rib, and then angled up meadows to catch the trail.  Along the way, we could see the western peaks disappearing behind a haze of approaching snow. 

Clouds thickening in the west
Clouds thickening in the west
Some more pretty grass along the way
Some more pretty grass along the way
Snow haze hiding the peaks
Snow haze hiding the peaks
Fresh windblown needles on the trail to camp
Fresh windblown needles on the trail to camp

Back at the camp meadow, snow was blowing sideways and beginning to stick on the ground.

snowing on the meadow
snowing on the meadow
and blowing sideways
and blowing sideways

Day 2 stats: 11.4 miles, 4510 gain

Evening at Graham Harbor Camp

When I looked off the edge of The Balcony, I discovered that the clouds hadn't covered everything yet.  Somewhere out there the sun was still shining on Lake Chelan, and it glowed a bright electric blue color through the snow haze

4665 Looking through the clouds to Lake Chelan
4664 Electric blue lake

Our campsite brought a less pleasant surprise – the tent was full of dirt.  We had set up on a bare spot, and the wind glowing low across the meadow had gone under the fly and filled the interior with dirt.

Dirt storm inside our tent
Dirt storm inside our tent

We shook the dirt off all our gear, rotated the tent.  With its tail facing the wind, the CoPper Spur tent was now very stable, barely vibrating in the gusts.  So we thought we had solved the problem, and settled in for the 11-hour wait till sunrise.  Carla was exceptionally happy to discover that her Halloween bracelets were still glowing inside the tent even after a full day.

Somehow, the snowstorm still moved inside our tent.  Fine piles of snow kept accumulating on top of the interior mesh and sifting down onto us.  We blocked the side edges of the fly with packs and gear, but the snow still got in.  In the dark, we couldn't figure it out, and just shook it off periodically.  After hours of this, we finally figured out that the back edge of the fly, hidden behind the back wall of the tent, had a small gap at ground level, and the snow was blowing in, up, and over the central mesh of the tent to drop on us.   

Later in the wee hours, we notice brighter light on the tent.  Peeking out the door, I could see large gaps of dark clear sky racing between the bright moonlit clouds.  Actually it was the clouds moving, not the sky, but it looked like giant black holes being torn open in the clouds.  That might have made a cool photo, but I wasn't going out in that cold wind to try it.

Jump to Day 3

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Roly Poly
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Roly Poly
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PostThu Oct 12, 2017 4:21 am 
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I can't wait for the sequel!! Just wondering if you had any falling trees as part of the story like we did on our chiwaukum creek /Larch lake trip!

Gorgeous photos.  Fall isn't complete without at least one fabulous larch trip.
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HitTheTrail
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HitTheTrail
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PostThu Oct 12, 2017 8:36 am 
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What a difference two weeks can do to larch color. Great TR and excellent water beta on your day 1 report  up.gif

Nice larch basin above Pyramid basin
Nice larch basin above Pyramid basin

Matt wrote:
Looking back to Squaretop & Pyramid
Looking back to Squaretop & Pyramid
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HermitThrush
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HermitThrush
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PostThu Oct 12, 2017 10:02 am 
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Epic and beautiful. Can't wait to see the larches and snow pics!

By the way - how do you like that Subaru of yours?
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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Matt
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PostFri Oct 13, 2017 9:32 pm 
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@HermitThrush, I'm very happy with my Subaru Forester.  Good handling for most roads, and very good ground clearance.

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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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Matt
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PostFri Oct 13, 2017 9:35 pm 
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Day 2

Saturday

Fresh Snow in the Morning

Saturday fulfilled my hope that the snow would add new element delight to the scene. 

The morning dawned crisp, clear, brisk, and breezy.   We took our time in camp, enjoying the early light and the fresh frosting of snow.

Morning colors on Gopher Peak
Morning colors on Gopher Peak
Alpenglow on the back side of The Balcony
Alpenglow on the back side of The Balcony
A wonderful frosty sunrise
A wonderful frosty sunrise
The balcony in argent and gold
The balcony in argent and gold
Moon behind the first light on the trees
Moon behind the first light on the trees
Me out in the meadow
Me out in the meadow
Lake Chelan turned to molten gold
Lake Chelan turned to molten gold

But it was still rather chilly in the wind.  We hid behind trees for eating breakfast and breaking camp.  Before departing, however, we discovered that we could sit just below the edge of the balcony on the east side and enjoy  a comfortable high perch in the bright warm sun with no wind.

enjoying the wind-free side of the balcony
enjoying the wind-free side of the balcony
snow on the branches
snow on the branches
layers of frosty and gold trees down below us
layers of frosty and gold trees down below us

Graham Harbor Camp to Pyramid Mtn Trailhead

The hike out gave us the opportunity to see how some of the same places looked with a light coating of new snow.

As we hiked, clouds thickened in the west, but never quite reached us.

Hiking out across the meadow
Hiking out across the meadow
Ominous clouds on Garland and Devils Smokestack
Ominous clouds on Garland and Devils Smokestack
Blue, white, and gold meadow
Blue, white, and gold meadow
Little larch waving it's snowy arms
Little larch waving it's snowy arms
a bit of snow on the trail sign
a bit of snow on the trail sign
snowy mix
snowy mix
one more time past the big larch marking the Graham turnoff
one more time past the big larch marking the Graham turnoff

I decided to walk over the top of Crow Hill for a renewed view with the snow.  This time I went uphill directly from the high point of the trail, directly west of the summit, which was easy open meadows to the top.   Comparing GPS tracks, it looks like we turned aside less than 40 feet above the trail on our way in.

view back to the parking lot
view back to the parking lot
bright meadow below the final stretch
bright meadow below the final stretch
one more bigger larch with snow
one more bigger larch with snow
Looking back up Pyramid Creek valley
Looking back up Pyramid Creek valley
last view of Lake Chelan
last view of Lake Chelan

Then it was just down Crow Hill's easy south ridge and out to the parking lot.

Larches and grass both golden along the trail.
Larches and grass both golden along the trail.

Day 3 stats: 7.2 miles, 1920 gain, 2630 loss
Trip total:   30.3 miles, 9950 gain


--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Kim Brown
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PostSat Oct 14, 2017 9:00 pm 
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Matt, you've outdone yourself. And that's saying a LOT!  up.gif
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Hiker Mama
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PostSun Oct 15, 2017 4:41 pm 
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Matt and Carla, this trip looks amazing! Beautiful photos.

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My hiking w/ kids site: www.thehikermama.com
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Larchy Crow Hill, Graham, Graham Harbor, Pyramid, Squaretop,  10/4-6/2017
  Happy Birthday Kathleen, eplanajr, Pepper!
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