Tioga Pass in Yosemite Opens Thursday, June 29

Yosemite's Tioga Pass Road opens June 29

Milky Way from Tioga Pass Road 10:32 pm June 21, 2017.

Yosemite News Release
June 27, 2017 4:00 pm
For Immediate Release

Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park Open to All Vehicular Traffic Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tioga Road will open for Bicycle and Pedestrian Use on Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park (Highway 120 through the park) will open for the season to all vehicular traffic beginning at 8:00 am on Thursday, June 29, 2017. There will be limited visitor services available from the Tioga Pass Entrance Station to Crane Flat. Tioga Road will open for bicycle and pedestrian users at 8:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

All visitors on the road are encouraged to use caution as there may be dirt, debris, and water flowing over sections of the road. Visitors are encouraged to keep an eye out for maintenance vehicles working on the roadway.

Tioga Pass is Open! by Jeff Sullivan

Tioga Pass June 2017

There will be minimal services available along the Tioga Road for several weeks. There will be no drinking water. Visitors should use the vault and portable toilets located along the roadway to help protect water quality in the Tuolumne River watershed. Food service and lodging are not available along the Tioga Road. There is no mobile phone service at this time and 911 emergency calls will not be operational. There are no gasoline services available along Tioga Road. Visitors can purchase gasoline in Lee Vining and at Crane Flat.

For maps and visitor information, visit the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center, open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, the Big Oak Flat Information Station, the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, and the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center in Lee Vining.

Tamarack Flat Campground is the only campground that is currently open along Tioga Road. This campground is first-come, first served and fills early in the day.

Evening Reflection on Tioga Pass, June 2017Anyone planning to hike or backpack near Tuolumne Meadows and in all high elevation areas of Yosemite should be prepared for winter hiking and camping conditions. Trails are still impacted by snow and ice. River crossings are high and swift moving. There are several high water areas currently impacting the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the John Muir Trail (JMT) in Yosemite National Park. Trail conditions may vary at any time.

When driving in the park, motorists are urged to drive slowly as bears and other animals are active and may be present on the roadway.

For updated 24-hour road and weather conditions for Yosemite National Park, please call 209-372-0200 and press 1.

https://activesole.blogspot.com/2017/06/tioga-road-in-yosemite-national-park-to.html

Snow Melting on Tioga Pass

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Quick Trip to Yosemite for the Moon Rise

Moon Rise over Hall Dome, Yosemite National Park

I’ve been pursuing moon rises behind Half Dome for many years. The weather doesn’t always cooperate, but I’ve caught it from several different vantage points now, and I have a few more angles to catch it from on return trips.

This time there had been a couple of light snowfalls already in the Fall, so there was a nice dusting of snow and the beginnings of ice on the lakes as I crossed Tioga Pass.  Here’s Ellery Lake with Ice and patches of open water.

The light wasn’t great as I passed tuolumne Meadows, but upon reaching Tenaya Lake, I found a mirror surface reflecting trees on the far side.  You could get great pictures if you moved away form the families throwing rocks into the lake, and timed your shots to avoid the worst of the ripples they created.


Next I pulled into the Olmstead Point parking lot.  I was shocked at the quantity of people crowding the area so late in October.  I didn’t stop.

Then I checked a few stands of dogwood trees tucked into groves of redwood trees, and found the dogwoods brightly colored and beautifully back-lit.

Proceeding for a lap around Yosemite Valley, Upper Yosemite Fall was completely dry, missing even the modest wetness you’ll often see on the rock.  Most of the deciduous trees seemed a couple of weeks behind schedule turning color, like the aspen had been in the Eastern Sierra this season.  The oaks were lightening somewhat, but not far enough along to warrant a stop by Cook’s Meadow.  I did spot some trees nicely back-lit against Cathedral Rock, so I pulled over.

A large van full of photo workshop customers passed by; I figured I’d catch up with them in a few minutes, either in the turnout opposite Bridalveil Fall at Valley View, or a short while later catching the moon rise. 

Unfortunately in this dry year even spring-fed Bridalveil Fall is nearly non-existent, breaking up into a thin mist partway to the ground.  Noticing the angle of the sun, I stopped to see whether there was enough water in Bridalveil to create a rainbow in its mist.  Sure enough, the rainbow was there, and the low water of the Merced River made a perfect reflecting pool to offer creative compositions including colorful Fall foliage.  Odd that the photo workshop passed it up (perhaps they caught it the day before).

By then it was time to go set up for moon rise.  Curiously, the photography workshop was still nowhere to be found.  Had they really left the park only minutes before one of the events of the year in Yosemite? 

Last year the only other person who had anticipated the moon rise in the position I had chosen was a guy from Seattle shooting on film.  Of course once the moon rose, two or three dozen people joined us!  This year, from another location, I first met someone from Cincinnati.  As it turned out, someone had gotten the word out online, so roughly 2 dozen people more people eventually showed up (and there were apparently a few more at the vantage point I had used the prior year).  

A started one camera at 105mm focal length to capture a time-lapse video of the entire moon rise, and I used a second camera to capture the initial emergence at 400mm then the rest of the event at 200mm.  It’ll take me a while to get each sequence processed, but so far it’s looking good!  There are even a couple of climbers you can see move slightly in the video, on El Capitan directly opposite the moon in this image.  

 I’ve been pretty busy this year wrapping up my guide book to California landscape photography, but in 2013 I’ll have to offer a few Yosemite workshops.

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Olmstead Point Dawn Full Moon Set

In late July I positioned myself to catch the full moon rising at Mono Lake. It had rained during the day, but as I sat on the porch of the lcoal coffee shop waiting to see how the weather woudl turn out, it was clearing up nicely for sunset, and hopefully the moonrise. One of the nice things about photography is that the people really into it are a pretty relaxed and sociable bunch. I ran into filmmaker Tom Lowe at a coffee shop in Lee Vining, and he was heading out to Mono Lake as well. A young woman with an accent had shared the table and power for her laptop, and not knowing the area, when she heard we were going to a nice sunset location, she decided to follow along in her car.

We drove south out of town, and as I turned left onto a shortcut, Tom missed the turn and kept going towards the standard highway 395 to highway 120 route towards South Tufa. The woman, Rotem Retter from Israel who had come to the U.S. after serving in the Israeli Defense Force, made the turn. By now a large rainbow was forming in the remaining showers over the Mono Basin, so I stopped at a turnout near another photographer’s car. This turned out to be Ron Wolf. We had seen each other’s work on Flickr, but had never met.

As I continued on, I decided that the clouds would obscure the moonrise, but they were well posisioned for shooting sunset at South Tufa. I called Tom with the update, but by now he was already set up elsewhere, and decided to stay put.

The clouds were fine for sunset, but as i had suspected, they were too thick to allow the rising moon to show through. This is why it’s critical to try to shoot as many sunset full moon rises as possible in a given year… there are only a dozen or so to start with, and weather will obscure many of those!

No problem… I could still catch the moon set at dawn. After having the June 26 partially eclipsed moon set at Olmstead Point behind a nearby ridge before it woud have set on the horizon, I decided to shoot this moonset there as well, so I could find a better shooting position that would enable the sunrise to proceed further as the full moon set.

It turned out even better than I could have planned. The sun was sending light rays over the Eastern horizon, while the moon acted as a gaint reflector, sending more of the sun’s rays radiating back from the Western horizon.

I had high expectations for this sunrise, or at least high hopes. After all, I had looked up the moonset and sunrise times a week or two in advance, checked sun and moon angles for various locations in The Photographer’s Ephemeris to select my shooting location, gotten up at 3:55 over by Mono Lake to make it here in time, and to place the foreground hill out of the way for the moonset I decided to hike up the granite slope across the road instead of down to Olmstead Point. To do this landscape photography thing right, it’s a far cry from just arrive, point and shoot!

“A lot of people think that when you have grand scenery, such as you have in Yosemite, that photography must be easy.”
– Galen Rowell

I continued to shoot as the clouds and light changed, and there were some majestic juniper trees on the hill which added nice foreground subjects. But I was done by 7am or so, with no plans for the day.

As with the prior sunset Rotem had decided to check out my shooting location, and having hiked Mt Dana the day before, she was eyeing Mt. Hoffman today. I had no plans for the “boring” mid-day light, and the trailhead was only a couple of miles away, so this time I tagged along.

After we moved food and scented items fomr our cars to bear boxes, we got an early enough start to reach May Lake while I could still catch a reflection with minimal wind.

The entire hike is only a 6 mile round trip, but the trailhead is at 8710 feet and you end up at approximately 10,850, so it’s a healthy climb. I’m never particularly fast lugging 10-12 pounds of camera gear plus 3 liters (another 6 pounds) of water, but it’s an enjoyable hike with a nice view.

Unfortunately there was a fire somewhere which cast a haze in the air. With the distinct possiblility of afternoon thunderstorms, after some rest and chatting with other hikers on top, while protecting day packs from persistent marmots wanting to steal food, it was time to make a hasty descent.


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Olmstead Point Dawn Full Moon Set

In late July I positioned myself to catch the full moon rising at Mono Lake. It had rained during the day, but as I sat on the porch of the lcoal coffee shop waiting to see how the weather woudl turn out, it was clearing up nicely for sunset, and hopefully the moonrise. One of the nice things about photography is that the people really into it are a pretty relaxed and sociable bunch. I ran into filmmaker Tom Lowe at a coffee shop in Lee Vining, and he was heading out to Mono Lake as well. A young woman with an accent had shared the table and power for her laptop, and not knowing the area, when she heard we were going to a nice sunset location, she decided to follow along in her car.

We drove south out of town, and as I turned left onto a shortcut, Tom missed the turn and kept going towards the standard highway 395 to highway 120 route towards South Tufa. The woman, Rotem Retter from Israel who had come to the U.S. after serving in the Israeli Defense Force, made the turn. By now a large rainbow was forming in the remaining showers over the Mono Basin, so I stopped at a turnout near another photographer’s car. This turned out to be Ron Wolf. We had seen each other’s work on Flickr, but had never met.

As I continued on, I decided that the clouds would obscure the moonrise, but they were well posisioned for shooting sunset at South Tufa. I called Tom with the update, but by now he was already set up elsewhere, and decided to stay put.

The clouds were fine for sunset, but as i had suspected, they were too thick to allow the rising moon to show through. This is why it’s critical to try to shoot as many sunset full moon rises as possible in a given year… there are only a dozen or so to start with, and weather will obscure many of those!

No problem… I could still catch the moon set at dawn. After having the June 26 partially eclipsed moon set at Olmstead Point behind a nearby ridge before it woud have set on the horizon, I decided to shoot this moonset there as well, so I could find a better shooting position that would enable the sunrise to proceed further as the full moon set.

It turned out even better than I could have planned. The sun was sending light rays over the Eastern horizon, while the moon acted as a gaint reflector, sending more of the sun’s rays radiating back from the Western horizon.

I had high expectations for this sunrise, or at least high hopes. After all, I had looked up the moonset and sunrise times a week or two in advance, checked sun and moon angles for various locations in The Photographer’s Ephemeris to select my shooting location, gotten up at 3:55 over by Mono Lake to make it here in time, and to place the foreground hill out of the way for the moonset I decided to hike up the granite slope across the road instead of down to Olmstead Point. To do this landscape photography thing right, it’s a far cry from just arrive, point and shoot!

“A lot of people think that when you have grand scenery, such as you have in Yosemite, that photography must be easy.”
– Galen Rowell

I continued to shoot as the clouds and light changed, and there were some majestic juniper trees on the hill which added nice foreground subjects. But I was done by 7am or so, with no plans for the day.

As with the prior sunset Rotem had decided to check out my shooting location, and having hiked Mt Dana the day before, she was eyeing Mt. Hoffman today. I had no plans for the “boring” mid-day light, and the trailhead was only a couple of miles away, so this time I tagged along.

After we moved food and scented items fomr our cars to bear boxes, we got an early enough start to reach May Lake while I could still catch a reflection with minimal wind.

The entire hike is only a 6 mile round trip, but the trailhead is at 8710 feet and you end up at approximately 10,850, so it’s a healthy climb. I’m never particularly fast lugging 10-12 pounds of camera gear plus 3 liters (another 6 pounds) of water, but it’s an enjoyable hike with a nice view.

Unfortunately there was a fire somewhere which cast a haze in the air. With the distinct possiblility of afternoon thunderstorms, after some rest and chatting with other hikers on top, while protecting day packs from persistent marmots wanting to steal food, it was time to make a hasty descent.


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Little Lakes Valley for Dawn, Tenaya Lake for Sunset


Tenaya Lake Pollen Lines, originally uploaded by Jeff Sullivan.

I’m going on so many hikes, it’s getting hard for me to follow me! I know, I’ll go on my blog and see where I’ve been… Doh!

OK, so painstakingly reconstructing my movement by photo timestamps it now comes back to me… after Minaret Lake I shot Rock Creek/Little Lakes Valley for dawn, then made my way back to Mammoth to talk to Ranger Mike about destinations. He had photos from all over on his PC, recommended a bunch of places, and issued me a permit to hike to Gardisky Lake up near Saddlebag so I could shoot back towards Conness Peak at sunrise. It didn’t turn out that way, but I’m getting ahead of myself… let me start with Rock Creek.

The Mosquito Flat trailhead at the end of the Rock Creek road has a hikers’ walk-in camp at the end… all you need is a wilderness permit to stay there. That puts you right there to do a short hike before dawn to get up the lakes as the alpen glow starts to light up the peaks. It’s a lot easier to pull this off in the Fall, when the sun comes up later! Anyway, you can start a few hundred yards up the trail (and some bushwhacking to the south) at Long Lake, but I usually go a mile or so up to the first lake on the trail There’s an even better lake another mile up, but who wants to get up that early? Either way plan to arrive roughly 30 minutes before the published sunrise time, as the sun will stike these tall peaks 10-15 minutes before sunrise. For the more subtle alpenglow before the direct sunlight, allow yourself that additional 15 minutes. Make sure you also make allownaces for your fitness level and your degree of acclimation to the elevation around 9000 feet (another reason to stay overnight nearby… it makes the hiking easier). One really nice feature about Little Lakes Valley is that the mos tinteresting mountains to shoto are far enough to the south that you’re not shooting directly away from the sun, and your shadow doesn’t get in your shots after the sun rises. You can shoot your way up the valley for hours.

To make a long story short, one brunch, coffee / Internet stop and wilderness permit later I was off to Yosemite. The weather didn’t seem interesting enough for a great show at Cathedral Lakes that night, so I headed over to Tenaya Lake.

The west end of the lake offers a variety of interesting foregrounds and a nice view of the granite ridges over the east end, so I headed there. The wind died right on schedule as the sun dropped and the light warmed. I crossed the outlet creek to shoot from the crushed granite beaches, but evan with heavy repellent the mosquitos were too persistent, so I retreated with a few nice shots already captured.

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In Search of Cathedral Peak Reflections

I started the day up near Saddlebag Lake to shoot a sunrise timelapse sequence on a nearby ridge. Then I hiked in to explore the lakes up by the old mining camp of Bennettville, hiking out in time to move to Tuolumne Meadows for a Cathedral Lakes sunset hike.

I arrived at Cathedral Lakes early enough to scout out both lakes. I arrived at Lower Cathedral Lake to find a enthusiastic welcoming committee of ravenous, probably disease-ridden, blood-sucking bugs. The few surviving human visitors to this lake were beating a hasty +retreat, doing what will be forever etched in my mind as the “Cathedral Lake dance,” an awkward combination of jogging, arm-waving, stream-hopping and loud expletives.

Spotting a reflection of Cathedral Peak accompanied by an unreal, seemingly metallic cobalt rending of sky blue in the inky tea-colored waters of a nearby stagnant pool, I decided to make some use of the rock-like camera gear which for the past 3.5 miles had only served as ballast in my daypack. Aware of the risk of picking up some rare and exotic plague from the parasites spawned in this pool of decaying primordial goo, I blithely pulled out a small vial of insect repellent to keep the little pests at bay. The repellent was 100% DEET, which I knew was roughly 3.4 times stronger than the maximum effective concentration of 29% as determined by Consumer Reports. It’s not possible to repel mosquitos any better than 100%, and I might grow new organs and evolve into some awkward new life form from excessive toxic chemical exposure, but perhaps I could keep the little buggers 3.4 times farther away and reduce my odds of becoming a curiousity at the Centers for Disease Control.

The chemical haze only served to confuse the little creatures, which continued to bump into my arms and legs, sing in my ears, dicover patches of unprotected flesh around my eyes, and (the last straw) congregate on my camera and in front of the lens.

I made quick work of the mosquito pond, checked the map for a possible direct route to the upper lake, and struck out to find a game trail that would lead me over the polished granite cliffs between me and my next destination.

I arrived at the upper lake to find mosquitos slightly lower in numbers, but no less annoying, so I kept moving farther up the westward granite slope to get farther and farther from their home. Eventually I ended up on a large and more or less flat rock way up the slope, killing time before sunset by killing mosquitos, and counting the ones resting on my camera and tripod (up to 12).

The wind picked up however, so I had to move down to the lake to increase my odds of finding some calm water to get the reflection that I had gone up there for. Fortunately the wind calmed down for a few minutes right when I needed it to, so I was able to catch a few good shots before making the long, dark hike back out to the trailhead at Tuolumne Meadows.

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Foresta Lupine at Dusk


Foresta Lupine at Dusk, originally uploaded by Jeff Sullivan.

After photographing the lunar eclipse over Half Dome from Olmstead Point, I drove down to Yosemite Valley with the intention of staying there for the night and shooting “moonbows”, lunar rainbows from the light of the full moon shining in the spray of Yosemite Valley’s massive waterfalls. In spite of getting in line roughly 45 minutes before that morning’s same-day campsite release at 8:30am, Yosemite holds back too few campsites to meet demend and I was unable to get a campsite that morning. Although my name was then placed on another list for reservation cancellations which would be released at 3, again I showed up and the supply dramatically failed to meet the demand (Yosemite removed a campground in 2001 following a flood, and failed to replace the lost sites or develop others, so sites are reserved months in advance and anyone who can’t plan that far in advance is simply out of luck).

You’ve seen the weather that I encounter though… I often get lucky. Just as I was about to leave the unappeased crowd milliong about the campground reservation office, a woman walked up to me and offered to sell me her campsite for that night. She had bought it on Craigslist from soneone else who couldn’t use it!

To make a long story short, my kids took me on a tour of the “Indian Caves”, we returned and had the campsite set up by 6pm or so, had completed dinner by shortly after 7, but the sky was blue and clear, and I was too tired to go out for an alpenglow-only sunset. I went to the tent to take a nap, setting my alarm to get up late at night to go shoot moonbows. The alarm went off, I was too tired to get up, and I went back to sleep.

The next day packed up camp, took care of some adminstrative things via wi-fi in Curry Village, and headed up towards Foresta to see how the lupine were doing.

First stop was Cascade Creek, which is in shade this time of day, to capture long exposures. Next we explored the lupine fields at Foresta during a relatively colorless sunset.
Without no campsites available in Yosemite Valley, we aimed for the Eastern Sierra, where at least the Forest Service (under the Department of Agriculture, not the dysfunctional Department of the Interior)) provides a far better match between campsite demand and availability (and they allow siteless primitive camping as an option so site availability is not an issue).
Along the way the moon rose, so I paused to capture the moon rising behind trees on the ridges. I also paused to photograph frogs singing in my favorite pond near Tioga Pass.

Late, late, late at night, I had survived my campsite shortage and bureaucrat-imposed exile far from Yosemite Valley, and I had set up camp by 2:30am in the Eastern Sierra.

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Aggressive Black Bears in the Sierra Nevada

Mama Bear #31Mama Bear #31, originally uploaded by Jeff Sullivan.

Typically black bears in California’s Sierra Nevada are considered relatively harmless. Yosemite National park for years encouraged campers to chase them out of their campsites, as if they were large, furry stray dogs. The legality of bear hunting in adjacent national forests encouraged bears to teach each generation of cubs to be wary of humans.

The death of a bear by stoning at the hands of a boy scout troop in recent years encouraged Yosemite to retract their policy of having campers aggressively defend their campsites from bears. Expanding designation of wilderness areas has further decreased human aggression towards bears, resulting in the doubling of bear populations since the 1980s, and greater competition for food. A greater number of much bolder bears pursuing a limited food supply has resulted in an absurd numbers of vehicle and home break-ins by bears every year.

The management practices in Yosemite National Park alone have resulted in roughly 1000 vehicle break-ins by bears per year there since the late 1990s. Yosemite management focuses on the positive and notes that bear incidents are down, but as you check into campgrounds in Yosemite Valley you can still see that season’s scorecard, with the numbers passing the 600 and 700 mark every Fall. Yosemite officials blame visitors, urging them to remove food from their vehicles, but even after decades of having this problem Yosemite has failed to place an adequate number of metal “bear boxes”, and they’ve even where a few have been provided such as Curry Village, management has failed to adequately distribute them around the parking lots to encourage and facilitate their use, revealing the problem as being as much due to egregious mismanagement as anything else.

There have also been a number of attacks on humans by bears, including one last week in a campground in El Dorado County. The count was approximately a doxen from 1980-2003, but there were only 3 in the 10 years from 1983-1993, seven from 1993-1996, and with attacks in 2007, 2008 , 2009 and 2010, the rate remains troubling. Bear attacks also occur in other states such as New Mexico and Colorado, and the Sierra Club is now recommending that everyone who enters bear country carry pepper spray designed for the long distance shots needed to repel bears. Bear spray has been proven to be more effectve than guns. Protect yourself.

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Lunar Eclipse Moonset from Olmsted Point

Using the free program The Photographer’s Ephemeris to predict the path of the moon during the lunar eclipse as starting over Half Dome and ending a few degrees to the North on the horizon, I set my camera up to capture a timelapse sequence of the event. It will take a significant amount of time and effort to produce the video, but I did take a couple of shots around sunrise that I can share.

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Following Sierra Clouds Over Tioga Pass

After pursuing a large storm parked over the Eastern end of the Mono Basin for a while, I turned my attention towards getting up into Yosemite National Park to shoot the lunar eclipse late that night. Fortunately upon arriving in the Tioga Pass area I was treated to some nice broken clouds that would make shots taken long he way more distinctive.

My first stop was alongside Ellery Lake, where the light was fantastic but challenging, since cameras do not “see” in the same way that we do. Our eyes change exposure constantlya s we look around a scene, and there is no way that we can fully reflect both the “levelling” of exposures that our eyes perform and yet retain the full range of brightness and contrast that we also perceive in the overall view. In this case I simply chose to use Adobe Lightroom’s Fill Light to make the shadows more accessible, and to decrease Brightness to prevent highlights from being blown out. A few quick shots at Ellery, and I was back to my quest to get over the pass.

Tioga Pass sits at an elevation of 9943 feet. There are some ponds in the area that can provide some nice reflections, but the wind was just energetic enough to encourage me to pass them by this time. A couple of miles down the road however there’s a larger pond which sits lower and is protected by trees, so the reflection of the couds, Mt. Dana, and surrounding forest was excellent.
There was still snow in places among the trees and the water was high, so there were some unique shooting opportunities to be found. However, there were three cars stopped already and 8 or 9 photographers who seemed firmly entrenched in some of the best shooting positions, so I carried my camera and a couple of lenses so I could work around them. That turned out to be an advantage in some cases as I captured some unique perspectives that I might not have taken the time to try had my camera been attached to a tripod.
I continued my exploration past Tuolumne Meadows. Tenaya Lake was too rough from wind to be particularly photogenic, but I found a small snowmelt pond which had a nice reflection of a ridge bathed in warm evening light. There were few clouds to catch sunset light however, so I returned to Tuolumne Meadows where some coulds along the Sierra crest could catch the light.

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