The Ladies of Cripple Creek, CO

Cripple Creek Travel Blog

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Hotel St Nicholas

Saturday, June 14, 2008

 

If I had given any thought the day before that I was sleeping in a supposedly haunted hotel on Friday the 13th, I might have been predisposed to turn innocent sounds in the wanderings of Casper’s cousin. But, it never crossed my mind. Besides I fear Monday the 13th, as I know bad things occur then. They start with the alarm signaling the start of the work week.

 

But, I digress.

Carr Manor (Old High School)
Margo said she slept fine with no apparitions or sounds interrupting her slumber. I, on the other hand, did hear some sort of metal on metal scraping. I could not place the sound, and it did briefly enter into my mind that it could be something supernatural. On the other hand, I was half asleep in a 110 year old building. The part of my brain that put up the argument “It’s nothing. Roll over and go to sleep” won. Even as I write this now, I’m unconvinced that I heard anything that would have been unexplained if I had gotten up to investigate. But, you never know. When we got up the next morning, nothing had appeared to have been moved or rearranged. So I put it out of mind, and got ready to start the day.

 

We were out of bed early enough to enjoy the free continental breakfast, just off the lobby.

Cripple Creek and Victor Railroad
We were joined by another couple, from Littleton CO, and we all talked a bit with the AM Hotel Manager. She told us a few stories about the hotel and a few ghost stories. This is when we learned about our room being the old nursery and the tales of crying babies heard by current guests. After we ate we decided to first walk around the hotel and take in some of the charm and a few pictures. We discovered the billiard room and The Boiler Room, which is the house tavern. It is named because for the large brass boiler door that hangs behind the bar. This came off of the furnace that used to serve the hotel. The room that contains the Boiler Room, used to be the hospital laundry. The real boiler room was in the basement, and not open to the public. There wouldn’t be anything to see anyway.

 

As we were checking out, there was no reason to use the shuttle for sightseeing today.

Engine #3, My train
We just got in our car and drove to the east end of town to start out day. I had a list of things I wanted to see and do today. They included; Ride the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad, tour the Mollie Kathleen Mine, take the ghost tour that I had read about, and visit the Mt Pisgah cemetery. Upon check out we discovered that the town of Cripple Creek was conducting a kind of scavenger hunt. They had a list of about 15(?) places they want you to visit. If you visited ten (by the end of the year) you were put in a drawing for something. As our hotel was one of the places, and so were several others on our potential to-see list, we decided to play along. We were issued a map and an entry sheet. It was to be stamped when we visited a designated place. 

 

As I only had the scantest information about the Ghost Tour I decided to head to the area where it I thought it started and ask around.

My darling wife
Coincidently one of the places on The List was the Carr Manor, another historic hotel. It was right at the intersection where I thought the tours began. So we headed up there. We soon discovered that the Carr Manor was the old Cripple Creek High School. It had been converted into a boutique Bed and Breakfast. Margo and I were very impressed as we were taken on the tour. It was impeccably decorated and renovated. There were only two real signs that this used to be a school. One was the words “High School” directly above the entrance. The other was that the blackboards had been left in. I’m not sure how they did it, but the blackboards “worked”. They stood out, without dominating. Margo and I both had our cameras with us, and neither of us took any pictures inside. Maybe that would have shown you what I can’t explain. We got to see the two best suites; The Ralph Carr suite and the Sheriff Boynton Suite. Both were very impressive. You can go to www.
Prospector's Pit
carrmanor.com
and see for yourself. I could go on about this place a bit, but it only makes me bad. I still can’t believe we didn’t take any pictures. Next time in Cripple Creek, we just might have to stay here.

 

There was some bad news associated with this hotel visit. We found out that the guy who used to conduct the Ghost Tour operated the inn across the street. But, he had sold out and moved away. Too bad. I was looking forward to that. We got our stamp from the Manor and moved on, a bit disappointed, but very impressed with the hotel.

 

There was a celebration going on to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Old Hoist House
The epicenter, not unsurprisingly was in parking lot of that museum. The CCDM was right beside the Cripple Creek & Victor RR. So to kill two birds with one stone we decided to make that our next stop. The celebration began at 10 AM and we were there about a half hour late. By big city standards this was a lightweight affair. But Margo and I, instead of being put off by its size, felt more like a close friend had invited us to their family reunion. There was plenty of beer and food. I have nothing against either, but I was more interested in the train, and seeing a bit of the Cripple Creek area. So the museum was going to have to stand in line for my attention

 

For those not familiar with the term “narrow gauge” it pertains to the distance between the two rails.

Old barrier to hold back the tailings
Standard Gauge is 4’ 8 ½”. Narrow gauge is anything less than that, and could be in a variety of sizes. Narrow Gauge was used commonly in the Colorado Mountains in the 1880s for a couple of reasons. One, it required less right of way to be purchased or leased. Second, it was possible to make tighter turns. But, it presented problems as a train set up for narrow gauge could not run on standard width rails. While interesting, I was just excited to ride or another real coal-fired, steam-driven train. I had taken the family to Durango and rode the famous Durango-Silverton, another narrow gauge railroad, about ten years ago. That scenery there was unrivaled. I was curious to see how this would compare.

 

We had two choices, and inside car and an outside car.

In the background, the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine. That is an acive open pit mine. Mid picture is a turn of the century mine
The temperature at 9500 feet, in July, at 11 AM, was in the 70s. So I figured outside would be great. It turned out to be just this side of perfect. The train moved at a pretty leisurely pace and the subsequent breeze was refreshing without being cold. We had clear blue skies and were close enough to the intercom to hear most of the running commentary educating us on the history of the area. The ride was only about 45 minutes, but we past many old mines (The Cripple Creek area was home to over 500), and a ghost town or two. We saw Poverty Gulch were gold we first discovered in the area, and saw a tiny segment of the Cripple Creek. But, in this 21st century incarnation, it looked like an irrigation ditch. We saw numerous holes in the ground that we learned were Prospector’s Holes. These were sample holes dug so as to obtain a rock sample. When assayed to determine the amount of gold, that told the potential miner if it was worth his time or not.
Ball and Chains
All an all it was everything I hoped for, except it could have lasted longer.

 

Back at the depot we shopped some, and then decided to head next door to both the celebration and Cripple Creek District Museum. There was no admission charge as this was a special day for them. The museum had three levels, and we spent some time in all three. I first noticed a pair of real ball and chains. These were put on prisoners to make running difficult. I had only seen these sorts of things in the Saturday morning cartoons of my youth. They were always drawn as to be the size of a basketball. With these real ones the ball was the size of a baseball or softball. There were plenty of other things to see; the original, wooden, headstone of the city’s most famous madam, Pearl DeVere, a display about heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey (Jack, known as the Manassa {CO} Mauler, got his start fighting in the mining camps of Colorado); the old telephone switchboard, lots of mining artifacts, and mannequins dressed in period cloths.

The Old Cripple Creek Switchboard
The last thing we did before leaving the museum was to visit the gift shop. I bought a small bag of equine candy. One of the things that Cripple Creek is known for is their herd of wild burros. They have roamed the town and countryside for the last 80-90 years. They are the descendants of burros that had worked in the mines, but basically turned loose when technology put them in the unemployment line. They have been known to stop traffic looking for a handout. I was looking forward to seeing them.

 

We had heard about another museum in town, from the other St Nick guests, called the Old Homestead. This is the last “parlour house” still standing in Cripple Creek. It was owned and operated by the aforementioned, Pearl DeVere. The idea of visiting this particular museum was cemented in our minds by our morning breakfast companions.

The original tombstone for madam, Pearl DeVere
While giving their recommendation for the museum, we were told of the elderly lady who gave tours. She was a bit of a character and at one point issued the proclamation “I’m 80 years old, and I work in a whorehouse.” Who wouldn’t want to be led by a tour guide like that?

 

We made our way to the museum and paid our admission. The tour was split up between two ladies, the second of which was the self proclaimed bawdy house worker. I confess to being disappointed. She must not have been in top form, as we didn’t get any character out of her. But we did get a lot of information about Pearl and her girls.

 

The Old Homestead is the last standing Parlour House because two fires in 1895 burned most of the town to the ground.

Homestead House (white) The red building is the Homestead Casino
Pearl rebuilt her house out of brick. The two most interesting part of Pearl’s house were it’s brevity and it’s opulence. Pearl arrived in 1893 and died of a morphine overdose, in1897. What I have subsequently read is that it was accidental, but the two ladies giving the tours say it was suicide brought on by a jilted lover. Pearl’s fee for a night with one of her girls was $250 per night. $20 per week was a pretty good wage in those days, so you had to have some means to afford the Homestead. Just money wasn’t enough. You had to both be recommended, and then submit to an interview.

 

The house itself had indoor plumbing, a telephone, an intercom system, imported wallpaper, chandeliers, and wall paper.

The Homestead House
The girls were the most beautiful that could be found. Our tour took us to several rooms, and we heard a few stories of the girls who lived there. It’s hard to compare opulence of the late 19th century to that of the early 21st century, but it was easy to see that this place had been something in it’s day. Strangely, one of the things that I most remember about the tour is seeing a curling iron. These look similar to the ones of today, but to heat them you used the heat of a lamp, stove, or even a specially designed device for the purpose.

 

And once again, Margo and I took almost no pictures. I guess these cameras are just to identify us to the locals as tourists. We thanked our guides, got our scavenger stamps (Third one. We be jammin’!) and decided to head into town for some lunch.

 

After lunch, at one of the casinos, we headed to the far west end of town to visit The Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum.

Outlaw and Lawman Jail Museum. Don't miss it.
I had planned to visit it when I heard about it, and it was on your scavenger list, but in truth I had only modest expectations. But, I was immediately blown away when we walked through the door. There before us stood an ancient, two-tiered, iron prison. I genuinely felt like I had just stepped back in time by about 75 years. Margo and I did finally figure out how to open our camera cases, so we did a decent job of documenting this attraction. But, the pictures don’t do it justice. You are decidedly impressed about the absolute sparseness and what must have been mind numbing boredom that the residents must have had to deal with. I did feel a bit sorry for them, but I got over it quickly. These residents earned there stay here and if the accommodations were not to their liking they could either change their ways or move on. Still one particular cell really drove home what it must have been like. One inmate had spent hundreds of hours decorating his cell to make it look like it was home. He did this with a pencil. He drew bricks, a window, a fireplace, and even a dog.
Inside the "decorated" cell
Everywhere you looked he had covered all four walls with something to make it seem less dreary. Should you ever make it Cripple Creek, put this on your must see list. On the walls were large murals with accompanying stories telling of Cripple Creek’s most famous villains. Few if any are known outside the general area, but are interesting none the less. This building and cells served as the Teller County Jail until the 1970s when it was shut down. It was deemed to be too cruel an existence for the inmates.

 

By now it was getting to be midafternoon and I really wanted to see the Mollie Kathleen mine. The tour is supposed to be something, and the last one was at 5:00. I wanted to go now and then we could wing the rest our stay here in the mountains.

I would have been very disappointed if we hadn't got to see the famous donkeys
Margo was enjoying it so far, so she had no objections. To get to the mine we would need out car. The mine was just outside of town and the shuttle did not go that far. So we flagged down the shuttle and told the man we wanted to go to the other end of town, back to the railroad. About two blocks into the trip, it crossed my mind to ask the driver if he had seen the donkeys today. He had, but wasn't sure where they were now. Almost immediately they came into sight. They were grazing at the side of the Cripple Creek. I told the driver he could just drop us off right here, and he was happy to do it. I gave him a quick tip, and Margo and I went out to meet the donkeys.

 

As soon as the donkeys saw us coming towards them, they lifted their heads and started walking towards us. We were evidently not the first tourists they had seen. It took less than a minute for Margo and I to distibute the small bag of horse candy.

Waiting to go down. That is the skip in the background
Once we were treat-free the burros lost interest in us, and headed back to grass. But, I was happy. I got to feed and pet the donkeys. Margo was less thrilled. She got donkey spit on her hand, and they smelled. Oh, well. Such is the price of living.

 

We were only about two blocks from our car so we walked over. Soon were on our way out of town, heading back out of town the same way we had come the day before. It only took about five minutes. We purchased our tickets and were told we had about 20 minutes until the next tour. They had a nice gift shop so we wandered around a bit. Margo noticed the jewelry display (Uh-Oh), and I found the books. But we didn’t linger long.

 

It was still plenty warm, but when we bought our tickets we were warned the temp at the bottom of the mine was about 55 degrees, so Margo and I went to the car and got our jackets.

Old Mollie Kathleen building.
You always bring jackets when you go to the mountains. It can get chilly, anytime of the year, at night.

 

We didn’t have to wait long for our tour to start. Our group consisted of 11 people. To get into the mine they would have to load us in the skip. This is a kind of elevator or cage which is lowered down to the mine, by the man in the hoist house. I was surprised to learn that the skip is a dual level contraption. They divided us into a group of 5 and a group of 6. Margo and I were a third of the larger group. We got squeezed into the first half of the skip. Then the hoist house man raised the elevator up, and exposed the bottom half of the conveyance. The other group, plus the guide was loaded up, and down we went.

 

The bottom of the mine, at least our area was 1000 ft below the surface.

Yes, you are. And there is a mountain on top of you!
It took us only about two minutes. 500 feet per minutes was not quite fast enough to make my ears pop, but it was moving at a good clip. I was happy the trip went quick. Loading six people, even factoring in that two were kids was a tight squeeze. Think Tokyo subway. When we got to the bottom and me, Margo, and our four newest friends stepped out, we joined the rest of the group who got our first. Our guide was a grizzled, bearded, 60ish, Alaskan miner. We were told he had been a miner for 30 years. Throughout our tour I learned more about mining in that hour, than I had known cumulative in my whole life. Given that I live in Colorado and my grandfather was a coal miner that should give you an idea of this guy’s knowledge.

 

I mentioned that the tour lasted an hour, but it really didn’t feel like it.

Margo is paying very close attention
He moved us from place to place and filled every minute with something interesting and informative. I’m not going to go into great detail, but things like when blasting all the explosions don’t go off at once. When mining you start at a point down and mine upward. And that hard rock mines, like this one, don’t need any structural support. No timbers to prevent the ceiling from caving in are needed.

 

We saw mining equipment that covered the last 100 years, and learned about its evolution and effects on the miners. We learned that the donkeys that pulled the ore carts in the early days spent their whole lives in the mines. They never saw the surface. We even got to see their old stalls. The stalls had been converted to be used as a kind of break area for the miners once technology had make donkey power obsolete. Our guide joked that this break area was thus, the very first Hard Rock Café.

Our guide about to demonstate "single jacking" Which is one man drilling. Strike the hammer on the bit, quarter turn, repeat a few thousand times.
I immediately was hoping for a T-shirt.

 

At the end of the tour we were all given a real piece of gold ore. He warned us not to get too excited. The sample likely contained about $2 worth of gold, but would take about $25 in refining to extract it. Oh, well. Our tour ended there, and we loaded back up for the return trip. Up top we hit the gift shop. Margo bought herself a ring. I got a booklet on Cripple Creek history.

 

The afternoon was rapidly slipping away and we wanted to be home by 10 PM, as we both had to work on Monday. That did not give us a lot of time.

The Original Hard Rock Cafe
We were hungry so we went back into town and ate at a Mexican restaurant inside the Bronco Billy’s Casino. It was supposed to be the best Mexican food in Cripple Creek. But that is not exactly a glowing testimonial. That might be roughly equivalent to being the best oboe player in Big River, Iowa. It was pretty good. Nothing out of the ordinary.

 

Most businesses in Cripple Creek close up around 5 PM. It was past that by now, so we were pretty much done with any shopping or such for the day. But, there was one more place we could visit, Mt. Pisgah Cemetery.

Pearl Devere's grave
I enjoy visiting cemeteries that contain someone famous or at least of note. It’s as close to meeting them and fixing their “reality” as you can get. In this cemetery there were a couple of local characters. One was the aforementioned, Pearl DeVere, the madam you ran Homestead House. The other was Dr. Susan Anderson. You’ve never heard of Doc Susie? That’s not surprising. She was a frontier doctor in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Grand County, CO. This was a time when you could count the lady doctors in Colorado on one hand, and be in no danger of using your thumb. Some Hollywood writer heard about her, embellished her story, more than a little, moved her out of Grand County and in to El Paso County (Colorado Springs, to be specific), and gave her a new name. She became Michaela Quinn. Her television show was called Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman, starring Jane Seymour. I always liked the show.

 

We found the cemetery with just a smattering of trouble.

The 2nd Pearl DeVere tombstone
But now for the hard part. This cemetery, while not large still covered about 10-15 acres of land. I had no idea where the graves where at. But, this was not my first cemetery and there were two of us. I also knew when they died. Cemeteries generally fill up in sections. So most everyone in a give section will have died in the same general time. That is not absolute, but a good rule of thumb. Surprisingly, I found Pearl’s grave in less than 10 minutes. We took a few pictures and went back to seaching. Less than 10 minutes later I found Dr Susie’s grave. But, as soon as I saw it, it triggered a memory. When I read her biography several years back, I recall that she ended up with two different monuments, in two different parts of the cemetery. I seem to recall it had something to do with her brother, who she was or was supposed to be buried with. (She never married). That was also the reason she ended up being buried in Teller County, when she lived her live a 100 miles to the north in Grand County.
Dr Susan Anderson and her brother's grave
Anyway, it seemed that we would be pressing our luck to find the other stone. Margo tolerates these cemetery walks with me. She is interested, but she isn’t crazy about searching for the headstones. At least not when we had no idea where it was. So I decided since we would just work our way back towards the entrance and hope for the best. I stuck gold again! Again, in less than 10 minutes time, I had found her second headstone. We had found three different graves, in three different parts of the cemetery, in less than half an hour!

 

With this mission accomplished and the sun starting to make our shadows long we headed back into town. We had had a great time. I expected to enjoy the hotel, the railroad, and the mine. But all three greatly exceeded my expectations. The Lawman/Outlaw museum was an added bonus! In a final celebration, and because I really didn’t want to leave, I talked Margo into going back to the Black Cow (I didn’t have to twist her arm too much.

Dr Susie's other headstone
She enjoyed it, too) and I got another of those delicious ice cream cookie sandwiches! What a great, quick, trip. I can’t wait to go back!

dothoin says:
I wouldn't mind staying in a haunted Hooters!
Posted on: Nov 12, 2009
bkretzer says:
Hi Padraig, Nope no Cripple Creek Hooters. An obvious travesty. The nearest one is in Colorado Springs, which I have been negligent in not visiting!
Posted on: Nov 04, 2009
almond72 says:
What an interesting place and certainly good write up. What happened to the equine candy ? Was is for the horses or was it made of horses ? lol
Posted on: Nov 04, 2009
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Hotel St Nicholas
Hotel St Nicholas
Carr Manor (Old High School)
Carr Manor (Old High School)
Cripple Creek and Victor Railroad
Cripple Creek and Victor Railroad
Engine #3, My train
Engine #3, My train
My darling wife
My darling wife
Prospectors Pit
Prospector's Pit
Old Hoist House
Old Hoist House
Old barrier to hold back the taili…
Old barrier to hold back the tail…
In the background, the Cripple Cre…
In the background, the Cripple Cr…
Ball and Chains
Ball and Chains
The Old Cripple Creek Switchboard
The Old Cripple Creek Switchboard
The original tombstone for madam, …
The original tombstone for madam,…
Homestead House (white) The red bu…
Homestead House (white) The red b…
The Homestead House
The Homestead House
Outlaw and Lawman Jail Museum. Don…
Outlaw and Lawman Jail Museum. Do…
Inside the decorated cell
Inside the "decorated" cell
I would have been very disappointe…
I would have been very disappoint…
Waiting to go down. That is the sk…
Waiting to go down. That is the s…
Old Mollie Kathleen building.
Old Mollie Kathleen building.
Yes, you are. And there is a mount…
Yes, you are. And there is a moun…
Margo is paying very close attenti…
Margo is paying very close attent…
Our guide about to demonstate sin…
Our guide about to demonstate "si…
The Original Hard Rock Cafe
The Original Hard Rock Cafe
Pearl Deveres grave
Pearl Devere's grave
The 2nd Pearl DeVere tombstone
The 2nd Pearl DeVere tombstone
Dr Susan Anderson and her brother…
Dr Susan Anderson and her brother…
Dr Susies other headstone
Dr Susie's other headstone
Carr Manor
Carr Manor
So I could learn about my train
So I could learn about "my" train
Pulling in from the previous trip
Pulling in from the previous trip
Bye Bye
Bye Bye
Still waiting
Still waiting
These arent huge steam engines, b…
These aren't huge steam engines, …
Cripple Creek and Victor Mine
Cripple Creek and Victor Mine
Tailing barrier
Tailing barrier
The guide said there was probably …
The guide said there was probably…
Cripple Creek and Victor Mine, wit…
Cripple Creek and Victor Mine, wi…
Cripple Creek from our open car
Cripple Creek from our open car
Fading away as we rode. I wonder i…
Fading away as we rode. I wonder …
The mountains go forever!
The mountains go forever!
It was hard to get tired of the vi…
It was hard to get tired of the v…
Ghost town of Anaconda. I think th…
Ghost town of Anaconda. I think t…
Mine tailings. These particular on…
Mine tailings. These particular o…
Railroad man. I think he was going…
Railroad man. I think he was goin…
More view!
More view!
We would see this train later
We would see this train later
We were told this is an actual min…
We were told this is an actual mi…
Another train, #3. They waited whi…
Another train, #3. They waited wh…
It burned.
It burned.
I wish I knew the story behind thi…
I wish I knew the story behind th…
Switchboard infot
Switchboard infot
Close up
Close up
Cool logo, huh
Cool logo, huh
The old Teller County Jail cells, …
The old Teller County Jail cells,…
Margo serving a life sentence with…
Margo serving a life sentence wit…
Inside a cell. They are tinier tha…
Inside a cell. They are tinier th…
His view
His view
Peom written by an imate of the Te…
Peom written by an imate of the T…
Microwave. The slot was where meal…
Microwave. The slot was where mea…
Fireplace
Fireplace
Dream on!
Dream on!
The mechanism for unlocking a bank…
The mechanism for unlocking a ban…
Margo has me right where she wants…
Margo has me right where she want…
Mans best friend
Man's best friend
Inside one cell
Inside one cell
Looking down the center hall of ce…
Looking down the center hall of c…
Decorated Cell
Decorated Cell
Prison restroom. Inmates had to as…
Prison restroom. Inmates had to a…
Coffeemaker
Coffeemaker
Looking down the hall
Looking down the hall
Behind this door is the locking me…
Behind this door is the locking m…
Looking down Bennett Street, just …
Looking down Bennett Street, just…
Nice Donkey!
Nice Donkey!
They love me, cuz I feedem
They love me, cuz I feed'em
Margo and the Cripple Creek donkeys
Margo and the Cripple Creek donkeys
Our guide about to operate a moder…
Our guide about to operate a mode…
Cripple Creek District Museum (Old…
Cripple Creek District Museum (Ol…
Cripple Creek
Cripple Creek
Out of the museum is a monument to…
Out of the museum is a monument t…
Manequins demonstating double jac…
Manequins demonstating "double ja…
A compressed air driven scoop for …
A compressed air driven scoop for…
Explosive charges set in pattern. …
Explosive charges set in pattern.…
Riding along in the mine
Riding along in the mine
Thats a manequin
That's a manequin
System of bells devolped 100 years…
System of bells devolped 100 year…
The top of the Mollie Kathleen min…
The top of the Mollie Kathleen mi…
Dr. Susies other grave. I dont r…
Dr. Susie's other grave. I don't …
Cripple Creek Sights & Attractions review
Fun and Educational
I was a tad skeptical when I read about the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour. It was advertised as a tour 1000 ft below the ground, where you would lear… read entire review
Cripple Creek Sights & Attractions review
All ages enjoy a train ride
On of the things I knew I wanted to do in Cripple Creek was to ride the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad. The CC & VRR is a tourist line… read entire review
Cripple Creek Sights & Attractions review
Very Interesting Experience
The Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum was the big surprise of our trip. We did not know it existed, saw it because we were on a tourist scavenger stop, a… read entire review
Cripple Creek Sights & Attractions review
Nice Mountain Cemetery
Mount Pisgah Cemetery is a 40 acre graveyard on the western end of Cripple Creek. It is not landscaped; rather the grounds look like they would have i… read entire review
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photo by: dlstegelman