Chalk & Foose Gals Come to Vail

My sister, Logan, had not been to Colorado since Kristine & my wedding week in Telluride in early October 2009. A lot has happened for her since then as in two wonderful little daughters, Harper (5) & Wesley (2). Logan really wanted to come back to Colorado so Harper & Wesley could get a taste of our life out here and so Harper could ski for the first time. Not to mention to visit us and their cousin, Sawyer. My mom accompanied Logan and the gals and they all flew into Eagle for 4 days with us Chalks. It was an action-packed weekend of good ole family fun and quality time together. From Harper skiing all 3 days at Beaver Creek, Logan skiing, dancing to music at the Westin Friday night, playing at the park, taking Harper bouldering at the WECMRD facility, attending a kiddos sing-a-long at the library, to everyone swimming at the Avon rec center, we about did it all except taking the gals swissbobbing. We’ll have to leave that for next time.

Harper (right) and Wesley's first time on a gondola

Harper (right) and Wesley’s first time on a gondola

Logan & Harper happy to be in Colorado

Logan & Harper happy to be in Colorado

My mom & sis

My mom & sis

Harper climbing on Sawyer's climbing wall

Harper climbing on Sawyer’s climbing wall

Harper on the WECMRD bouldering wall in her UGGs!

Harper on the WECMRD bouldering wall in her UGGs!

Harper at the Eagle River with me taking Rainie for a swim

Harper at the Eagle River with me taking Rainie for a swim

Wesley, Sawyer, & mom at the Westin Hotel

Wesley, Sawyer, & mom at the Westin Hotel

Doing some "kid" partying in the lobby at the Westin all the while listening to some great music

Doing some “kid” partying in the lobby at the Westin all the while listening to some great music

Sawyer getting her groove on listening to the band

Sawyer getting her groove on listening to the band

Harper & Sawyer

Harper & Sawyer

Sawyer was rocking out all over the lobby :)

Sawyer was rocking out all over the lobby :)

The Chalk & Foose gals

The Chalk & Foose gals

Wesley is hilarious

Wesley is hilarious

Me, my sis, and my neices

Me, my sis, and my neices

Wesley loved ole Rainier

Wesley loved ole Rainier

I love this pic of Wesley & Sawyer

I love this pic of Wesley & Sawyer

Cousins

Cousins

At the Avon library music hour

At the Avon library music hour

Harper would always take Sawyer under her wing

Harper would always take Sawyer under her wing

Sawyer loved the balloons

Sawyer loved the balloons

Logan, Harper, Wesley, mom, and myself went to Beaver Creek’s magic carpet area the first day and I attempted to do my best showing Harper the ropes of skiing and the “pizza wedge”. Having never had a ski lesson myself, I didn’t think I did a great job with Harper. I always thought Kristine would do better. However, it was wonderful to see Harper on skis for the first time. Kristine went with Logan & Harper the second day and did a much better job than I did as Harper made significant progress on day 2 skiing down the magic carpet hills with no help at all.

Kristine showing Harper the art of the "pizza wedge"

Kristine showing Harper the art of the “pizza wedge”

The Harpinator!

The Harpinator!

Aunt Kiki & Harper

Aunt Kiki & Harper

Logan & Harper

Logan & Harper

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Harper's new hairdoo

Harper’s new hairdoo

Harper’s 3rd day of skiing was super fun. I feel like if she had a few more days, then she could ski green runs down the mountain.

Harper

Harper

Harper & Logan

Harper & Logan

A video of Harper skiing:

Logan and I went skiing at Arrowhead & Bachelor Gulch on Sunday afternoon and it was wonderful to be together – just us. Kristine skinned up the mountain and skied a run with us. Logan even went down a black bump run for our last run, despite having not skied in 7 years, and we had a beer for a little apres-ski at the base of the mountain like the good ole days in Telluride.

Logan, me, & Kristine at the top of Arrowhead

Logan, me, & Kristine at the top of Arrowhead

Me and my sis

Me and my sis

Logan skiing down the black diamond named Wapiti at Arrowhead

Logan skiing down the black diamond named Wapiti at Arrowhead

What a wonderful treat it was for Kristine, Sawyer, Rainie, Kona, & myself to host my mom, Logan, Harper, & Wesley. It was so special for everyone. Special special thanks to my mom for coming out with Logan and watching the babies so much over the weekend so the rest of us could get out with each other and enjoy a little time doing more “adult” activities such as skiing, skinning, & bouldering. I think everyone was exhausted after the weekend, but that’s a good sign to know that we all had a great weekend together.

Rainier’s 13th Bday Swissbob

One of my most favorite activities is hiking up the ski mountain and swissbobbing down with Rainie. We’ve been doing this for years and have perfected her ability to sit on my lap while we rocket down the slopes. Its so much fun. She circles around me ready to hop on my lap when we reach the top and wouldn’t even consider hiking downhill. The older she gets, obviously riding down is better for her joints. And, she still gets the good cardio by hiking uphill. Joel Gratz, Lauren Alweis, and Megan Gilman joined us for her 13th birthday swissbob up on Arrowhead on January 11. J was going to as well but needed to descend with baby Raina as it was bitterly cold outside. Joel was so extremely helpful in skiing down beside us getting the “skier cam” perspective. I had J’s GoPro on my head for a bird’s eye view. Rainie & I have been up Arrowhead probably close to 1000 times in all seasons (skinning/skiing, swissbobbing, running, hiking) over the past 12 years, but had never videoed the fun swissbob descent. Well, this time we did. And, with the fantastic video editing by Thomas Oelberger, we have a fun video of Rainie swissbobbing down the mountain. Special thanks to Joel & Thomas. I hope you enjoy the video below and be sure to turn on the 720p HD setting:

Rainie turns 13!

Today is Rainie’s 13th birthday! To be able to say that feels so good considering the fall we have been through. We went through a few months of knowing Rainie had a splenic tumor and via ultrasounds and such we determined as best we could that it was benign. Yet, it was still a tumor and could rupture causing internal bleeding and ultimately death. And, it was getting larger. It was ultimately my call to put her through this surgery in order to have it removed. I was worried and worried and worried every minute of every day for weeks that it would rupture. Her belly was looking fairly distended as well. Knowing she was as healthy as an almost 13 yr old could be, I decided to schedule the surgery with Charlie Meynier knowing full well he would do his absolute best and take care of her. And, that he did. She was a rockstar and really did so well. She stayed overnight for monitoring, but her spleen and tumor were removed all together weighing almost 4.5 lbs. Imagine that in your gut! She has so much more energy now and acts like her old self once again. Hopefully, we have prolonged her life a bit longer.

Me & Sawyer visiting Rainie the morning after her big surgery. She was pretty chipper!

Me & Sawyer visiting Rainie the morning after her big surgery. She was pretty chipper!

Rainie has been by my side for 13 years. She is the best friend and companion a guy could ask for. I am so lucky to have had her all these years through the many adventures, tough times, and the happiest of times. She really is the best of the best. You know you truly love something when you love that something more than yourself. Here’s to Rainie and more happy times with us on this earth!

A much younger me and Rainie on the summit of La Plata Peak

A much younger me and Rainie on the summit of La Plata Peak

Mt. Harvard's summit over a decade ago

Mt. Harvard’s summit over a decade ago

The four of us on a winter climb of La Plata Peak

The four of us on a winter climb of La Plata Peak

Me & Rainie at the Sand Dunes a long time ago

Me & Rainie at the Sand Dunes a long time ago

My buddy Lee Hoffman took this great pic of Rainie with Mt. Aetna behind

My buddy Lee Hoffman took this great pic of Rainie with Mt. Aetna behind

An old pic of Rainie and I on top of Lionshead Rock with Mt. of the Holy Cross behind. This was one of our go-to hikes for years and years

An old pic of Rainie and I on top of Lionshead Rock with Mt. of the Holy Cross behind. This was one of our go-to hikes for years and years

The Spider's summit in the Gore rainge with Rainie

The Spider’s summit in the Gore rainge with Rainie

New 14er Dog Book

Well, after 7 years in the making and 11 years of climbing 14ers with his golden retriever named Sawyer, Josh Aho of Denver completed his wonderful coffee table-style book chronicling his and Sawyer’s 14er adventures together in an attempt to become the 2nd human/dog duo to climb all of Colorado’s 14ers. They were so close to completing their goal, but Capitol Peak, widely regarded as Colorado’s hardest 14er by its easiest route, eluded them. This book really is a one of a kind book and anyone who loves dogs and hiking mountains should buy this book.

Climbing Colorado's 14ers with Sawyer

Climbing Colorado’s 14ers with Sawyer

Years ago Josh reached out to me inquiring about Rainier’s 14er adventures and climbs with me. He was planning on doing a section of his book dedicated to the history of 14er dogs who had climbed a significant number of them and had done some of the tougher peaks. I was honored that he thought to include her in this section. Rainie was honored too :) Rainie and I have spent a lot of time together exploring the Colorado 14ers (and countless other peaks and areas) and she really was my #1 partner for so many years on these peaks. All said and done she climbed 45 different 14ers (of 54) and probably 150+ total ascents of 14ers with multiple repeats. She has probably logged 25 ascents up Quandary Peak south of Breckenridge not to mention 3 summits of Snowmass Mountain, 2 of Wilson Peak, 2 of Mt. Sneffels, 2 summits of both Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak, the El Diente to Mt. Wilson traverse, 1 ascent of Pyramid Peak, 1 ascent of Wetterhorn Peak, and 1 of Crestone Peak just to name the highlights.

The History of 14er Dogs section. Can you spot Rainie?

The History of 14er Dogs section. Can you spot Rainie?

Rainie's section

Rainie’s section. Click to enlarge

I cannot imagine the effort and dedication it takes to pull off a book like this and my hat (several hats) are off to Josh on a monumental effort and wonderful success. He initially had 1,000 of these books printed and shipped to his home and I have no doubt he can sell them all. There are so many hiking dog lovers all over Colorado and the country that would love every page of this book. The pictures are outstanding and Josh chronicles each climb with Sawyer and even has a “paw” rating for how dog-friendly the 14er may be.

A typical two page spread for each 14er. This one is dedicated to their climb of Wetterhorn Peak

A typical two page spread for each 14er. This one is dedicated to their climb of Wetterhorn Peak

A few chapters are dedicated to certain climbs that took multiple attempts and extraordinary effort. One such chapter details their climb of Pyramid Peak, likely one of the top 5 hardest 14ers. I haven’t reached this chapter yet in my dissection of this book, but I can’t wait to get there as I have fond memories of Rainier and I climbing this same mountain.

Ascending the Pyramid chapter

Ascending the Pyramid chapter

I have to throw in a few pics of Rainier and I climbing Pyramid back in August of 2009 as this was one of my most favorite days in the mountains. Good friends Caleb & Jennie Wray joined us for this climb. This was my 4th time up Pyramid and I had climbed it just two weeks prior to when Rainie and I climbed it just to make sure I knew the route without hesitation. I was so very proud of Rainie that day. Well, I am always proud of her no matter what. She really stuck by my side (right on my heels) on all of the treacherous 14ers and if there was a move she needed help with she just waited for my help either ascending or descending. That’s what the dog harness was for – to help her in tricky spots,

Starting out with a view of the Maroon Bells. Photo by Caleb Wray

Starting out with a view of the Maroon Bells. Photo by Caleb Wray

Hitting snowline and she has her dog harness ready to go

Hitting snowline and she has her dog harness ready to go

The "Leap of Faith" move

The “leap of faith” move. Photo by Caleb Wray

The class 4 "Green Couloir"

The class 4 “Green Couloir”

Rainie on the summit ridge

Rainie on the summit ridge

Rainie and I on Pyramid's summit

Rainie and I on Pyramid’s summit

...and down we go. Photo by Caleb Wray

…and down we go. Photo by Caleb Wray

Anyway, back to Josh’s book. Weighing in at over 5 lbs, its a beefy book but is packed full of 350+ pages of wonderful photos and stories. As slow a reader as I am, its going to take me a while to read the entire masterpiece, but if you like mountains and dogs, you should order a copy. More details and ordering information can be found on Josh’s website at www.14ercanine.com.

Mom’s Visit & 6th Anniversary Trail Run

Mom came into town to visit us 2 weekends ago (well, really to visit Sawyer) and we all had a great time together. I think we all felt she really bonded with Sawyer and Sawyer really got to know Mom. Mom came to Aspen with us for Joel & Lauren’s wedding and was super babysitter for Sawyer while we partied down at Buttermilk with all of our friends.

Sawyer loves her Rainier

Sawyer loves her Rainier

And, Rainier loves Sawyer

And, Rainier loves Sawyer

Mom reading to Sawyer

Mom reading to Sawyer

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We all took a nice fall hike in Wilder Gulch at the top of Vail Pass one day and rolled over Independence Pass en route to Aspen to enjoy the awesome fall weather.

Wilder Gulch with Ptarmigan Hill behind

Wilder Gulch with Ptarmigan Hill behind

Sawyer loves this backpack

Sawyer loves this backpack

Great to be with Mom

Great to be with Mom

Who needs baby toys? Sticks, leaves, and rocks will do just fine

Who needs baby toys? Sticks, leaves, and rocks will do just fine

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Top of Independence Pass (12,100')

Top of Independence Pass (12,100′)

A bit chilly, but a good time and visit with Mom

A bit chilly, but a good time and visit with Mom

Then, our 6th year wedding anniversary was this past Saturday, October 3. Our good friend Sabrina was more than nice to come over and hang with Sawyer and the dogs while we had a 3 day activity planned. First was a trail run of one of our favorite trails accessible out our front door, the A10 trail, connecting Edwards and Arrowhead. This is a very popular mountain bike ride as you get a long 4 miles descent if biking from Arrowhead to Edwards. While we have both run, hiked, snowshoed this trail countless times, I have never really posted many pics of this fun loop. I believe the loop is about 10 miles Edwards to Arrowhead or vice versa with another 2+ miles on highway 6. I drove the car over to Arrowhead to leave it for us and ran the 2+ miles back home. Sabrina came over and Kristine & I departed up the trail around 11:45am.

An overview of the A10 as seen from Red & White Mountain to the north

An overview of the A10 as seen from Red & White Mountain to the north

A close-up of the descent down into McCoy Guclch and down the Arrowhead ski run

A close-up of the descent down into McCoy Guclch and down the Arrowhead ski run

This is such a great run with the first 4 miles from our house taking you up over 2,200′ vertical gain in about 4 miles to the high point of the trail at 9,425′. The views are outstanding of the Northern Sawatch Range and Lake Creek Valley.

Kristine on the ridgeline in the 4th meadow having done most of the elevation gain

Kristine on the ridgeline in the 4th meadow having done most of the elevation gain

Kristine topping out on the A10 trail

Kristine topping out on the A10 trail

We did pretty well this time around making it to the summit in about 50 minutes

We did pretty well this time around making it to the summit in about 50 minutes

On top!

On top!

Beautiful views looking back into the East Lake Creek Valley

Beautiful views looking back into the East Lake Creek Valley

Heading down to the saddle to get into McCoy Gulch

Heading down to the saddle to get into McCoy Gulch

Next stop: Arrowhead

Next stop: Arrowhead

We arrived at the car about 1 hour and 45 minutes after starting and quickly sped up to the Ritz Carlton Hotel at Bachelor Gulch for our 2nd activity for the day: a hour long couples massage that Kristine had set up! Let’s just say this was much needed and just plain awesome. We enjoyed the outdoor hot tub as well for 20 minutes afterwards.

Outdoor hot tub time at the Ritz

Outdoor hot tub time at the Ritz

Then, to top off our day, we changed, showered, and sped down to the Riverwalk Theater in Edwards to see the new Everest movie together at 4pm. We definitely wanted to see this together and actually really enjoyed it. Most other mountaineering-related Hollywood movies are a a bit far-fetched and unrealistic. However, Everest really seemed to be mostly spot-on with regards to the footage, camps, the story, etc. It is based on the 1996 Everest tragedy portrayed in Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air.  It was much more emotional for us than we thought. I think its a super sad story to begin with and the fact we have some attachment towards that peak, it was really tough and hit home seeing Rob Hall die just below the South Summit and leaving his wife and unborn baby at home in New Zealand. Makes you think about things no doubt. But, we thought it was well done and the footage was super cool. I think they portrayed the mountain’s aspects very well from Kathmandu to the the Khumbu Valley, basecamp life, to the upper camps, and the Hillary Step and summit ridge. Even the box on the summit and the mound of prayer flags on the summit was very realistic.

Everest summit pic we took that morning 6 years ago on May 25

Everest summit pic we took that morning 6 years ago on May 25

We had a phenomenal day together just the two of us as it should be on your anniversary. Thanks so much to Sabrina for watching the 3 other Chalks for most of the day! Love you, Kristine!

Back on the Maine Coast

We always look forward to our week back in Maine. The Oelberger Residence is located on the St. George River about 20 minutes from the city of Rockland. Its so relaxing and we always enjoy our time with Ken & Dianne in their element on the coast of Maine. They are officially true “Mainers” now. Its always a full travel day (14 hours or so) from our house to the Oelberger’s house, but I feel its always fun taking the hour long flight from Boston to Owl’s Head on the 8-seater Cape Air Cessna.

About to board the Cessna in Boston

About to board the Cessna in Boston

Kristine’s sister, Carrie, was also there with her family (Thomas, Teo, & Kai) visiting  from Minneapolis. It was essentially one big Oelberger reunion. Our good friends Kate & Chris Danforth (with kids Harper & Afton in tow) from Burlington, VT (who vacation on the coast of Maine at Squirrel Island all summer) even came and stayed with us for 24 hours overnight. It was a houseful, but so fun. My sister, Logan, and her husband Ransome came up to visit for a few hours from Booth Bay Harbor as they were in-state for a wedding in Portland. It was a treat to have them visit us at the Oelberger Residence. Lots of activities were abundant each day including getting out on the boat(s), a few good trail runs (one great one with Chris Danforth on the local hiking trails), setting up a rope in a tree in the front yard (to show Thomas how to ascend a rope to trim/take down a large Mulberry Tree in Minneapolis yard), an afternoon of rock climbing for Kristine & myself at Barrett’s Cove Cliff, and numerous other fun events.

Left to Right: Kate, Harper, Kristine, Afton, me, Chris, & Thomas

Left to right: Kate, Harper, Kristine, Afton, me, Chris, & Thomas

Teo & Carrie helping Thomas with the ropework in the Oelberger's front yard

Teo & Carrie helping Thomas with the ropework in the Oelberger’s front yard

My sister, Logan, brother-in-law, Ransome, and us

My sister, Logan, brother-in-law, Ransome, and us

Logan & Sawyer

Logan & Sawyer

Thomas practicing his jumaring

Thomas practicing his jumaring

The view from the Oelberger's front deck of Thomas dangling from the oak tree above the St. George River

The view from the Oelberger’s front deck of Thomas dangling from the oak tree above the St. George River

Who needs baby toys when you have climbing gear?

Who needs baby toys when you have climbing gear?

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Sawyer did not like the life vest

Sawyer did not like the life vest

Down by the water

Down by the water

Chris & Sawyer

Chris & Sawyer

There was a lot of stimulation for Sawyer all week with all of the kiddos

There was a lot of stimulation for Sawyer all week with all of the kiddos

Kristine & I had coordinated borrowing a full rack of climbing gear and rope(s) from the nicest gentleman, Bruce Gerard, who lives in Appleton (40 minutes away from Ken & Dianne) and had done landscape work for the Oelbergers in the past. Bruce had done a lot of climbing around the US and in New England. He is a veteran of the local climbing scene especially around Rockland, Camden, & Rockport and is essentially a “guidebook” himself. He was so generous to lend us his gear and we so enjoyed visiting he and his wife at his home on 20 acres for a good hour or so. I hope we can climb with Bruce on a future visit. All Kristine & I had to bring from Colorado were our harnesses, shoes, a helmet, and a few slings/biners/quickdraws. Bruce indeed saved us a lot of hastle with transporting a lot of gear across the county. So, the Oelbergers with Carrie & Thomas were so nice to watch Sawyer for 5+ hours while Kristine & I went and had some time to ourselves scoping out a new climbing area (to us) at Barrett’s Cove Cliff about 40 minutes away. It was a great afternoon just the two of us. We climbed a 260′ two-pitch route called Charlotte’s Crack (5.7 R), which was apparently one of the classic climbs of the area. It was a lot of fun. I couldn’t have led it without Bruce’s “Camden Rack” – lots of small TCUs, micro-nuts, and “east coast” gear. Very different from our splitter cracks out here where you maybe need 8-10 cams of the same size.

Me leading away on the 1st pitch of Charlotte's Crack

Me leading away on the 1st pitch of Charlotte’s Crack

Fun face climbing with decent protection

Fun face climbing with decent protection

I tagged a 2nd (blue) rope for our rappels

I tagged a 2nd (blue) rope for our rappels

Me on the 2nd portion of the 1st pitch

Me on the 2nd portion of the 1st pitch

140' up you reach  a large ledge called "Broadway" and a 2-bolt anchor

140′ up you reach a large ledge called “Broadway” and a 2-bolt anchor

me on Broadway with Barrett's Cove behind

me on Broadway with Barrett’s Cove behind

At Broadway ledge

At Broadway ledge

We then transitioned to another 2-bolt anchor 15′ to our left on Broadway and I saddled up and began climbing up the enjoyable 2nd pitch of Charlotte’s Crack. The 2nd pitch was 120′ of 5.7 climbing up to two large trees which provided a suitable anchor from which I belayed Kristine up.

Me beginning the lead of the upper pitch of Charlotte's Crack

Me beginning the lead of the upper pitch of Charlotte’s Crack

There was a nice little off-width section, which was fun

There was a nice little off-width section, which was fun

Upper pitch of Charlotte's Crack

Upper pitch of Charlotte’s Crack

Kristine topping out

Kristine topping out

Really pretty views from the top of the cliff

Really pretty views from the top of the cliff

We then moved 15′ back to the left to find the rappel anchors and set up the double rope rap.

Setting up the 1st double rope rappel

Setting up the 1st double rope rappel

Happy to be out just the two of us

Happy to be out just the two of us

Rapping down to Broadway

Rapping down to Broadway

Upon reaching the ground after two double rope raps, we decided to hike around and find this other climbing area called The Verticals where several fun 5.9-5.10 sport routes existed. After scrambling up a gully and a stream bed we found two climbs on our right and just decided to climb these. I have no idea what they are, but the challenging climb was all good fun and gave me a bit of a pump. We felt like we needed to get back to Sawyer and while Kristine packed up the gear and coiled the ropes, I ran up the stream bed and found the top anchors for the climbs on The Verticals. They looked very cool. Next time for sure.

Kristine hiking out. A climber (in a pink shirt) can be seen way up on the 2nd pitch of Charlotte's Crack

Kristine hiking out. A climber (in a pink shirt) can be seen way up on the 2nd pitch of Charlotte’s Crack

Route outline of Charlotte's Crack as seen from Barrett's Cove: red is 1st pitch, blue is Broadway, & green is 2nd pitch

Route outline of Charlotte’s Crack as seen from Barrett’s Cove: red is 1st pitch, blue is Broadway, & green is 2nd pitch

Barrett's Cove Cliff from Barrett's Cove parking area

Barrett’s Cove Cliff from Barrett’s Cove parking area

We met a nice climbing guide and owner of Northern Vertical named Ryan Howes at the base of Charlotte’s Crack with a client and he recommended we check our the Ocean Lookout crag with its variety of crack climbs. Looking forward to that hopefully on our next visit! A few more of our favorite pics throughout the week are as follows:

Me and S down by the water in front of the Oelbergers home

Me and S down by the water in front of the Oelberger’s home

The Chalks

The Chalks

Sawyer, Teo, me, & Carrie

Sawyer, Teo, me, & Carrie

Kristine took these gorgeous sunset pics looking over Ken & Dianne's motorboat and the St. George River

Kristine took these gorgeous sunset pics looking over Ken & Dianne’s motorboat and the St. George River

Very peaceful

Very peaceful

Cousins (Left to right: Teo, Kai, Sawyer)

Cousins (Left to right: Teo, Kai, Sawyer)

Laughing babies

Laughing babies

Sawyer's 4th of July attire

Sawyer’s 4th of July attire

Taking the Oelberger motorboat out for a spin

Taking the Oelberger motorboat out for a spin

Seals sunbathing on the rocks

Seals sunbathing on the rocks

And, Sawyer tried her 1st Maine lobster! The first of many...

And, Sawyer tried her 1st Maine lobster! The first of many…

Until next time, Maine!