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December 1, 2014 at 10:36am

Outdoor Addict: Outdoorsy gifting guide of 2014

Patagonia Black Hole Duffle Bag = awesome

My family keeps asking the only question I hate more than "are we there yet?"

"What do you want for Christmas?"

Ugh. So in an effort to appease my own family and provide inspiration for any outdoor enthusiasts in your life, here's a list that ranges from Trump style to starving student.

REI Adventure Travel Extravaganza

I've been coveting a trip to Bhutan for quite some time now. High in the Himalayas, Bhutan is a Buddhist country largely untouched by Western influence. They only allow a certain number of tourists per year and do not have a well-developed tourism industry, so going it alone is a little more than I can handle. Enter REI Travel. They organize amazing trips with excellent guides, local connections and know how to handle group dynamics. I mean come on; the trip is called "Festivals of the Thunder Dragon". How cool is that?! Anyone want to be my Santa baby and slip this under my tree?

14 day Festivals of the Thunder Dragon: $4,999

Local Check-That-Off-The-Bucket-List

So maybe your budget isn't able to handle Bhutan. No matter. You can still help your beloveds check stuff off their bucket lists. Everything from ice climbing to paddle boarding can be done in our own backyard. Personally, I want a snowshoeing experience. Or send them white water rafting this spring. How about snowboarding lessons? Or kayaking? The possibilities are endless and I promise they will love it more than that sweater you were about to grab desperately.

Whitewater: Riverrecreation.com 

Snowsports: Crystal Mountain

Snowshoeing that is practically free: Mount Rainier 

Kayaking: Kayak Academy 

Gear

Every adventure lover needs gear. My top choice for this category is something not on my Christmas list this year. Because I already bought it for myself and lovelovelove it: a Patagonia Black Hole Duffle Bag. These things are da bomb. They hold insane amounts of stuff, take a beating beautifully and are stylish enough to not make me self-conscious when I'm outside the Pacific Northwest. (Side note: have you ever noticed that? Leave here and suddenly you realize just how different fashion perspective are? Just me? OK.) Oh, and they make a backpacks too.

The "Cheap" Stuff

Anyone who is in to outdoor pursuits will tell you how much the little stuff adds up. For rock climbers it's chalk and tape. For hikers it's good socks. Skiers and snowboarders can never have too many hats and gloves. And everybody loves granola bars and snacks. Consider loading your favorite adventurer up with the essentials they need. They aren't glamorous but they'll be thoroughly enjoyed.

September 29, 2013 at 9:00am

5 Things To Do Today: Back to Beale Street blues, sea otters, Lord Franzannian, oyster bake and more ...

The Randy Oxford Band will anchor the Back to Beale Street blues show today at The Swiss. Photo credit: Dan Hill

SUNDAY, SEPT. 29 1023 >>>

1. The South Sound Blues Association will send The Randy Oxford Band and pianist Arthur Migliazza to rep the Northwest at the International Blues Challenge next year. The SSBA hosts its annual Back to Beale Street Blues 2014 Fundraiser to help pay costs and to provide the South Sound with one hell of a blue concert. The event will take place from 4-10 p.m. at The Swiss. Click here for the line-up.

2. Everyone loves the antics of sea otters, those impossibly cute marine mammals that lie on their backs in the water as they feast on their dinners. From 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium will shine the spotlight on sea otters with special Sea Otter Awareness Day activities. The otters will get special enrichments like toys to play with and treats to eat. The humans will learn about these interesting creatures and why they're crucial to the world's ecosystems.

4. Olympia Little Theatre closes its run of Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers at 1:55 p.m. It's set in December 1969, the same month the play opened on Broadway, and it follows the adventures of Barney, a middle-aged husband, as he attempts to cheat on his wife with three different women. What keeps this nebbish from being despicable is his amorous ineptitude - no spoilers, but his fourth time's the charm - and the fact that he really just wants to learn what's so fantastic about the Sexual Revolution. Read Christian Carvajal's full review of Last of the Red Hot Lovers in the Music and Culture section.

The Lord Franzannian Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show closes its run at the Midnight Sun Performance Space with a 4 p.m. show. Working in the tradition of vaudeville shows from the early part of the 20th century, this fast-paced variety show promises a little something for everyone: dance, music, comedy, storytelling, juggling, even feats of amazement.

5. Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe is hosting an "Aww Shucks" oyster bake at 5 p.m. The Top will feature Pacific oysters baked three ways: Rockefeller style with creamed spinach, bacon and panko; with a lemon basil butter; and with tobiko and asumac herb butter (each priced at 5 for $8). Also available will be a pan-fried oyster plate with remoulade and cocktail sauce or a po' boy on a delectable Macrina Bakery baguette ($8). If you like 'em on the half shell, you can partake in Shigoku or Kusshi with a Tabasco mignonette ($2 each or six for $10). Festivities also include local brews on tap from 7 Seas Brewing and entertainment provided by local rockers Blanco Bronco. 

LINK: Sunday, Sept. 29 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

May 9, 2013 at 10:09am

Macklemore vs. Point Ruston

Geese strut like they owned The Waterwalk at Point Ruston. Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

Raise those hands, this is our party

We came here to live life like nobody was watching

I got my city right behind me

If I fall, they got me. Learn from that failure gain humility and then we keep marching

Above are lyrics from Macklemore's song "Can't Hold Us." Our Outdoor Addict columnist Whitney Rhodes dropped this verse in her column about strolling The Waterwalk at Point Ruston, which posted this morning in the Military Life section at northwestmilitary.com.

First a gorgeous tile mosaic octopus will greet you and a few steps in is an arbor with benches positioned perfectly to frame Mount Rainier. But it seemed everyone had the urge to show off on such a beautiful day. We had just reached the ferry when out walked some geese like "what up? I got a big flock!" Not even a curious dog could put a dent in their strut. They were rollin' in hella deep in their big ass coats like they owned the place.

Yup, Rhodes goes street in this week's column, which is a great read.

Here's the video for Macklemore's song Rhodes mentions. Enjoy.

Filed under: Outdoor Addict, outdoors, Music, Tacoma,

April 25, 2013 at 11:36am

Outdoor Addict: Down the rabbit hole

WEST HYLEBOS WETLANDS: Embark on this adventure. Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

I had grand ambitions this weekend. I had a stern talk with my ankle to bring it in line. I had an adventuring partner and a destination. Oh yes. We headed out to the Greenwater area for a short easy hike. Problem number one? Despite a promising weather forecast of sun, heading up Highway 410 we alternated between total downpours of rain/hail/snow and bright sunshine. Bipolar weather. Great. Problem number two? The great ankle fiasco. I got excited when we spotted the White River. It was running fast and high so we stopped the car to get out and admire it.  It took me 10 minutes to go 10 yards from the car to the river. Not exactly a pace that works for a hike, no matter how short. Well ... crap. We ended up doing some light exploring but ultimately admitted defeat.

On our way home we went hunting for a comforting sugary treat to drown our disappointment, when suddenly our adventure practically jumped up and bit us. The West Hylebos Wetlands.

Located in the middle of Federal Way suburban sprawl, the West Hylebos Wetlands would have never made my list. I mean really. It's in the middle of suburbia! Traffic! And even when in it you never really forget that you are in the middle of a city, but it was still a terrific little oasis.

We ventured across the parking lot and down a gravel path. It was flat and even. Very standard for a city park. Until the gravel path came to an end at the edge of some woods and a wooden boardwalk disappeared into the trees. A bunny hopped out in front of us and nibbled on some grass. I half expected it to sit up and talk to us. Instead he disappeared into the brush. I took it as a sign. I mean how often do you get to follow a rabbit down a rabbit hole?

The boardwalk was surrounded by dense underbrush and the ground was almost swampy, adding to the feeling of venturing into another world. Spring was just beginning to show with green tips on all of the bare branches and salmon berries in full bloom. One of the viewing stops was supposedly over a 200-foot deep water hole created by the decomposing bog. Slightly creepy especially when the frogs decided to take flying leaps to show their displeasure at our presence.

We only saw a few people. Bird watchers who were fixated on something high in a tree. The entire experience was surreal. I mean how often does one stumble upon a 100+ acre wetlands in the middle of the city? Especially one so quiet on a Sunday afternoon that looks like a set for the TV show Once Upon a Time.

The boardwalk took us through swamp, forest, to look at big trees and a lake, before returning us to the bright sunny meadow where we first saw the bunny. As we blinked from the bright sunshine we looked for our furry guide but he was nowhere to be found.

I drove by again before writing this column just to be sure I didn't dream it all up. But no dear reader, it's real. I encourage you to pay the wetlands a visit. What will your story be when you follow the rabbit down his hole?

West Hylebos Wetlands

411 S. 348th St.

Federal Way

April 11, 2013 at 7:53am

Outdoor Addict: Great Ankle Fiasco of 2013

JUST DO IT >>>

It's time for a confession dear readers. It's been three weeks since my last outdoor adventure. Sure I've talked about little hellions, err darling children, at the Nature Center and kidnapped a dog, but I haven't really adventured. I haven't been out freezing my buns off last minute camping or trying to get lost in the woods. I've been handicapped by a little issue I like to call the great ankle fiasco of 2013. One of my great loves is rock climbing and the Edgeworks Climbing gym feels like my second home. A few weeks ago, I fell in the gym doing something silly and sprained my left ankle. It has proved to be anything but simple to fix and has been quite the impediment to my outdoor enjoyment. But I'm at the end of my rope. Without some kind of adventure I start to go stir crazy. And that is what I want to discuss with you today.

It all started a few years ago. I found myself very stressed out and feeling anxious. A spontaneous trip to Paradise at Mount Rainier came as a revelation. I felt this incredible sense of peace. I was awed by the beauty of the mountains and the natural environment seemed to put my stress in perspective. I always liked being outside and enjoyed natural beauty but this was different. After this I started hiking and seeking out activities to recreate this feeling. This was the beginning of my "addiction."

I started small. Tromping through the woods at Point Defiance or going for walks at the beach. But soon it wasn't enough to get my fix. Next came the weekend hikes. But it wasn't until I took the plunge that I really discovered it had become a necessity for me. I attempted to climb Mount Rainier. I'd always said it was on my bucket list, but we all know how that is. I mean how many people actually check the items off their bucket list? I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was the hardest ting I've ever done. Anyone who has suffered altitude sickness can relate when I say the first night I spent at Camp Muir was an experience I never wish to repeat. But I pushed my boundaries and came back a better person for it.

So dear readers this is my challenge to you. I encourage you to push yourself. Don't run out and try to climb Rainier next weekend. But whatever you've always wanted to do, try it. Make the time. Take the kids on that Foothills Trail bike ride. Or run 5 Mile Drive on a Saturday morning. Believe me, after a late Friday night dragging your hungover behind out of bed is really hard. But I've never regretted getting out, and after the first grumpy hour I always enjoy it. There are some great running groups in Tacoma and plenty of charity causes to join for almost any activity: 5Ks, triathlons, climbing, bike riding, whatever floats your boat.

I hope my weekly exploits aren't just entertaining. I hope they show you new things to do in our corner of the world, and maybe inspire some adventures of your own. I'm getting desperate for some adventure so expect some hilarious exploits as the great ankle fiasco of 2013 and I come to a mutual understanding about how this summer is going to go.

LINK: Scenic Beach State Park

Filed under: Outdoor Addict, Outdoors, Tacoma,

April 4, 2013 at 9:52am

Outdoor Addict: Where to take kidnapped dogs

HELP!

Well dear readers, my outdoor addiction has stopped to a new low today. The weather gets nice and everyone brings out their dogs and I get dog envy. So, like any good addict, I decided to get my fix by whatever means necessary. Yes dear readers, I kidnapped a dog today. He was a squirrelly one to catch. Skiddish, shy, and completely adorable. Tiny too. An easy target.

You see, I needed a dog so I would fit in at the dog park. Dog park people are very particular. They bring their doggies to the park to frolic and socialize, but spend a lot of their time eyeing other dog owners. I couldn't exactly wander in dogless and ogle their dogs. My weakness is the big, happy, slightly dumb ones. But it's kind of like going to a playground to watch kids play when you don't bring one of your own. Slightly creepy.

Read more...

March 28, 2013 at 7:12am

Outdoor Addict: Small children don't cramp your style at Tacoma Nature Center

TACOMA NATURE CENTER: There's probably a kid behind these ferns and he or she is laughing. Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

I know the truth dear readers. Some of you have a dirty little secret. You read the Volcano to stay hip and relevant. To always know where the new hottest spot is, or the best sandwich and beer can be had. You read us so there is never a question of what to do on date night and sometimes live vicariously through us because of your dirty little secret. You have children.

This is a perfectly natural progression of life. One day your life could be featured in the social pages of our fine publication, the slightly reserved hipster who has always seen the latest art and can be found eating and drinking their way through our fine city. Then you meet an equally attractive partner, live it up as that couple everyone envies, get married in a disgustingly perfect and beautiful summer wedding, go on the adventurous honeymoon to Costa Rica, buy a lovely historic home, and have a perfect baby. Wait. What just happened? Real life can sometimes feel like it happens as fast as that last sentence. But never fear dear reader. Small children may cramp your bar hopping style, but they don't need to cramp your outdoor style.

I have the perfect place to take the kids on a Saturday morning when you are still hung over from date night. Head to the Tacoma Nature Center, tots in tow, for a magical experience all will enjoy. The Nature Center and Snake Lake wetlands are made up of 71 acres, the Nature Center building, Discovery Pond, and about 2 miles of trails. There's something for everyone so if you don't have small children to entertain don't count it out. Wandering the trails is still a pretty sweet date.

If your disgustingly cute little rug rats are younger than 10, they will enjoy Discovery Pond. It's kind of like a playground with more nature. A nice path circles the small waterfalls and pond. There's a small rock to climb on and a great little play structure that is every kids tree house dream. The slides also look like logs, and there are plenty of benches for mom and dad to relax, drink some strong coffee, and supervise from. The Nature Center itself is also worth a stop. The gift shop has some neat toys and they do lots of programs for kids to learn about the environment. The programming is diverse, for all ages, and very affordable. You can also rent the Center for birthday parties. No need to have 10 screaming children in your house, instead take them to be entertained by someone else!

I prefer to venture down the trails and into the wetlands. Even as an adult you can see the opportunities for kids and their imaginations to run wild. A play area is located near the parking lot and is the perfect place for imaginary kingdoms and animal friends. The trails are nice and wide, level and well maintained - easy to wander down with all ages. But leave the stroller in the car and Fido at home. This area is a nature preserve and has lots of animals, as a result they ask you to leave pets at home to let the natural animals live in peace. To me, the Nature Center is the perfect place to take kids to get them to flex their imaginations. No iPads or cell phones, just pure imagination run wild.

So dear readers, no need to hide it any more. Kids happen. In the Outdoor Addict space we can all be ourselves because there is something for everyone. Next week perhaps some four legged fun?

Tacoma Nature Center

Center open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Saturday

Trails open 8 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset

1919 S. Tyler St., Tacoma

253.591.6439

Filed under: Outdoor Addict, Outdoors, Tacoma,

March 21, 2013 at 8:14am

Outdoor Addict: Where the Ewoks and legislature roam

CAPITOL LAKE: Enjoy viewing the wildlife and the political operatives in their natural habitat. Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

Every year, the city of Olympia changes when the legislature is in session. It's like the great migration in Africa. The political operatives descend from all over the state. Eager young staffers in suits rush around, middle aged staffers roll their eyes, and legislators occasionally produce titillating stories. You can see their influence all over town, but my favorite place to watch is of course, outside.

Settle down on a bench in Heritage Park just before noon for the best viewing. The staffers stream out in ones and twos. Carefully winding their way down the switchbacks from the Capitol Dome. The ladies in their skirts and sensible tennis shoes, the runners trying to get in a few miles, a few men - mostly younger ones trailing their attractive female colleagues for some brownie points. Occasionally, you'll see a legislator in the flesh. You can identify them by the vague look, repeated blinking and constant reaching for their phones. They are completely out of their element and very entertaining to watch. On very nice days some of these wanderers take on a historical air, reminiscent of the Victorian era when taking a turn about the garden was a social norm and a way to be seen. They promenade slowly, gossiping and strategizing. On our less lovely spring days it's all business. Only the serious walkers brave less than perfect sunshine.

Heritage Park and Capitol Lake are great to visit for more than just the people watching. An abundance of ducks provides ample opportunity to impersonate David Attenborough with your own narration of their activities, and the dog watching is always entertaining. Where else would you find a Chihuahua dressed as an Ewok in March? (True story. Saw it on my last visit.) And the scenery is stunning. From one side of the lake you can admire the Capitol Dome, from the other the Olympic Mountains peek out at you.

The path around the lake is wide and lined with numerous benches. The Heritage Park section of the lake has a stonewall separating the path from the lake, which features markers representing each of the state's counties. I found it fun to read them and be reminded about the rest of our great state. Pend Orielle County anyone? The 1.7 mile loop around the main lake takes you through the aforementioned Heritage Park, as well as Marathon Park. An extension of the trail follows Deschutes Parkway down to the Interpretive Center. This is a great place to learn about wetlands and habitat.

The future of Capitol Lake is a bit uncertain. Currently it receives a large amount of sediment from the river feeding it. Thus, the lake is slowly filling with sediment and growing shallower every year. Many solutions - from dredging to restoring the natural estuary - have been discussed but nothing has been decided. Between financial, environmental, and community concerns, there seems to be little common ground.

But none of these concerns impact your ability to enjoy viewing the wildlife and the political operatives in their natural habitat. So grab a coffee or some lunch downtown (I recommend the Bread Peddler) and sit back to enjoy the show.

Capitol Lake

Fifth Avenue Southwest and Water Street
Olympia, WA 98501
Map

Filed under: Outdoor Addict, Outdoors, Politics,

March 14, 2013 at 8:10am

Outdoor Addict: Stun cranky Seattle-ites at Chambers Bay

CHAMBER BAY: Take time to absorb the beauty. Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

IT'S IN YOUR FREAKIN' BACKYARD! >>>

Y'all I have got to rant about something for a minute. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country, and yet all I hear about from my friends who don't live here is how awful the rain must be. How could anyone live in a place that gets rain 485 days per year? And don't get me started on the Seattle-ite bias toward Tacoma. I love Seattle. I love my friends who live there and I love spending the day there. But good lord, getting them to come down here to visit or even say something nice about it is challenging. So, whenever I do get someone to co me visit me I do my best to leave them speechless. I could go on and on about a whole itinerary, but for the outdoors addicts among us, I'll stick to how I wow them. On a nice day, I take them to Chambers Bay.

Officially known as the Chambers Creek Properties, Chambers Creek Regional Park - or the more popular name Chambers Bay - is comprised of more than 950 acres located along the shores of the Puget Sound, in University Place. It includes a world-renowned golf course (Chambers Bay Golf Course, thus the commonly used name), enormous central meadow, miles of paved trails, beach access, and off leash dog area, playground, soccer fields and some of the most stunning views in Pierce County. Everyone I've ever taken there on a sunny day has the same reaction, "holy cow!" It's a stunner ladies and gentlemen. And in my experience shuts up even the biggest critics.

Over the last 200 years, the entire Chambers Creek Properties area has been used as a location for a paper mill, a proposed match company, a major industrial center, multiple lumber companies, a railroad center and a gravel mine. The gravel mine left the largest imprint with the hillside having been carved away, and large concrete structures left dotting the landscape. Pierce County purchased the property to house its wastewater treatment plant. Yes, on the part of the property not open to the public there is a sewage treatment plant. But the beauty of their plan was that the plant only takes up a fraction of the property. The rest is for the public to enjoy.

If you are a golfer, I will warn you the green fees are a little steep, and no golf carts allowed, but the Scottish style links course is one people dream of playing. The 2015 US Open will be played on it. And it's in your backyard! For the rest of us non-golfers, I could write several weeks worth of columns for all there is to do. I promise to revisit it. But for now just the highlights:

  • A large off leash dog area - let the puppies run!
  • Miles of trails. Just the loop around the golf course is approximately 3 miles.
  • The Central Meadow. A seemingly permanent kite flying breeze, perfect Frisbee tossing grass, picnicking possibilities, and really I could go on. Anything you would want to do on a wide-open expanse of grass.
  • Beach access. Terrific beach for finding treasures, tossing rocks in the water and watching the sunset.

The breath taking view of Puget Sound, Fox Island and the Olympic Mountains is my favorite part. Inevitably, after taking an out of town guest there they say, "Now I get it." And even the most critical Seattle-ite has admitted there is something nice about Tacoma/Pierce County. So really folks, go fall in love with your hometown a little more.

Directions

Take Exit 130 off of Interstate 5 to South 56th Street West.  Take the Tacoma Mall Boulevard ramp toward South 56th Street West. Turn Left on Tacoma Mall Boulevard. Then right onto 56th. Stay on 56th for approx. 3 miles when 56th becomes Cirque Drive West. Get out of your car and stretch. Get back in your car and continue on Cirque Drive West to Grandview Drive West. Turn Left at Grandview Drive West. Pass through one roundabout. Chambers Bay will be on the right.

LINK: The Foothills Trail

LINK: Owen Beach

LINK: Scenic Beach State Park

March 7, 2013 at 8:31am

Outdoor Addict: The Foothills Trail

MCMILLIAN BRIDGE: It's the best spot to jump on The Foothills Trail. Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

A BREAK FROM THE CITY >>>

So the other day I was enjoying the trails at Point Defiance. They are one of my favorite easy escapes from the city. Plodding along on the trails, mud on my shoes, admiring the first signs of spring, listening to the birds, breathing the fresh air ... ROAAAAAAAAAAR. A Harley rides by on Five Mile Drive. So much for pretending I was out of the city for a while.

This is not a rant on loud motorcycles. Or cars. I have taken that drive many a time and sometimes it's the perfect lunch break. But I was left cranky and wanting out. Sometimes I need to just get out of the city. It doesn't have to be a crazy camp in the middle of nowhere trip. But sometimes I just want to see a cow.  So I set off on a quest to find a place that was close but would be an escape from all that is the city. A place that could be an afternoon getaway and not an all day affair.

I have found one dear reader. Pack your bicycles! Grab the roller blades! Bring the dog and kids! There is a trail with infinite possibilities. The Foothills Trail.

The Foothills Trail is an over 25 mile long trail that largely follows the old rail line. The Foothill Rails-to-Trails coalition has diligently championed the development of this scenic byway and it is a gem in Pierce County. When it is completed, it will link with other trails and you will be able to travel from the shores of Puget Sound in Tacoma, all the way to the foothills in Enumclaw. While not fully completed yet, there are substantial sections done providing miles of recreational opportunity.

My personal favorite spot to get on the trail is the McMillin trailhead. Located adjacent to the historic McMillian bridge just before you get into Orting, this small parking area offers you a two direction choice. Head over the historic railroad trestle bridge and into farmland, or continue towards the adorable town of Orting. Both directions have different pulls for me. On one hand, the farms (cows!) provide that visual escape from the city. On the other, the view of Mt. Rainier as you head into to town is unbelievable. Plus, the Orting Bakery is pretty darn good. If you do bring the kids, downtown Orting has a lovely little park for them to play in. Get some treats at the bakery and let the kids run around like heathens before strapping them back in the stroller. Oh and I've been told the pizza at Route 66 Pizzeria is "freaking amazing." You can start your trail adventure here. But at least for me, when faced with a bakery and pizza or a trail ... well lets just say I'm better when the reward is at the end of the exercise.

The trail is largely flat, mostly paved, and stretches for miles. If you are training for a long distance run or are a bicyclist, believe me it is worth the trip to mix up your routine. REI has built a rest area about halfway between Orting and South Prairie providing a nice place for a picnic. And just because the trail is flat and paved does not mean it's boring. On my recent walk I saw longhorn cattle, emus, woodpeckers, met an adorable puppy that was working on his manners and sat next to a lovely river. What will your next adventure look like?

The Foothills Trail

McMillin and Orting trailheads: From State Highway 167 and/or 512 take the State Highway 410 exit, then take the Orting/Sumner exit which is Route 162. Turn right towards Orting. The McMillin trailhead is on the right directly after the cement bridge at 140th St E. The Orting trailhead is 2.2 miles further on the right located in Orting City Park.

Find Pierce County's trail map here.

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