18
Sep
16

The Minarets

About 20 years ago I backpacked in to the sierras for the first time. I went with two friends. We made a base camp and climbed a few mountains in the area of the Ansel Adams wilderness between Lake Thomas Edison and Mammoth Mountain. From the top of Silver Peak  (8,878’) I saw the distant Ritter Range in the Northeast.

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me and a buddy on top of Silver peak, about 20 years ago

There, Mount Ritter is accompanied by The Minarets–spires of metamorphic rock; sediments that were baked by the granitic intrusion that the Sierras are famous for. These pinnacles remained in my memory, and I finally had a chance to get close to them 13 years ago, but I had just begun the course of events that would intensify to cause a ruptured disc  in my spine, and at the time I was backpacking to the feet of The Minarets with my girlfriend, I had to rely on her to tie my boots because I couldn’t bend that far. Suffice it to say that trip was not a long one. We only got a taste of The Minarets, and I’ve always wanted to go back. I decided to do so a few weeks before the Labor Day Holiday, but by then almost all back-country permits were gone. I did find one opening that would allow me to hike south from Lake Mary to Duck Lake, and then do whatever I wanted. So a created a round-about tour: heading south from Mammoth Lakes, over a 10,787’ pass to high Duck lake, and westward to the Pacific crest trail which would take me north to the country I wanted to explore. There would be two difficult days of hiking just to get to the beginning of the string of lakes at the feet of The Minarets that I wanted to visit.

My Hiking partner of the past 6 years, Lauren, was learning of my plans by text message, and on the night before I left, she couldn’t stand to miss this hike, so she found a cheap flight and flew to Reno the next day from her Vermont farm. She didn’t know what she was getting into.

Crossing a 10,787’ pass on your first day in the mountains is not a wise move, and it was made worse by the need to make miles so that day two would be less grueling. For a guy from sea level, Darth Vader breathing sets in at about 8,700’, and we needed to stop frequently to oxygenate, But we crossed the pass to spectacular Duck Lake (not a great name for a high mountain lake surrounded by tall granite walls) and dropped out of its west end spillway through old growth pine forest to the Pacific Crest trail.

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Duck Lake

Once on the PCT we headed back North until Lauren had to stop because of elevation sickness making her nauseous. We bivouced at just over 10,000’ on a little flat terrace looking directly across the upper reaches of the deep valley of Fish Creek towards Silver peak. Despite beginning our hike at 1 pm, we manage to put twelve miles behind us in the day, leaving us with only sixteen miles for the next day, but it would not be an easy sixteen miles.

In the morning we broke a frosted camp, and hiked four miles to the first stream (September is the driest month in the sierras) where we had a good breakfast, and moved on, continuing northward, dropping 3000’ to cross the headwaters of the San Joaquin River, passing through Devils Postpile National Monument, crossing over a 500’ ridge and back down to the point where we began the 1,200’ climb in the last four miles of the day to Fern Lake. Long day. And Fern Lake is only at 8,720’. It is the beginning of the string of lakes I wanted to see, but it is the least of them. The next day we had it easy, with a three-mile hike up to the next valley’s lakes, choosing  a granite platform above Holcomb Lake at 9,478’ for camp. We had the whole afternoon off to enjoy the clear green water and the sun. We rested, ate and drank a lot to recover from our trek. The next day would be another long day.

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Holcomb Lake

After breakfast we made our way out of the valley, eastward, which involved a climb to a high bench before plunging almost a thousand feet back down to the to the San Joaquin so we could hike a mile north to the next valley, and back up to more high lakes. These would be the gems of the trip and I was excited. Lauren, on the other hand, was not aware of the magnificence ahead, and was suffering from several blisters on her feet. I took some of her weight and she shed her boots for crocks, and she did fine with the 2,000’ climb in the second six miles of the day. She’s a remarkably good hiker.

We arrived at Minaret Lake–quite possibly the most beautiful lake in the Sierras. Odd that I would say that because the minarets are not made of the famous Sierra Nevada granite that makes these mountains so special. The metamorphic process left these dark Jurassic sediments more durable and resistant to erosion than the granite, so the Minarets stand tall and jagged over the lake.

The sierras are known as “The Range of Light” (a name created by John Muir and made famous by Ansel Adams and other landscape photographers) because of the dramatic lighting that comes from the passing of many mountain-made clouds. But on this trip we would be in the wilderness for six days without seeing a single cloud. And due to the east-facing orientation (just as the Granite Avatars of Patagonia), the only dramatic light would be at dawn.

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Minaret Lake at dawn

In the Sierras I am always captivated by the reflections of mountains in the lakes, and on this trip I was especially so, given the lack of clouds to soften the stark rock and blue sky scenery.

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Early morning reflections of the Minarets

Dinner was enjoyed in a nook of a solid rock dome, high above the lake, followed by the traditional cigar and nip of whiskey, having made the destination. All of these nights we were getting a minimum of 10 hours of sleep (often with strange dreams), punctuated by a midnight pee that we looked forward to so that we could behold the depth of the galaxy in the high, dry, clear air. Lauren’s farm was recently visited by alien craft, so I wondered which star the astronauts come from.

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The craft hovering over Lauren’s farm

This fifth day was our stroll in god’s country–the highlight of the trip–three miles on a difficult cross-country route from Minaret Lake up over a pass to 10,239’ Cecile Lake for a long lunch, down to Iceberg Lake, lolly-gaging there, and eventually dropping down to Ediza–the lake I visited 13 years ago. There’s nothing like being in the high lakes of the Easter Sierras and these lakes are among the best, because of the Minarets.

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Cecile Lake

 

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Iceberg Lake

At Ediza we found a bench up on a ridge above the lake to make camp away from the other backpackers. Ediza is a popular destination because of relatively easy access from the road and the spectacular view of the Ritter Range. Ritter stands above the lake at 13,143’.

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looking out over Ediza at dawn

 

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The rising sun lights the flanks of Lake Ediza

Our hike out of this wonderland was an easy seven miles, five of them downhill, to a road where the ranger had told us we can get a shuttle bus, but she was not paying attention to the dates, and the bus service ended for the season the day before we exited, so we got lucky hitchhiking back to my truck, then celebrated with an ale and a steak at the Mammoth Brewery. Visits to a couple of primitive hot springs eased the stiffness the next day.

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The Minarets from the spillway of Ediza

A quick 53 mile sojourn in the Eastern Sierras is food for the soul. It took a few days of good food to recover from, but a week after we came out of the wilds I achieved a goal that had intimidated me for several months: to row eight 30-second sprints and cover 160 meters in each, with 90 seconds of rest between. I am currently 3rd of all 59-year-old heavyweight men in the world who compete on the Concept 2 rowing machine 2000 meter event (and I am the lightest of them, so on the water I would be #1) and I take great joy in this as I approach the milestone of my sixtieth birthday.

Life’s pleasures, for me, are often connected to my physical abilities, so aging is not welcome. I am studying the maps to plan next summer’s eastern sierra trip. Gotta get out there while I can.

Prints from this trip are half-price for blog readers until my birthday–11/01.

12
Jun
16

As Falls Yosemite, So Falls Yosemite Falls

 

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Yosemite in Spring

As a teenager I watched clouds to be able to predict changes in the wind so I knew when to expect good surf conditions. In college I studied climatology among other earth sciences to earn my degree in geography. After college I embarked on many wilderness adventures, always keeping an eye on the clouds. As a sailor, the clouds let me know what weather was coming. I’m no expert, but I know clouds and weather better than most people. And now I see strange linear clouds blowing in off the Pacific that are not natural.

All my life I have seen jets leaving a condensation trail behind them, which never lasted more than a minute or two. About six years ago I was shocked one evening in New Mexico when I saw the western sky cris-crossed with linear clouds lit golden by the setting sun. I was stunned. Something was wrong with that picture. It was only a few days later that I was birdwatching with friends in the marshes of Lake Tahoe when a jet flew over and left a trail that continued to widen for an hour until it was over a mile wide.

Since then, I’ve continued to watch these “chemtrails” being laid overhead, and they are getting more and more common and more dense. Finally, many credible sources are agreeing that there is a “geoengineering” program underway, conducted without public knowledge, relying on the fact that people don’t look up much, don’t know what clouds look like, and don’t have time to think about it. I have seen several “art” photos (iPhone billboards, calendar photos, fine art photos in an online gallery) with chemtrails in them, and neither the photographer nor the viewers even notice.

One scientist explained it well by telling an audience that if they believe that chemtrails are water vapor, they must then also agree that when one walks down a snowy trail in the woods on a completely still, frozen day, one can stop and turn around and see the trail left by their breath hovering over the trail and growing. Its the same.

Search the internet and you will find more disinformation than fact. At this point, my best guess is that they are spraying coal fly ash, the waste from coal burning power plants. This guess comes from reading that the chemical profile of rainwater tests match that of coal fly ash.

The assumption is that the ash is being used to limit incoming solar radiation in an attempt to cool the planet. But in the process, high levels of aluminum, barium and strontium are raining down on us, our soils and our waters.

As I mentioned, the internet is full of disinformation on the subject, so researching takes a very keen and nonreactive mind. Welcome to the modern world. Here are some credible sites:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/climate-change-and-geoengineering/1120

http://www.globalresearch.ca/top-british-climate-scientist-acknowledges-ongoing-geoengineering-interventions/5485739

http://www.globalresearch.ca/geo-engineering-and-changing-the-world-through-stories/5445209

http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org

The modern Yosemite is also subject to the spray, and this is how we began a recent trip through little Yosemite valley–with planes spraying overhead, just as we did last fall, the last time I was in the park.

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Chemtrails over Half Dome

So the first few miles were not as joyous as usual when setting off into the wilds for a few days. The global predicament was hard to forget with the sky so adulterated.

But there was good news. I chose an obscure an remote trailhead that no one uses, so we had the trail and our first camp completely to ourselves, which is surprising for spring in Yosemite. We passed right under a bear high in a dead tree which was a treat. I don’t know if we scared him up there or if he climbed on his own.

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The next morning we descended into Little Yosemite valley from the south (Illouette River), passing by the back side of Half Dome, and proceeding up the valley through the intense burn area from the big fire 2 years ago. I have been in many burn areas before, but this one is the most intense ever–it was completely scorched. Not a single plant survived for several miles. I doubt any rodent or reptile did either. But the river, the Merced, was full and flowing hard.

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the Merced River

Yosemite is famous for its spring runoff. Traditionally, the heavy snows in the Sierras melt in spring providing spectacular displays of falling water as rivers flow over granite domes or fly off the edges of truncated valleys–where one glacier carved a deeper valley across another valley. The classic glaciated valley is U-shaped. The sides are steep, and waterfalls are common.

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Nevada Falls

But up Little Yosemite Valley there are few truncated valleys. There are, however, several granite domes. I was calling it “Domeland.” it was like walking between giant monolithic haystacks. Even the valley floor has this dome characteristic, which causes the Merced River to rage down one cascade after the next. The charred landscape keeps hikers away, so we camped in solitude beside a huge cascade on our second and third nights, with day 3 being a 20-mile day hike way up past Merced lake to Washburn Lake. It was on this day hike that we were treated to a granite landscape ribboned with tumbling waters.

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Upper Merced River

Northern California had a normal wet winter this year, so the rivers are at normal levels, but in recent years they have been low. The lack of rain and snowfall in recent years makes the forest dry and prone to fire, as well as bark beetles, which kill the trees. Trees normally defend themselves by using water to create “pitch”–sap that pitches the beetles out of the tree and entombs them in the gummy stuff (the source of amber), but when water is not present the trees can’t defend themselves. Yosemite’s majestic pines are being killed by beetles.

The planet is slowly dying, but humans are too busy to notice.

(11×14″ Giclee´Photographic prints available to blog readers at half price. just email me at tomreed@mcn.org)

 

 

15
Jul
15

the grand canyon of the tuolumne

I first visited Yosemite National Park at the age of 18. It was such a Coney Island, I swore I’d never return.  It was only after working on THE GRANITE AVATARS OF PATAGONIA that I thought I should be photographing more of the granite in California, and visited Yosemite for the first time in almost 30 years. I had been avoiding National parks in general, spending my time in national forests, BLM ranges, and some of the larger state parks. But my capacity to tolerate crowds of humans has increased dramatically over the last few years, and now that I live in San Francisco, and my free time is limited, Yosemite is the easiest place for me to access the granite of The Sierras.

Over the years, I’ve flown over Yosemite several times, and what always caught my eye was the other Yosemite Valley, to the north. So over an extended 4th of July weekend I explored the upper reaches of the Tuolumne River through what is called “The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.”

Despite the glorious name, this is not a popular hike due to the 3,400’ abrupt elevation change at one end.

My hiking partner Lauren went to the park a day ahead and camped so she could grab a wilderness permit as the doors to the wilderness ranger’s office opened. She decided that 3,400 ft downhill sounded better than 3,400 ft uphill, so that’s the permit we got– the up-river route.

I arrived that night in thunderstorms. A break in the weather allowed some camp fire time and some beer drinking while staring at the flames. The next morning we were on the trail, a bit sluggish from the beer.

I’ve had several knee injuries over the years, but my knees are doing well these days, so I was surprised how hard the descent was on my knees. The temperature was over 90 degrees, I had a full pack, the trail was unyielding granite, and the beer had depleted my electrolyte stores. I haven’t dropped so far, so fast, since I hiked to the bottom of the grand canyon. It was a relentless decent.

By the time we got to the river in the late afternoon, Lauren had heat stroke. So we cooled off in the river and lounged for a while in the shadow of big ponderosa pines before beginning the journey upriver, which would demand a gradual 4,000 ft elevation gain over the next 26 miles. We soon ran into a pair of big bears foraging along the trail about 100 feet from us. They allowed us to watch them for several minutes. One was quite alarmed by us, but took time before escaping with a graceful gate.

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In this part of the river valley we enjoyed old growth ponderosa pines and deep clear swimming holes that I think were a few degrees warmer than usual since the river has been fed by recent rains, and not so much by the usual snowmelt–little snow fell in the sierras over the drought-stricken winter.

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The granite walls of the valley were fractured and laid back. A veteran of many sierra backpacking trips, I have become a connoisseur of granite walls, and I kept thinking of one of the main points of my book MOVED BY A MOUNTAIN–that the integrity of the rock and its vertical posture are what inspires us. It was three miles into our fourth day of hiking that we found ourselves surrounded by solid monoliths, with occasional shelves claimed but courageous pines. We decided to make an early camp to enjoy what we had come for–no sense rushing through this wonderland.

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It was a lazy day of appreciating the views from various perches by the river, and exploring the various deep granite tanks–world class swimming holes. The majority of these photos come from that day–a day of soaking up the beauty of tall, steep and solid granite, plunging into the cool emerald pools, and sunning on granite slabs. At the same time this was an experience of soul recharge, and an experience of worship via deep appreciation.

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As I told a spiritually-aware hiker we met on the trail, who claimed that all that surrounded us was God, “All matter is God, your hat, your watch, but it takes something as spectacular as this valley to get most of us to realize it.”

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The plunging waters, the regal Ponderosa pines, the thunderclouds drifting over granite domes, and the song of a nuthatch, chickadee, or tanager—together a sensual symphony set in motion by The Source.

Not a bad day on the planet called Earth.

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these prints available now. contact me by email.

30
Sep
13

why is the earth so beautiful?

In THE GRANITE AVATARS OF PATAGONIA I asked why a human can be so profoundly moved by the majestic beauty of a big rock. by extension we can also ask why a tiny flower is so astoundingly beautiful, or, in the other direction, we can ask why earth itself is so beautiful. It has only been in the last 40 years that we have been able to to see our home from outside of it.  

this 20 min video presents that experience:

http://www.upworthy.com/some-strange-things-are-happening-to-astronauts-returning-to-earth

10
Sep
13

Pecha Kucha Presentation (20 seconds on each of 20 slides) Arcata, CA, 9/7/13

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For the last few years I’ve been very interested in natural beauty and how it affects us in psychological, emotional and spiritual ways, and I’ve been sharing my exploration through my photographs and coffee-table books.

 

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Years ago, After earning my degree in geography, I set out to see the planet I’d been studying, with my camera, but I grew weary of the weight, and care for the equipment and film, so when a truck ran over my camera I quit photography. Whenever I had the urge to take a photograph, I’d stop and look and ask why. Studying the scene.

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Fast-forwarding, decades later, while teaching aikido, I met a master of japanese aesthetics, and became his student. A few years later digital photography finally met the quality of film, and so I returned to photography. Next, I closed my school and returned to outdoor adventures.

 

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I ended up hiking among these incredible granite spires in patagonia, and when I returned to show my teacher my photographs he told me to make a book. While I was hiking I’d been writing about the experience of having my mind blown by the mountains, so the result was the book titled THE GRANITE AVATARS OF PATAGONIA.

 

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In the text of the book I asked why a human should have an experience of profound, mind-blowing awe while looking at a mountain. My conclusion was that the mountain must be in some profound relationship with humanity, and that the mountain must be divine, that is, an aspect of the source of all physical reality.

 

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By extension this led to the realization that all of reality is the manifestation of the Source….that this is all one field of consciousness. If the division of consciousness was in order for it to experience itself, then the experience of beauty gets even more interesting.

 

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A few years later I was invited to give a TED presentation. In preparation, I realized that natural beauty can be divided into yin and yang, that is, comforting beauty and shocking beauty, And that my interest was in shocking beauty. I’m interested in the experience of aesthetic arrest.

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I was fresh from hypnotherapy school, and fascinated with the study of consciousness. researching, I found Thomas Campbell’s theory of evolution away from entropy. Tom explained to me that my photographs of mountains and canyons moved people not only because of my sense of composition, but because the subjects were resisting entropy, refusing to crumble due to the forces of erosion.

 

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Next I made the book called Moved by a Mountain, a study of the view from my Alaska cabin. In it I asked why we call an alpine view “inspiring.” Inspiration usually comes from the acts or creations of others. The mountains just sit there. Again I asked if there is some kind of communication from the mountains to our souls.

 

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I realized that over the 30 years that I had enjoyed my view, the mountain I call “the throneroom” had been inspiring me to seek dignity through its example of integrity…through it’s resistance to the forces trying to break it down.

 

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Today, having just returned from backpacking in the sierras, I realize that Yosemite park was created around granite with integrity, while more fractured granite peaks remain unfamous, hidden in secret nooks of the national forests. 

It seems the psyche of we humans responds to lithic integrity.

 

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If crystals vibrate and radiate some form of energy which is more intense with the size of the crystal, then what might be emanating from such massive unified granite structures as half dome?  Cerro Torre, or Monte Fitz Roy?     …How might we experience that energy?

 

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These days I’m interested in the aesthetic arrest and awe that comes from other aspects of nature. Why do old growth redwoods move us? What do they communicate to our psyche? Like mountains and canyon walls, they too stand tall, and they resist decomposition. But like us, they are alive.

 

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My sense is that they inspire us to stand tall, with good posture, despite the defeats life presents.

It has been proven that plants perceive their environment, especially the mental environment. They are aware of our thoughts. The question is, do these giants communicate back to us?   …and can we receive that communication.

 

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What about clouds? For centuries clouds have been used in religious artwork, usually associated with heaven. Is that simply because they are platforms in the sky, or do the shapes of clouds communicate something to us?

 

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I think they do, because it’s only certain types of clouds that attract our attention. Its the clouds that seem solid because they have such shape; the ones that move, billow or reach and stretch in ways that capture our eye. They seem to be alive because of this movement.

 

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What about the big ocean waves of winter storms in the pacific?

Size is a theme running through my work. Big things make us feel small. Maybe from early childhood we are programmed to respond in a subordinate way to the big ones. 

Awe is wonder with a dash of terror, and it’s facilitated by hugeness. 

 

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Awe can bring us to Aesthetic arrest, drawing our attention so entirely on the object that we can temporarily lose awareness of our individuality–our separateness from the object.

 In James Joyce’s words “the mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing.”

 

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Awe, aesthetic arrest, and shocking beauty are all opportunities for us to realize that our relationship with nature is much deeper than is commonly acknowledged.

 

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I try to provide that opportunity to people with my photographs and books, but that’s only a substitute for the direct experience of having your mind blown by nature, and asking why.

You can Email me your answers at tomreed.com.

11
Feb
13

a quick look at Moved by a Mountain

use this URL to see a 5:40 video paging through my new book, “Moved by a Mountain”:

12
Dec
12

radio piece about “Moved by a Mountain”

radio piece about “Moved by a Mountain”

this is a 3 minute radio piece. Peter Shepard of KBBI, Homer, Alaska offers a brief magazine short the new book MOVED BY A MOUNTAIN. (see the last 2 posts)

http://www.tomreed.com/movedbyamountain.html

 



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