Rains create magnificent waterfalls at Table Mountain

Rains create magnificent waterfalls at Table Mountain

 

Kae and Cleo take in the views from Table Mountain on Feb. 25.

A four-waterfall hike in one outing? You betcha.

Table Mountain in Oroville is one of Mother Nature’s marvels, boasting of more than a dozen waterfalls depending on the season.

Because these waterfalls are not snow fed, their robustness ebbs and flows throughout the winter and spring based on rainfall. Waterfalls and seasonal streams are formed by the basalt rock soaking up rain water. The water flows from small streams before tumbling over a rock formation to create a waterfall. With how little water is in the streams, it’s rather astonishing how spectacular the falls are.

Crevice Falls flows between two rock formations. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

More than 20 members of the Chico Oroville Outdoor Adventurers were out there on the last Sunday of February. A fellow hiker had been to Crevice Falls four days earlier. His video showed raging water, which made our viewing look more like a trickle.

It didn’t matter. It was a glorious sunny day, with clouds making interesting formations in the blue sky. The hike had been postponed twice because of crappy weather, but those added rains had to have helped the falls.

Instead of starting from the main parking lot, our excursion began about mile south. In a clockwise manner we hit Schirmer Ravine, Schirmer Falls, Coon Falls, Ranch Falls and Crevice Falls.

Table Mountain is aptly named — it looks like a flat table. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Mom’s phone said we did just more than 6 miles, mine said 5+. We are going with 6.

Not having a designated trail made this outing a bit of an adventure, and a bit more challenging. Basalt is strewn all over the ground as though it’s a rock garden. This can make walking a challenge, especially for someone like mom who is 89 and seven months out from knee replacement surgery.

Ranch Falls spills for more than 140 feet. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While the elevation gain wasn’t much—442 feet—it was mostly straight up and down, and over and on rocks when we crossed tiny streams.

With the naked eye it was hard to see much water coming down from Schirmer Falls, which was the farthest away. Binoculars helped one person, while my camera aided me. The blackness in the rock signaled where to look.

Areas of Table Mountain are like walking in a minefield of rocks. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

 

Ranch Falls appeared to have the longest flow of water. It’s more than 140-feet long. It almost looked like it had a crook in its flow instead of being a linear stream.

Crevice Falls was aptly named as the water dropped into a crevice. It is fascinating to see the start of a waterfall. This has been a rare occurrence for me throughout my years of hiking.

It was a spectacular outing.

Revisiting favorite ski resorts with some ability challenges

Revisiting favorite ski resorts with some ability challenges

 

Wide-open spaces is what West Bowl at Sierra-at-Tahoe is now all about. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s like riding a bike.

I lost count of how many people told me that before I hit the slopes last month for the first time in more than six years.

They were right. Just like when I’m on my ebike on a mountain bike trail I seem to fall at least once. Same with skiing. Only I did it after being stopped. It’s like I just fell over. I laughed while my friend looked at me wondering what the heck just happened.

I will tell you it’s easier to get up after a mountain bike fall than a skiing tumble. I didn’t remember it being any big deal to pop up after falling in the snow. Apparently, I don’t pop up anymore. I wriggle, and laugh and wonder, like my friend, what the hell is happening here.

Darla Sadler finds some soft snow to ski through at Sierra on Jan. 23. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This is my friend, Darla, who I grew up skiing with. She’s a beautiful skier. So fluid, and seemingly effortless. I’ve never demonstrated those traits on skis. Even less so in January. It was obvious I was rusty.

We spent a day at Sierra-at-Tahoe and a day at Palisades Tahoe. Both were working ski days for me. I know, tough job. Sierra was always my favorite resort when I lived in South Lake Tahoe. Palisades was my favorite growing up in the Bay Area. Both are places where Darla and I have had countless days of fun.

Wow. It’s the simplest word I have to describe West Bowl at Sierra. I stopped, paused, looked all around, took deep breaths with tears in my eyes before pushing on to the lift.

The devastation from the 2021 Caldor Fire is profound. It ripped through this ski resort near Echo Summit with such intensity that the landscape is forever changed. It will never be the same ski resort. So much of the tree skiing is gone as well as the stashes of powder that could linger for days after a storm. That’s because the trees are gone—all 34,000 of them.

My profound visceral experience surprised me. I have driven through the burn area multiple times. I’ve hiked parts of it. I’ve mountain biked in the burn. Something, though, about skiing at Sierra jarred me. Thinking about it still moves me.

Kae figuring out what to do on the slopes. (Image: Darla Sadler)

I used to have a ritual where I would start at the farthest run off West Bowl, then ski each one. This was my favorite area of the mountain. On this particular day, while the coverage was good, the conditions varied. It was slick on many of the West Bowl runs because the wind blows through there like never before. Other runs were left ungroomed, but this was not a powder day so we opted not to try them.

I need to go again. To see how this area really skis. This one experience was not enough.

In the past I also enjoyed a ton of runs off the Grandview lift. On this particular day I was not about to go on any black diamonds. I’ve never been an advanced skier, but I could always get down just about anything. I knew better than to test my luck that day. Nonetheless, we found plenty of fun groomed runs off Grandview, where the conditions were wonderful. Not a single complaint—other than my ability being subpar.

Even more amazing is how the fire swept through this area. At a point near the top of the Grandview lift it’s impossible (honest) to not know such a devastating fire hit the resort. Trees were tall, with boughs covered in snow. It was just like I remembered.

Between Grandview and West Bowl it was as though I had skied two extremely different resorts, and, yet, this was still the one wonderful Sierra-at-Tahoe. It’s always been one of my favorite resorts. If I were still living at Lake Tahoe (or even still considered myself a regular skier), this is where I would still go. I’d take the time to learn how it skis post-fire, find which runs would be my new favorites. Maybe discover new trees to schuss through.

Kae Reed and John Rice, general manager of Sierra.

The Sierra vibe is still intact. That hasn’t gone away. But West Bowl, wow, just wow.

The next day it was onto Palisades Tahoe. What different conditions these were compared to the last time I was at the resort—which was in July 2017 when I was wearing shorts to ski in. This January day was blustery and visibility was horrendous.

We were there for me to do a story about the Base to Base Gondola that links Palisades and Alpine. This really seems like an engineering marvel to me.

With the crappy weather day we didn’t see a ton. Lake Tahoe was out there somewhere. Nonetheless, it was an incredibly smooth ride—especially considering the windy conditions. We didn’t ski the Alpine side even though we were over there. This had to do with the threat of winds getting worse, meaning if the gondola shutdown, we would have to take a bus back to our starting point. Plus, neither of us knows the resort that well, so better to go back to Palisades where we spent much of our youth.

The skiing, well, the visibility had me losing my confidence. The snow was less than ideal. It was just one of those days where if I had a choice, I would not have been there. But work called and this was our chosen day.

I’d like to ride the gondola again to really appreciate the views. While it’s open for sightseers, it only operates in the winter.

What I realized, though, is that I really don’t miss skiing. These two days didn’t invigorate me to want to ski more often. I’m not ready to sell or give away my equipment, but it is the first time those thoughts have crossed my mind.

One thing that shocked me about both resorts is the cost of a daily lift ticket—$145 at Sierra and $259 at Palisades. I realize the most expensive way to buy a ticket in this modern world is to walk up to the window that day. Purchasing a ticket online in advance, multi-day packages and season tickets will drop the price. Still, it’s hard for me to justify that kind of money going forward.

Maybe it’s time to put the brakes on questionable ebike rules

Maybe it’s time to put the brakes on questionable ebike rules

Rules for where ebikes can be ridden seem arbitrary.

I understand not wanting motorized vehicles on paved multi-use paths. But to ban all ebikes and not just certain classes of them doesn’t make sense. They aren’t all alike.

Knowingly breaking the rules when it comes to riding an ebike. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

My ebike requires me to pedal for the motor to engage. That’s why it’s a pedal-assist bike. Yes, it’s still an electric bike.

Last month I took her out on the Midway trail, a popular paved path that runs from Chico to Durham. I ignored the sign saying no ebikes. The electric scooter rider also ignored the sign. The no motorized vehicles part of the sign applied to him as well.

As a non-ebike rider and walker, I understand not wanting people to whiz by me on a trail like this on a moped or scooter or motorcycle.

Like many ebikes, mine comes with different settings. On flat I have it in its lowest setting to get a better workout. I’m not a fast rider. Someone on a road bike passed me. Really! So, clearly, my speed on my ebike is not a threat to others.

Perhaps I’m the exception to the rule because I’m slow. But I don’t think so. I think the problem is that the powers that be put in the rules without understanding the dynamics of electric bikes.

I understand ones with throttles being banned from paved paths. They are more like mopeds than bikes.

But at the same time one has to consider the alternatives for people on two wheels. In my case this would have meant riding on a dangerous road with no shoulder where vehicles go 55-plus miles an hour. I’ll take a ticket for riding my ebike illegally over the threat of dying.

It seems like a speed limit on paved trails might be the better solution for safety for all and it would mean being more inclusive. I don’t know what that limit should be. I really don’t know who is going to enforce it. Enforcement of ebikes on these trails is probably not a thing. It’s like any rule, we are supposed to self-regulate, self-police.

Or maybe it’s time to get the rules changed; at least this particular one.

Calif., Nev. making concerted effort for the outdoors to be inclusive

Calif., Nev. making concerted effort for the outdoors to be inclusive

California and Nevada want more than just white people enjoying the outdoors. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Look around. Who do you see when you play in the outdoors? Do others look like you? Likely the answer is “no” if you are not white.

The National Ski Areas Association reported that in the 2021-22 season, 89 percent of skiers were white, 5.7 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 5.5 percent Latino, 1.5 percent Black, and less than 1percent American Indian or Alaska native.

Officials estimate 75 percent of visitors to state and national parks in the U.S. are white, while as a whole white people represent less than 60 percent of the overall population.

Nevada and California are making a concerted effort to be more inclusive not only to people of color, but to those on the lower rungs on the economic ladder as well those with mobility issues.

“We know just looking at our typical visitors when you drive through our parks it is predominately white folks using parks for camping,” Bob Mergell, administrator for Nevada Division of State Parks, said. “Our goal is to try to reach out to groups who historically may not have utilized state parks.”

At the end of last year California released a document titled: Outdoors for All: Providing Equitable Access to Parks and Nature. In addition to English, it will be translated into four languages, which is another effort to be inclusive.

The public had an opportunity to comment on this document when it was released last summer, as well at the multiple workshops, including the one in Truckee.

“What I heard in Truckee and at other rural places is that you can be surrounded by public lands and still not have access,” Katherine Toy, California Natural Resources Agency’s deputy director for access, said. “Access to recreation in Tahoe can be expensive; transit is an issue.”

Expenses include paying more than $100 for a lift ticket, renting or buying gear, needing appropriate clothing, and possibly a lesson to know how to participate.

“One in 4 Californians do not have the same access to outdoors that others have. That is something we can do better,” Toy said. “There are a number of positive health outcomes for those who have easy access to nature. People deserve to have access to the outdoors in their everyday lives and not have it just as a special treat.”

Toy is in charge of the state’s Outdoors for All initiative that was launched in 2021 when the state allocated $1 billion to the cause. This included $500 million in grants to local communities for parks infrastructure, transportation and education programs, and the other $500 million for expanding access to State Parks and other state facilities through infrastructure and improvements to existing programs.

Professional skiers and those watching the sport are predominately white. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Forming alliances

Both states are working to hire more people of color as well as use promotional materials that reflect diversity.

It’s not just about getting people to participate in sports popular in the Tahoe-Truckee area, it’s about getting people to their local and regional parks. It’s about developing outdoor spaces where there aren’t any. People also need to feel safe, and that isn’t always the case for non-whites.

“The strategies outlined in this section will help achieve a future where every Californian feels safe, welcome, and encouraged in the outdoors, and can enjoy California’s outdoor spaces without hesitation,” the document says.

California’s is the largest state parks system in the country with 279. The state estimates 6 in 10 residents live in park-poor neighborhoods, which by definition is less than 3 acres of open space per 1,000 residents.

For comparison, Nevada has 27 state parks.

In mid-October, California State Parks signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (who are based on the West Slope of El Dorado County) at the future site of the California Indian Heritage Center known as Pusúune in West Sacramento. It’s being built for the protection, preservation, and interpretation for parks on the tribe’s ancestral homelands.

This is the fifth MOU State Parks has signed with a tribe in the last year.

Nevada is working with groups like Blacks in Nature and Black Folks Camp Too.

A bill approved by the Nevada Legislature in 2019 created the Office for New Americans. One component of the law is that every state agency must have a diversity and inclusion liaison.

For Nevada state parks that person is Janice Keillor. This designation is in addition to being the department’s deputy administrator.

“Little by little we are going to chip away at the barriers that exist,” Keillor said.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the 2023-24 winter issue of Tahoe In Depth.

Palm Springs trail network extensive for hikers

Palm Springs trail network extensive for hikers

John, Adam and Lew realizing this was not the correct route. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Hiking—the options seem endless in Palm Springs. Add the greater Coachella Valley, and, well, the mileage is going to be impressive.

On my two-week trip to the desert just after Thanksgiving I had the good fortune of being part of three group excursions right in Palm Springs, with a solo adventure to Tahquitz Canyon and a day trip to Borrego Springs.

While some people find the desert boring, not me. I’m sure some people find the mountains boring; you’ve seen one pine tree, how many more do you need to see? I find both settings magical in their own way.

One of the things I appreciate about the desert is how much life there is an area that at first glance appears desolate, and, well, lifeless. Still, I prefer large wild animals—bears, coyotes—and not the kind that slither on the ground.

The Bob Hope house is a focal point when hiking and elsewhere in Palm Springs. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Definitely not a fan of creepy crawlers, so of course there was a massive tarantula blocking the trail. OK, not really blocking it, but the spider did make me stop in my tracks. Made all four of us stop. Then we started taking pictures and videos. Stupid humans.

Since then I have learned tarantulas can go seven months without drinking water, which explains one reason they thrive in the desert. They also dig dens that can be 20 inches deep, which is where they go to nap.

This eight-legged wonder was in the Palm Canyon area of Palm Springs. I was there with three others, two of whom had hiked there before. Based on part of the excursion being more like a rock scramble, it was clear we should have been using a map instead of memory. But then we might not have seen spidey.

Fan palms are the only native palm trees in the California desert. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

We never did figure out where we zagged when we should have zigged in Fern Canyon. No biggie, we were never lost; we just weren’t where we wanted to be.

Victor Trail took us where we wanted to go. At times we were above an incredible palm oasis. This fertile swath of land looks so out of place in the desert. Before we knew it we were in the middle of this grove, with palms providing a canopy of shade.

This is the world’s largest California fan palm oasis in the world.

Many of the trunks were charred. All I could find online about a fire in the canyon was this from 1980.

Another outing had us on a trail where the 24,000-square-foot Bob Hope estate was the focal point much of the way. While no longer belonging to a member of the Hope family, it is still known as the Bob Hope house.

The Bob Hope estate has views of the greater Palm Springs area. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It looks a bit like an alien space shift. A tour of the inside would undoubtedly be interesting. It is an architectural spectacle.

The hike was mostly along the Bern’s Trail. We did a one way which dropped off in the neighborhood of one of the guys.

The first outing was the Lyken Trail which can be accessed across the street from the condo where I was cat sitting on South Palm Canyon Drive. It was a good introductory hike to get me acclimated to the terrain and my surroundings.

I know I barely made a dent in the desert’s trail system. Not a problem. Ready to tackle more on the next trip.

Bidwell Mansion property like an educational nursery

Bidwell Mansion property like an educational nursery

Leaves from an array of trees at Bidwell Mansion in Chico cover the ground. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

One of the beautiful things about Chico is the variety of trees.

On a recent outing sponsored by the Lassen chapter of the Native Plant Society, several people strolled the grounds of Bidwell Mansion learning about many of the trees that call this “front yard” home.

Some of the trees—28 different species were on the handout—were actually planted when John Bidwell, who founded Chico, lived in the house that is now part of the State Parks system.

Learning about the not so giant Giant Sequoia, which is the largest tree in the world and is now endangered.. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

At the same time it’s easy to appreciate and take for granted all of the trees in Chico. The beauty no matter the time of year is evident, but also expected by those who live here. This excursion was welcome because it made me slow down and really look at the trees.

This leisurely stroll gave our group time to appreciate these trees individually instead of as a cluster. To really see them instead of whizzing by in a car or even walking past without acknowledgement.

The irony that most of the trees are not native to California was not lost on the group. Nonetheless, it was an interesting education. The only downside, other than the chilly temperatures, was weather postponed the event from November to Dec. 9 so most of the deciduous trees had lost their leaves.

Even so, the Goldenrain Tree was still full of yellow leaves. This plant is native to China. It’s appropriately named—the leaves appear to be a stream of “raining” yellow. It can be seen throughout Chico.

The Southern Magnolia was planted in 1858, reportedly by Bidwell. Trees more than 100 years old are not uncommon on the property.

Buds on the Yulan Magnolia will become an upright and cup-shape fragrant creamy to white flower with a pink base. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Species are from other parts of the state, other parts of the country and world, including Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Rocky Mountains, Mexico, Asia, and Europe.

We were told the Gray or Foothill Pine only grows in California.

Trees at Bidwell Mansion also include the California Fan Palm, Chinese Pistache, Italian Cypress, Giant Sequoia, Turkey Oak, London Plane Tree, and Purple Norway Maple.

Liquidambars, which have some of the prettiest leaves, are actually called American Sweet Gum.

I learned not to pluck the leaves off the English Laurel, as they are poisonous. This is unlike the California Laurel where bay leaves are popular for seasoning.

Desert’s beauty not always evident at first glance

Desert’s beauty not always evident at first glance

Palm Canyon oasis in Anza-Borrego State Park. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Borrego Springs—population 2,566—is in the middle of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The entire area is one big playground in the Southern California desert, with just enough amenities to keep locals and visitors satiated.

I had the good fortune earlier this month to be shown around by a dear friend who now calls Borrego Springs home. It was the perfect sampling of activities—hiking, eating, viewing art, driving tour—and of course an abundance of conversation.

I completely understand why she lives there.

I’m looking forward to more than a day visit in the future so I can experience even more of this swath of California.

A solitary bighorn sheep almost looks like a statue. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Kim came through in a big way by delivering a desert bighorn sheep for my viewing pleasure. I’m sure she conspired with the park rangers to make this happen since I kept striking out on my hikes in nearby Palm Springs.

A lone young male peninsular bighorn sheep seemed to be posing on a rock, standing still so I had time to grab my camera. Maybe he was really scanning the area for friends or foes, or lunch options, or a place to hide from the two-legged creatures on the trail.

According the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website, “Desert bighorn sheep inhabit rocky slopes and cliffs, canyons, washes and alluvial fans. Like other bighorn sheep, they prefer rugged and open habitat, and use their climbing abilities, vigilance, and excellent vision to detect and escape from predators. They are generalist herbivores and eat a wide variety of desert plants, including cacti.”

They are a federally endangered species.

“My sheep” was never to be seen again as we made our way along the Palm Canyon trail.

Kim and Kae exploring Anza-Borrego State Park in early December.

While there are plenty of palm trees in the desert, looking from a distance at the area we hiked I would never have imagined the fertile oasis we walked to existed or that there would be running water.

Desert terrain captivates me—the ruggedness of the rocks and plants. And the wildlife, well, it has to be hardy to live in this environment.

But that grove of palms—wow, just, wow.

According to a sign along the way, fan palms are the only palms native to California. They can reach 60 feet in height, and are the tallest in the state. Most are found in spring- and creek-fed areas like the one we were in.

Unfortunately, the trunks of many of the palms in this grove are charred. The remnants of a fire started by a group of Boy Scouts on Jan. 18, 2020.

The trail leading to the canyon full of palms. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Information at the visitors center says, “The trees are making a stunning recovery. However, it is still too soon to walk around in the grove because the topsoil layer was damaged and remains fragile and easily eroded.”

Not being able to get closer was no big deal to me. I was still taken with the beauty. It was magical.

This is one of 30 palm oases in the park.

Another thing I learned at the visitors center is the oldest living plant is the creosote bush in the Mojave Desert, which is about 9,400 years old.

The desert—it really is an underappreciated landscape.

Palm Springs Tram a tale of history, nature and an engineering marvel

Palm Springs Tram a tale of history, nature and an engineering marvel

The Palm Springs Tram first ride was in 1963. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In 10 minutes I went from 2,643 feet to 8,516 feet, with the temperature dropping about 30 degrees, and the surroundings going from desert to mountains.

The Palm Springs Tram has been whisking people up these 2½ miles for 60 years.

It’s the world’s largest rotating tram. The rotation part, though, started in 2000. The floor moves so people get a 360-degree view without having to take a step.

The Salton Sea shines in the distance. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While there are more than 50 miles of hiking at the top, including a route to the top of the 10,834-foot Mount Jacinto, I opted not to tax my muscles. Instead, I took the leisurely Nature Valley Loop and Desert View Loop scenic trails from the top of the tram.

Fortunately, I was ready for the 32-degree temps. I knew to pack gloves and other appropriate clothing. Clearly, not everyone got the memo to dress warm based on their attire and footwear. Considering a few traces of snow were along the trail and ice in the creek, I would not have wanted to have less clothing on.

It’s possible to stay indoors the entire time. Food and beverages are available, with plenty of doses of history.

The scenery is absolutely stunning. In some ways it reminded me of being at Heavenly Mountain Resort or any hiking/biking trail in the Tahoe area where you can see the desert and mountains at once.

Views from the trails near the top of the tram provided stunning vistas. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

But something about the short trails I went on were even more magical. Perhaps because I don’t associate Palm Springs with pine trees I was more taken by the scenery, more impressed by Mother Nature. What also captivated me was the layering of mountains. On the desert side are endless windmills. About 30 miles way is the Salton Sea. It distinctly shimmers in the distance.

Mount San Jacinto State Park is one of the oldest and largest wilderness areas among California’s state parks. Ninety percent of the 14,000 acres is permanently set aside as wilderness.

Like much of the west, this wasn’t always protected land.

One sign reads, “After nearly a century of timber production, parts of the of San Jacinto Mountains looked like nothing more than a logging camp. Where tall trees once stood, stumps and wood debris littered the landscape. Livestock grazing also took its toll. John Muir toured the region with members of the National Forest Commission and advocated for the protection and preservation of the high country. Based on the commission’s report, President Cleveland established the San Jacinto Forest Reserve in 1897. More robust protection came in 1927 when a Forest Service game refuge was created to regulate the hunting of deer. It took another 10 years to arrive at a true wilderness designation. In 1937, the federal government, the California State Park Commission, and local officials collaborated to permanently protect the region. This land was designated the Mount San Jacinto State Park and set aside as a wilderness area. Later, adjacent Federal land was designated the San Jacinto Wilderness. The result was permanent protection of nearly all of San Jacinto’s high country.”

On the tram ride down the sun sets on the mountains beyond the valley. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

One doesn’t have to “hike” to get good views. Plenty of photo-ops abound just outside the buildings at the top of the tram.

Still, I was happy to walk a couple miles to immerse myself more in the natural setting and get away from the crowds.

The idea of the tram was not welcomed by all initially, with many thinking it was a pipe dream.

Electrical engineer Francis Crocker came up with the idea in 1935, thinking it sure would be a lot cooler in the mountains than sweating in the desert. Thus began the efforts to create a tram through Chino Canyon. After all, the temperature difference between to bottom and top of the tram is usually between 30 and 40 degrees.

During the 26 months of construction it took about 23,000 helicopter trips to deliver workers and materials to the sites where the towers were erected and the mountain station was built. The tram opened in September 1963.

Now it’s a tourist attraction, a refuge for locals, a state park and a federal wilderness area.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Deets:

  • Parking is $15; free to locals with ID.
  • Tram tickets are $30.95. They may be purchased in advance.
  • Phone: 760.325.1391
  • Website

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