Hiking News

How to Be Mindful on a Hike

Posted by on Apr 14, 2017 @ 9:11 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

How to Be Mindful on a Hike

“Hiking in nature provides an opportunity to tune in — both to our own experience and to the world around us. While it can be easy to get lost in thought or daydreams while hiking, the simple practices of mindfulness can draw us more closely into our experience of the natural world.” — Khalila Archer, program director at Inward Bound Mindfulness Education.

Start by paying attention to each step. Simply notice each time your foot makes contact with the ground. Notice your body, moving through space. Feel the contact of air against your skin. Is it hot, cool, heavy, light? Bring your awareness to your senses.

Touch: What do you feel in your body as you hike?

Smell: What scents do you pick up as you move?

See: What do you notice? Pay attention to both what is below and above you.

Hear: What sounds do you hear?

Allow each sensation to wash over you, not holding on to any one, but gently receiving each as you notice it.

When hiking uphill, take your time. Let your weight come fully into each step before you take the next one, and find a pace that allows your breathing to have a steady rhythm.

Find moments to stop and receive the experience, at the top of a hill, looking over a view, at a junction in the trail or in front of a beautiful flower or tree.

Feel your feet on the ground, your body in space and notice the movement of the environment around you.

Meditation for Real Life is a weekly tip about everyday mindful moments…


Trekking the Danakil in Ethiopia

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 @ 8:37 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

Trekking the Danakil in Ethiopia

After a three-hour hike, you crest the ridge. Before you is the glowing caldera, filled with dancing fountains of lava.

Ethiopia is increasingly making its mark on global tourism. Once just the province of dedicated Peace Corps workers and intrepid backpackers, newly built roads and new hotels are opening it up to the broader tourist market.

But even for the most veteran traveler to Ethiopia — who has already visited the baboon-infested northern highlands, the nearly inaccessible mountain monasteries of the Tigray Region or the rock-cut churches of Lalibela — the Danakil is in a category of its own.

This punishingly hot lowland, set between the mountains of the Tigray Region and the Eritrean Red Sea Coast, is home to immense salt flats that once were a major source of wealth for the medieval Abyssinian Empire, as well as colorful sulfur pools and the Erta Ale — or “smoking mountain” — the most accessible of the region’s volcanoes.

At the summit, your guide leads you down into the plain around the crater and you scramble over lava flows that were just a day or two old. Once, you could camp right next to the crater. In the past year, though, Erta Ale has become quite active. You will only make it within about 70 yards of the bubbling cauldron before the heat keeps you back.

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Helping You Find Uncrowded National Park Trails

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 @ 12:49 pm in Hiking News | 0 comments

Helping You Find Uncrowded National Park Trails

The road less traveled—it’s an old adage, sure, but also advice worth taking when it comes to exploring U.S. national parks. After all, our beloved parks are crowded: Last year, they had a banner year, with 325 million visitors enjoying (sometimes free) time in the great outdoors. Particular park trails, though, are more crowded than others, and in 2016, 24 million people traveled the U.S. National Parks’ “most popular” trails—a more than seven percent increase from 2015.

That’s where GPS wearable TomTom comes in. In an effort to prevent overcrowding (parks like Utah’s Zion National Park are bustling even in the off-season), the company has teamed up with the National Park Foundation to develop curated digital maps of “off-the-beaten-path” trails throughout the national parks.

How to it works: Find a park near you on TomTom’s site, download a map to a lightly-traveled trail, and instead of trekking by roaring waterfalls at Yosemite’s signature Mist Trail in tandem with hordes of others, you may wind up venturing toward the Elizabeth Lake Trail, which climbs up to a puzzle-piece-shaped, glacial lake, bordered by Unicorn Peak.

At Acadia? You’ll bypass a classic path like Beehive, in lieu of quieter Pemetic West Cliff Trail, complete with high dramatic views. Right now, the program is suggesting 23 less-trekked park trails around the U.S., but TomTom plans to continue growing its suggestions.



What to do if you encounter a mountain lion while hiking

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 @ 7:37 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

What to do if you encounter a mountain lion while hiking

“You never know what you can encounter [while hiking],” said Mike Keckler with Idaho Department of Fish & Game. “That’s one of the things that makes [wilderness] so special.”

While we may want to stop and snap a couple of pictures, Keckler says we should be aware of potential dangers – especially when it comes to mountain lions.

“Always be aware of your surroundings, take the time to look around and just be thinking at all times,” Keckler said. “[Wilderness, particularly in the Western U.S.] is prime mountain lion habitat and we should be aware of that.”

While Keckler says attacks on humans are extremely rare, there are several sightings every year. He says the last thing you should do is run away.

“If you see a mountain lion keep your eye on it,” Keckler said. “Turn around, square up and get big. Yell at it and if you can, throw something at it. When I say get big I mean if you have a coat bring it up over your head and make yourself look big.”

Keckler says once the mountain lion realizes this will be a challenge, it will usually back down. Sometimes Keckler says, the animal is just curious.

“It’s not unusual,” said Keckler. “I’ve heard of people yelling at them and have the cat actually sit down and look at them.”

As for dogs who come along for the hike, Keckler says they should always be on a leash to prevent the dog from chasing after the mountain lion. “You don’t want your dog tangled up with a mountain lion, the dog is not going to come out of that well,” Keckler said.

The main message, Keckler says, is don’t be afraid – be aware.



An Argument for Caution in the Wild

Posted by on Apr 9, 2017 @ 6:42 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

An Argument for Caution in the Wild


Taking a hard look at the soft line between acceptable risks and ‘what-were-they-thinking’ risks.

Six: That is the number of times I’ve frantically dashed out of a slot canyon because it started to rain. Once that happened when I was leading a well-advertised Sierra Club hike to promote wilderness with a capital W. We had hiked in four miles to the start of the narrows and set up camp when it started to rain. “Change of plans,” I announced, and hiked everyone back out. Did I get a modicum of flak? Just a bit.

I also have turned around a half-hour from a summit if there was lightning in the distance. This earns me great disdain from those who soldier on, only to return to share selfies showing their hair standing on end and sparks dancing along their pack frames. Called “chicken” much? Oh, yeah. You get used to it.

The intrepid ones get away with it. Usually. They go in — and out — of a narrow slot canyon in the rain. They climb in the lightning. They complete their 20-mile hike with one liter of water when the temperature tops 120. It works. Except when it doesn’t.

Sometimes the flood does come. Sometimes the lightning does strike. Sometimes there is a crevasse that is precariously covered until the weight of one hiker uncovers it, and that hiker tumbles down. Then it is often said, “Well, at least they died doing what they loved.” I am not sure that the last thing going through my mind would be: “Well, it was fun until now.”

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North Carolina regulators approve solar microgrid in Smokies

Posted by on Apr 8, 2017 @ 11:51 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

North Carolina regulators approve solar microgrid in Smokies

Duke Energy got the official go-ahead for a renewable energy project that’s drawing praise from some of its most frequent critics. The “microgrid” system, atop Mount Sterling in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, represents Duke’s latest, small foray into linking solar energy to battery storage – a combination that experts say is key for the expansion of renewable energy.

At Mount Sterling, about 40 solar panels could generate up to 10 kilowatts of power, twice what a typical home would need. Energy produced during the day will be enough to power the park’s emergency radio tower.

Excess electricity will be stored in a 95-kilowatt-hour, non-toxic zinc-air battery – the same technology often used in hearing aids and heart-monitoring devices. When it’s too dark or cloudy for solar panels to work, the battery will supply the tower.

The “microgrid” system is entirely self-sufficient, allowing the removal of power lines that currently connect the radio tower to Duke’s electric grid.

“They did the numbers and found it was less costly to build, versus replacing four miles of transmission line up a rugged terrain,” said Jack Floyd, an engineer with the North Carolina Public Staff, the state-sanctioned ratepayer advocate.

Removing the transmission lines also restores 13 acres of parkland on Mount Sterling, named when early settlers mistook lead for silver in the nearby Pigeon River. It’s considered one of the Smokies’ most historic spots.

“Mount Sterling is a very popular place to go,” said Julie Mayfield, co-director of Asheville-based Mountain True, which advocates on a range of environmental issues in the region. “When you’re deep in the Smokies and you’re hiking, not having transmission lines is going to be a real benefit.”

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Blue Ridge Parkway Announces 2017 Season Opening Schedule

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 @ 9:12 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

Blue Ridge Parkway Announces 2017 Season Opening Schedule

Chances are that you, like many, have already been enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway during this unseasonably warm winter. The park unit welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors in January and February of this year alone, that’s 400,000 more than the first two months of 2016! But the scenic route truly comes alive starting in spring, and the National Park Service has announced its 2017 official opening dates for campgrounds, visitor centers, historic sites, and more.

From back country trails and camping, to favorite picnic areas and full service concession operations, the Parkway offers visitors a wealth of opportunities to experience the scenic beauty and natural and cultural heritage of the southern Appalachian region.

What’s new: Be sure to stop by Eastern National’s new traveler info station and gift shop at the Bluffs buildings at Doughton Park, milepost 241. The venture is a first step in the plan to reopen the stone buildings, formerly home to a camp store and Bluffs Restaurant, which closed in 2010. Restrooms will also be open. There is still work to be done to revitalize this popular stop.

This spring, you can enjoy the Rock Castle Gorge Trail, milepost 169, which was heavily damaged during a rain storm in the fall of 2015 and reopened last September. The moderate to strenuous 10.8 mile loop at milepost 169 features opportunities for backcountry camping, fly fishing, and waterfall and wildlife viewing.

The rehab work is complete at the amphitheater at Mount Pisgah Campground, milepost 408. The newly paved outdoor education space is handicap accessible and features new bench seating and electricity. Be sure to ask at the campground gate about scheduled ranger-led programs.

Here’s an overview of opening dates and know-before-you-go info…


Camelback drummer creates public show while hiking

Posted by on Apr 6, 2017 @ 4:50 pm in Hiking News | 0 comments

Camelback drummer creates public show while hiking

While many in the Valley of the Sun have seen the Camelback Mountain Christmas tree, some may not know about the Camelback drummer.

A TV helicopter caught the drummer’s performance during sunrise on a recent morning.

Ken Koshio takes his music all the way to the top. He is a Taiko performer and an expert in the Japanese style of drumming.

Koshio said he hikes to the top of Camelback Mountain in the heart of Phoenix, AZ almost every day, but on this morning he decided to take his drum with him.

When the helicopter was overhead, he said he couldn’t help but put on a show.

Back in his studio, Koshio is happy to play and willing to teach—he said it’s a loud hobby and a good workout.

Koshio’s hikes are his way of conditioning for a big show that he has coming up next month.

“Physically, mentally, I need to discipline,” Koshio said.

He said that his public concert on Camelback Mountain was just a small sampling of his craft.

Learn more here…


The Risk of Lyme Disease on the Appalachian Trail Is Going to Be High This Year

Posted by on Apr 6, 2017 @ 7:19 am in Hiking News | 2 comments

The Risk of Lyme Disease on the Appalachian Trail Is Going to Be High This Year

Ticks carrying Lyme disease are rampant in the forests of the northeast, and the Appalachian Trail goes straight through the thick of them. This year (2017), a host of variables is coming together that could increase the likelihood of contracting the disease while hiking the trail, says Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist and senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.

In 2005, Ostfeld and his team compiled 25 years’ worth of data into one of the most comprehensive field studies on the connections between blacklegged ticks (the main vectors of the disease) and environmental conditions, and how that relationship affects the risk of humans contracting the disease. “We expect the risk of coming into contact with a tick harboring Lyme disease will be higher in 2017 than in the average year, probably along large parts of the Appalachian Trail,” he says.

The core of the problem starts with a seemingly innocuous event: a bumper crop of acorns. During the summer of 2015, a spell of warm, wet weather in the northeast accelerated oak trees’ ability to produce acorns, which happen to be the primary food source of the white-footed mouse, a rodent that’s ubiquitous across the forests of the northeast. The mice are one of the main hosts of blacklegged ticks, and a carrier of Lyme. Ostfeld says the influx of mice in the middle of summer last year made it easy for ticks to find a host, which will lead to an abundance of infected nymphs in 2017. Ticks in the nymph stage are of highest risk to transmit diseases to humans because they’re hard to spot—no bigger than a poppy seed.

In addition to the bump in mice natality, the blacklegged tick has expanded its range. The bugs are now found in nearly 50 percent of counties in the U.S., whereas in 1998, they were only present in 30 percent. They’re especially prominent in wooded areas east of the Mississippi.

Exactly which sections of the AT will be most affected is hard to predict, but much of the mid-Atlantic and New England regions—the Hudson Valley in particular—could be unusually fruitful incubators for the disease beginning in May and June, when nymphs emerge from their winter slumber. Most thru-hikers will enter those areas at that time.

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Get Free Admission to U.S. National Parks Later this Month

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 @ 12:00 pm in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Get Free Admission to U.S. National Parks Later this Month

National Park Week is America’s largest celebration of national heritage. It’s about making great connections, exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacations, and enhancing America’s best idea—the national parks. It’s all happening in your national parks.

Travelers who want to enjoy the warmer weather in the outdoors can take advantage of free admission to U.S. national parks for two weekends this month as part of National Park Week.

In 2017 fees will be waived April 15-16 and April 22-23 at parks that typically charge for entrance.

That means travelers can enjoy popular parks like California’s Yosemite National Park, Utah’s Bryce Canyon, and Florida’s Everglades National Park for free.

You will also be able to take part in events like ranger-led bike rides and talks throughout the parks, all while enjoying everything from giant sequoias to cascading waterfalls.

The parks will also be waiving fees this year on August 25 for the National Park Service’s birthday, on September 30 for National Public Lands Day, and on November 11-12 for Veteran’s Day.

For those planning to head to a park this April, there are plenty of hidden areas to enjoy in even the most popular parks.


Hiking maps go mobile: Feds unveil digital backcountry guides for Alaska

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 @ 6:45 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

Hiking maps go mobile: Feds unveil digital backcountry guides for Alaska

Navigating Alaska’s backcountry has become a bit easier — or at least, more digital.

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska has started unveiling free digital maps that users can download to their smartphones and open in a third-party mobile app. The app can use GPS technology to show the user’s location on the map, even if that person is without cellphone service, said Lisa Gleason, a BLM Alaska spokeswoman.

Gleason said the federal agency released its first series of digital maps on March 27, 2017 posting them online at blm.gov/maps. The 10 maps cover about 102 million acres of BLM-managed lands and surrounding areas and have the most current geospatial data embedded, she said. The maps include the Denali Highway, the Dalton Highway and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that borders the Arctic Ocean.

By June 3, the agency plans to publish a digital map for the 730-acre Campbell Tract area in Anchorage, Gleason said. The Iditarod National Historic Trail is also a priority, she said.

BLM Alaska started working on the suite of digital maps about two years ago in response to public interest in mobile access to maps of public lands, Gleason said. She said BLM can update the digital maps more quickly than the paper versions.

“Getting updates to paper maps takes a long time and it costs a lot of money,” she said. “A digital map can be more easily updated and more easily carried.”

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Wildland Trekking Continues to Sponsor Meanderthals

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 @ 12:27 pm in Hiking News | 0 comments

Wildland Trekking Continues to Sponsor Meanderthals

For years, I shied away from advertising here at Meanderthals, choosing to place the focus on hiking and conservation rather than garish commercialism. I know that you would much rather look at scenic photos from the Smoky Mountains than flashing, blinking promotions that smack you upside the head and eventually simply get ignored. Over the years I have turned down numerous opportunities to put those ads on these pages. None of them matched want I have in mind for Meanderthals going forward.

That was until 2015. I welcomed Wildland Trekking as a site sponsor of Meanderthals. If you’ve been paying attention the past couple years, you may have noticed the ad you see over there on the right for this respected hiking guide company. Wildland Trekking offers services that are valuable to those of you who have become regulars at Meanderthals. Here is another of their banners:


Wildland Trekking: Guided hiking and backpacking tours in the best of American wild places.

Wildland Trekking: Guided hiking and backpacking tours in the best of American wild places.


I did my research on Wildland Trekking before accepting their advertising. Nearly every review is 5-star. They are a quality, reputable hiking guide company that offers only the most well-trained guides and the most exciting wilderness adventures. You can trust them. They are recommended by the National Park and Forest Services, the American Hiking Society, by REI and a host of wilderness associations and coalitions.

Their advertising that you will see on this site focuses on Great Smoky Mountains National Park because that is where most of you hit the trails. But Wildland Trekking is a national company that also offers guided backpacking trips to Grand Canyon, the Colorado Rockies, the Mighty Five in Utah, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, as well as several other stimulating destinations.

Managing and operating a website these days is not inexpensive. The more Meanderthals continues to grow, the higher the overhead becomes. Thanks to the continued sponsorship of Wildland Trekking, some of those costs are now being covered in an appealing, useful, and non-intrusive way. I promise to keep it that way. I hope you will continue to support Wildland Trekking by clicking on their ads, perusing their offerings, and considering their services for your next big adventure. Thank you.


Gov. helps open hiking trails at Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve

Posted by on Apr 2, 2017 @ 8:46 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

Gov. helps open hiking trails at Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve

Exploring Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve’s mature forests and scenic overlooks by foot has finally gotten easier.

Nearly a decade after its nearly 3,000 acres nestled between Accokeek and Potomac creeks in Stafford County, Virginia were dedicated as a preserve, eight miles of hiking trails have officially opened to the public. They can be used Thursdays through Sundays.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe was on hand for the ceremony, and helped unveil the new “Hiking Crow’s Nest” sign. It features a map showing the trails through some of the best deciduous hardwood forests remaining in the state’s coastal plains.

“This is a great day for Virginia,” he told the approximately 40 attendees. “This is such a special place for us.”

Protecting Crow’s Nest has been one of Stafford’s, and the state’s, highest land conservation priorities for years. The high, narrow peninsula contains 50 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands, which account for 60 percent of all the marshes in the county. It also includes 2,200 acres of mature hardwood forest, including two forest types recognized as globally rare by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program.

Bald eagles nest there; it provides habitat for numerous plant species—Dutchman’s breeches and spring beauty are currently in bloom; and the land played an important role in National American, Colonial and Civil War histories in Virginia.

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John Muir Way recognised as one of Scotland’s Great Trails

Posted by on Apr 1, 2017 @ 12:19 pm in Hiking News | 0 comments

John Muir Way recognised as one of Scotland’s Great Trails

The John Muir Way has officially been recognised as one of Scotland’s Great Trails.

The 134-mile route which runs between Helensburgh and John Muir’s birthplace of Dunbar on the east coast, now joins other world famous paths which have been honoured with the prestigious award.

The John Muir Way is the 28th Long Distance Route to be awarded to accolade by Scottish Natural Heritage. Since it’s launch in April 2014, which marked the centenary year of the Scots-born conservationist’s death, the route has fulfilled the key criteria to earn the sought after status.

The route echoes John Muir’s own personal journey growing up in Scotland’s east coast town of Dunbar before travelling to the west coast, where he set sail for life in America. The route was designed to showcase the best of Central Scotland.

The John Muir Way takes in castles, historic towns and villages, stunning coastal scenery as well as Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, and has already attracted walkers from as far afield as the US, Canada, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.

There is a growing understanding in Scotland of Muir’s significance throughout the world and the award of ‘Scotland’s Great Trail’ status will help to further raise awareness of both Muir and the route.

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Preparing for the National Trails System’s 50th Anniversary

Posted by on Apr 1, 2017 @ 7:04 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

Preparing for the National Trails System’s 50th Anniversary

In 2018, America will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our National Trails System and a nationwide celebration is underway! This celebration will kick off at the International Trails Sympsium on May 9, 2017, in Dayton, OH.

This anniversary is a golden opportunity for all Americans to not just celebrate trails – all trails – but to learn about them, enjoy them, and protect them. For the next two years, the anniversary celebration, Trails50, will engage the American public with lively and interactive social media campaigns and events in their local communities, and spur a new level of awareness and engagement for all generations.

With the passage of the National Trails System Act in 1968, America was given a gift – the creation and protection of some of Americans’ favorite places to discover the great outdoors. Trails that celebrate outdoor adventure such as the Appalachian Trail and trails that allow us to walk through history, such as the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.

Join the Trails50 celebration by sharing your stories, photos, or favorite memories, or by simply getting out on the trail – and maybe bringing along a friend.

Sign up here…


Exploring Canyonlands National Park in One Day

Posted by on Mar 31, 2017 @ 7:22 am in Hiking News | 0 comments

Exploring Canyonlands National Park in One Day

When visitors come to Moab, Utah, they’re usually there to see the famous arches of Arches National Park, the world-renowned mountain biking, or the amazing river rafting.

Canyonlands National Park seems to be an afterthought to many people. “Oh, there’s another national park here? Cool, let’s drive out there for a couple of hours to check it out.”

If you really want to see all of Canyonlands National Park, you really need to spend a few days, or more. Why? The park is divided up into three “districts”, none of which can be easily accessed from the others in a short amount of time. So, really, to see it all you need at least a day for each district.

If you’re like me, you are likely to discover that you want to spend multiple days in each district. As a result, I’ve been going back for year and years.

But what to do if you only have one day to explore Canyonlands? Try this Canyonlands itinerary, exploring the more popular Island in the Sky District.


Smokies vacation haven still thriving in wake of wildfires

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 @ 12:10 pm in Hiking News | 0 comments

Smokies vacation haven still thriving in wake of wildfires

It’s a spectacular drive northward along Highway 441 from the small town of Cherokee on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Gatlinburg on the Tennessee side. In the lower elevations, the spring wildflowers of mid-March, mostly trillium, pop from the ground offering bits of color that soon disappear the higher you climb toward 5,046-foot Newfound Gap at the center of the park. At the highest elevations, patches of snow and ice among the fir and spruce trees prove that winter still hangs on.

As you approach Gatlinburg on Highway 441, you pass near a trail called Chimney Tops. It is here you see the first signs of the massive wildfires that ravaged East Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountains National Park this past autumn.

Chimney Tops, as it turns out, is ground zero, the place where the human-caused fires first began to smolder. The trunks of the trees, their tops bare in winter, are solemn and scarred black in places, but undergrowth is fast returning with the mild weather that enveloped the Southeast during January and February.

Four months after the last flames of the wind-whipped, drought-fueled monster wildfire were finally annihilated by firefighters and doused by rain, glorious rain, the phoenix that is Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville is rising from the ashes amid the shadows of the Smokies.

Because of the intense international spotlight the wildfires thrust upon this vacation haven for honeymooners and families alike, some believe that the entire area was completely obliterated and that there’s nothing left.

But that’s oh so untrue.

This entire East Tennessee region is alive and well and completely thriving, and its message is essentially this: Come on down. Or over. Or up. Fly in. Drive in. Even hike in. We’re open for business, and we welcome you with open arms.

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