winter hikes in

Winter Hikes in Washington

Winter hiking in Washington offers a unique and breathtaking experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Despite the cold weather and snow, there are several remarkable trails to explore in this picturesque state. Some of the best winter hiking trails in Washington include Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. These trails offer stunning winter landscapes, serene beauty, and opportunities for adventure.

To ensure a safe and enjoyable winter hiking experience, it is essential to have the right gear. Layered clothing, insulated waterproof boots, microspikes or crampons for traction, gaiters to keep snow out of your boots, and snowshoes for deep snow are a few essential items to consider before hitting the trails.

Safety should always be a priority when hiking in winter conditions. Before embarking on your winter adventure, check the weather conditions, plan your route, and inform someone about your plans. It is crucial to carry essential safety gear, such as a first aid kit, headlamp, map, compass, and extra food and water. Staying hydrated and nourished during winter hikes is especially important for maintaining energy levels and preventing hypothermia.

Despite the challenges, winter hiking offers many benefits. It provides an opportunity to experience the tranquillity of nature, away from the crowds of the summer season. The crisp winter air and snowy landscapes create a serene and magical ambiance. Winter hiking also helps improve physical fitness, strengthens mental resilience, and allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature in a unique way.

With the right preparations, gear, and safety precautions, winter hiking in Washington can be an unforgettable adventure that offers breathtaking views and a revitalizing experience in the great outdoors.

Key takeaway:

  • Winter hikes in Washington offer stunning natural beauty: Explore Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for breathtaking winter landscapes.
  • Essential winter hiking gear ensures safety and comfort: Layered clothing, insulated waterproof boots, microspikes/crampons, gaiters, and snowshoes are necessary for a successful winter hike in Washington.
  • Safety precautions are vital for winter hikers: Check weather conditions, plan your route, carry essential safety gear, and stay hydrated and nourished to ensure a safe and enjoyable winter hiking experience in Washington.

Best Winter Hiking Trails in Washington

Best Winter Hiking Trails in Washington - Winter Hikes in Washington

Photo Credits: Jasonexplorer.Com by Jacob Lopez

Winter in Washington offers a plethora of breathtaking hiking trails that showcase the true beauty of nature. In this section, we’ll unveil the best winter hiking trails, each with its own unique charm. From the majestic Mount Rainier National Park to the enchanting Olympic National Park, the rugged North Cascades National Park, and the awe-inspiring Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, these trails promise adventure and stunning vistas. Lace up your boots and get ready to explore the winter wonderland that Washington has to offer.

1. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park, located in Washington, is an enchanting destination that showcases the beauty and wonder of winter hiking. Standing at an impressive height of 14,410 feet, this mountain offers unparalleled adventure. Let’s delve into the highlights of exploring this park during the winter season:

1. Snow-capped vistas: The majestic peaks of Mount Rainier, blanketed in glistening snow, provide hikers with awe-inspiring panoramic views. As you traverse the winter landscape, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a magical wonderland, encountering a unique and picturesque experience.

2. Winter trails: Regardless of your skill level, the park presents an array of winter hiking trails to suit every adventurer. Whether you prefer shorter day trips or longer, more challenging treks, there’s something for everyone. Make sure to add the Skyline Trail to your itinerary, as it leads you through alpine meadows and treats you to breathtaking views of the mountain.

3. Winter wildlife: Don’t be surprised to encounter a variety of wildlife even during the colder months in Mount Rainier National Park. As you explore the trails, keep an eye out for elk, mountain goats, and marmots among others. The serene and peaceful ambiance of the park during winter allows for a closer connection with nature and its inhabitants.

4. Safety precautions: Before embarking on your winter hike in Mount Rainier National Park, it’s crucial to check the weather conditions and plan your route accordingly. Ensure you have essential safety gear such as microspikes/crampons, insulated waterproof boots, and layered clothing to protect yourself from the cold and slippery conditions. Stay hydrated and well-nourished throughout your hike to maintain your energy levels.

Pro tip: To make the most of the daylight and avoid potential hazards like low visibility and freezing temperatures in the afternoon, it is advisable to start your hike early in the day. Embrace the pristine beauty of Mount Rainier National Park and delight in the unique winter hiking experience it has to offer.

2. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park in Washington offers winter hiking opportunities. The park spans over 1,400 square miles and includes ecosystems like mountains, forests, and coastline.

Mount Olympus, located within Olympic National Park, is a challenging winter hiking destination. At 7,980 feet, it is popular among experienced mountaineers for its breathtaking views.

The Hoh Rainforest, also found in Olympic National Park, transforms into a winter wonderland. Hiking through the moss-covered trees and listening to the Hoh River is a tranquil experience.

Hurricane Ridge, another attraction within Olympic National Park, is a great spot to visit in winter. With its snow-covered slopes and panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains, it is perfect for winter hikes near Seattle and snowshoeing.

The coast of Olympic National Park is also worth exploring in winter. Rialto Beach, located within the park, offers unique and rugged beauty with sea stacks and tide pools.

Proper preparation and safety measures are necessary for winter hiking in Olympic National Park. It is important to check weather conditions and trail updates, carry appropriate safety gear, and inform someone about your planned route and return time.

Winter hiking in Olympic National Park allows adventurers to appreciate its serene beauty and experience nature from a unique perspective.

3. North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park in Washington state is a stunning destination for winter hiking. With rugged mountain peaks, pristine glaciers, and beautiful alpine landscapes, North Cascades National Park offers a unique and challenging experience for outdoor adventurers.

Hikers in North Cascades National Park can explore various winter trails that showcase the park’s natural beauty. One popular trail is the Cascade Pass Trail, offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Another option is the Maple Pass Loop, which takes hikers through snowy meadows and offers breathtaking vistas of Lake Ann and the surrounding peaks.

When hiking in winter conditions at North Cascades National Park, it’s important to come prepared with the right gear. Layered clothing is essential for warmth and comfort, while insulated waterproof boots provide traction and protection. Microspikes or crampons can increase stability on icy terrain, and gaiters can keep snow out of your boots. Snowshoes are necessary for traversing deep snow and ensuring a safe hike.

Safety should always be a priority when hiking in winter at North Cascades National Park. Before setting out, check the weather and plan your route accordingly. Inform someone of your hiking plans and expected return time. Carry essential safety gear, such as a map, compass, headlamp, and first aid kit. Stay hydrated and nourished throughout the hike to maintain energy levels and prevent hypothermia.

North Cascades National Park was established on October 2, 1968, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. It encompasses over 500,000 acres of rugged peaks, glaciers, and forested valleys and is home to diverse wildlife species such as gray wolves, mountain goats, and bald eagles. The park is a testament to the need for wilderness preservation and provides a pristine habitat for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

4. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington is a haven for winter hiking enthusiasts. With its stunning landscapes and diverse trails, this national forest offers endless opportunities for adventure.

One of the highlights of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is its varied trails. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there is a trail for every skill level and preference. From the easy and scenic Big Four Ice Caves Trail to the challenging and rewarding Skyline Divide Trail, you’ll find something that suits your taste.

Speaking of scenic beauty, this national forest is a feast for the eyes. As you venture along the trails, you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views. Snow-capped mountains, picturesque alpine lakes, and lush evergreen forests are just a few of the natural wonders you’ll encounter along the way.

It’s not just the landscapes that make this forest special; it’s also the abundance of wildlife. The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is home to a diverse array of animals. Keep an eye out for majestic Roosevelt elk, elusive black bears, graceful mountain goats, and a wide variety of bird species. You never know what incredible creatures you might come across during your hike.

Exploring the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in winter is like stepping into a magical winter wonderland. The forest transforms into a snowy paradise, with trees dressed in white and frozen waterfalls creating a breathtaking sight. It’s an experience that will leave you in awe of the beauty of nature.

If you’re up for more than just hiking, this national forest has you covered. You can also enjoy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and even winter camping. These adventure activities add an extra layer of excitement to your visit.

Of course, it’s important to prioritize safety on your winter hike. Before you head out, remember to check the weather conditions, plan your route, and pack all the essential safety gear. This will ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience in the best Fall hikes in Colorado.

So, lace up your boots and get ready for an unforgettable winter adventure in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Essential Winter Hiking Gear

When it comes to winter hikes in Washington, having the right gear is absolutely essential. In this section, we’ll explore the must-have items that will keep you warm, safe, and comfortable on your snowy adventures. From layered clothing to insulated waterproof boots, microspikes/crampons, gaiters, and snowshoes, we’ll dive into the gear that will help you tackle any icy terrain that the beautiful Washington trails have to offer. Get ready to gear up and make the most of your winter hiking experience!

1. Layered Clothing

Layered clothing is essential for winter hiking in Washington. It regulates body temperature and provides insulation. Here are the different layers to consider:

1. Base layer: This layer should be made of moisture-wicking material to keep you dry. Consider synthetic fabrics like polyester or merino wool.

2. Mid-layer: This layer provides insulation and should trap heat. Fleece jackets or down vests are good options.

3. Outer layer: This layer acts as a shield against wind, rain, and snow. Look for a waterproof and breathable jacket or shell.

4. Bottom layer: For your legs, thermal or insulated pants are recommended. If there’s a chance of deep snow, consider wearing waterproof pants or gaiters to keep your legs dry.

5. Accessories: Layer your accessories too. Wear a hat or beanie to keep your head warm, and thermal gloves or mittens for your hands. Neck gaiters or scarves can protect your neck and face from the cold.

The number of layers and their thickness may vary depending on the weather conditions and activity level. Layering allows you to adjust your clothing according to your body’s needs and changing weather conditions. Choose clothing that fits well and allows freedom of movement. Stay comfortable and safe during winter hikes in Washington with the right layered clothing.

2. Insulated Waterproof Boots

Insulated waterproof boots are an absolute necessity for winter hiking. When selecting the perfect boots for your outdoor winter excursions, take into account the following key factors:

1. Insulation: Make sure to choose boots with ample insulation to keep your feet warm in freezing temperatures. Insulated boots create a cozy and toasty environment, even in snowy or icy conditions.

2. Waterproofing: It is essential to have boots that are completely waterproof in order to keep your feet dry during winter park hikes. Wet feet can lead to discomfort and even frostbite. Insulated waterproof boots will effectively keep water out, ensuring warmth and comfort.

3. Traction: Opt for boots with a robust and reliable outsole that offers excellent traction on slippery and icy terrain. Look for boots that have deep lugs and a rugged tread pattern, as these features will provide stability and help prevent slips and falls.

4. Proper Fit: Make sure that the boots fit securely and provide sufficient support for your feet and ankles. A snug fit will prevent blisters, discomfort, and enhance control and stability on Mt Washington.

5. Durability: Choose boots that are crafted from high-quality materials and can withstand the demands of winter hiking. Look for boots with durable construction and reinforced toe and heel areas, as these features contribute to increased longevity.

When shopping for insulated waterproof boots, take into consideration your specific hiking requirements, prevailing weather conditions, and the type of terrain you will be traversing. And always remember to give your boots a proper break-in period before embarking on longer hikes, as this will help you avoid discomfort or blisters. Stay safe and enjoy your winter hiking adventures with reliable and suitable insulated waterproof boots.

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3. Microspikes/Crampons

3. Microspikes/Crampons When winter hiking, having the right gear is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience. One important piece of gear to consider is microspikes/crampons.

  • Microspikes/Crampons: These traction devices provide stability and grip on icy or snowy terrain. Microspikes are lighter and less aggressive than crampons. They have small metal spikes that attach to the bottom of your boots, providing traction on icy surfaces. Crampons have longer and more aggressive spikes, making them suitable for steep and technical terrain.
  • Using microspikes or crampons can significantly improve stability and prevent slips and falls on icy trails.

  • When to use them: Microspikes are suitable for moderate icy conditions, such as packed snow or thin ice. They are perfect for winter hikes with icy patches or occasional ice. Crampons are needed for more extreme conditions, like steep and icy terrain or traversing glaciers. They are commonly used in mountaineering or technical winter hikes.
  • How to choose: Consider the level of traction you need based on trail conditions and the difficulty of your hike. Look for microspikes/crampons with durable materials and a secure fastening system to ensure they stay in place during your hike. Choose the right size to ensure a proper fit on your boots.
  • Remember, microspikes and crampons are specialized gear that requires some experience to use effectively. Practice using them before a winter hike to ensure you are comfortable and confident. Prioritize safety by assessing trail conditions and choosing appropriate gear.

    4. Gaiters

    Gaiters are essential for winter hiking in Washington. They protect and insulate your lower legs, keeping snow, debris, and moisture out of your shoes. Here are some key points to consider when using gaiters:

    – Gaiter types: There are two main types of gaiters: ankle gaiters and full-length gaiters. Ankle gaiters cover only your ankles, while full-length gaiters extend up to your knees. Choose the type that suits your needs and required level of protection.

    – Material: Gaiters are typically made from waterproof and durable fabrics like Gore-Tex or nylon. These materials keep your legs dry and protected from outside elements.

    – Fit: Proper fit is crucial for effective gaiters. They should fit snugly around your ankles or legs and have adjustable straps or closures to keep them in place. Adjust them properly to prevent any gaps allowing snow or debris to enter.

    – Easy on/off: Look for gaiters with easy-to-use closures, like zippers or Velcro, for quick and hassle-free putting on and taking off.

    – Compatibility: Ensure your gaiters are compatible with your hiking boots or shoes. They should have secure loops or hooks to attach them to your footwear, preventing sliding or shifting during your hike.

    – Maintenance: After each use, clean your gaiters as per the manufacturer’s instructions to maintain their effectiveness and prolong their lifespan.

    Remember, gaiters are just one part of essential winter hiking gear. Layered clothing, insulated waterproof boots, microspikes/crampons, and snowshoes are also crucial for a safe and enjoyable winter hiking experience in Washington. Stay prepared, stay safe, and enjoy your winter adventure!

    5. Snowshoes

    Snowshoes are essential for winter hiking in Washington. They distribute weight over a larger surface area, preventing sinking in the snow. Here are some key points to consider:

    1. Types of snowshoes: Choose the type that suits the terrain you will hike in – flat terrain, rolling terrain, or mountaineering.

    2. Size: Choose a size based on your weight and the gear you’ll carry.

    3. Bindings: Look for easy-to-use bindings that securely hold boots in place. Adjustable bindings accommodate different boot sizes.

    4. Frame and traction: Consider the durability of lightweight aluminum frames. Look for crampons or aggressive traction systems for grip on icy or steep terrain.

    5. Weight: Lighter snowshoes reduce fatigue on longer hikes.

    One winter, I hiked in the Washington mountains without snowshoes. I sank knee-deep with each step, while my friends with snowshoes walked effortlessly. I quickly realized my mistake and had to turn back, missing out on the beautiful winter scenery. Now, I always bring my snowshoes for winter hikes in Washington.

    Winter Safety Tips for Hikers

    Stay safe on your winter hikes with these essential tips. Weather conditions, route planning, safety gear, and staying hydrated are crucial components to ensure a successful and secure hiking experience. So, let’s dive in and discover what each of these aspects entails to make your winter adventures in Washington truly memorable and worry-free.

    1. Check Weather Conditions

    It is crucial to check weather conditions before going on a winter hike in Washington. Here are the steps to ensure you are prepared:

    1. Check the weather forecast for the specific area you will be hiking. This will provide you with information on the temperature, precipitation, and wind conditions.

    2. Monitor any weather alerts or warnings issued for the region before leaving. This will inform you of severe weather conditions such as storms or blizzards that could pose a danger to hikers.

    3. Pay attention to the temperature range throughout the day and dress in layers accordingly. Remove layers as necessary to prevent overheating during warmer periods.

    4. Keep an eye on the wind speed and wind chill factor. Windy conditions can make the temperature feel colder and increase the risk of frostbite. Dress appropriately, covering exposed skin and using protective gear like face masks or balaclavas.

    5. Be cautious of slippery conditions if snow or ice is expected. Use traction aids such as microspikes or crampons to avoid falls. Avoid areas that are prone to avalanches if needed.

    Checking the weather conditions during your winter hike is essential. Be prepared to turn back or change your route if the weather worsens or becomes unsafe. Always prioritize safety over reaching your destination.

    2. Plan Your Route and Tell Someone

    Plan Your Route and Inform Someone

    When preparing for a winter hike in Washington, it is absolutely vital to plan your route and notify someone about your intentions. This ensures your safety and enables a coordinated response in case of emergencies. Follow these steps to effectively plan and communicate your hiking plans:

    1. Familiarize yourself with the trail: Conduct thorough research on the trail you are planning to hike, including its length, difficulty level, and terrain. Take note of any potential hazards or steep areas along the way.

    2. Develop a detailed itinerary: Create a comprehensive itinerary that includes the starting point of the trail, estimated start and end times, and planned rest stops. Make a note of any alternative routes or options in case of need.

    3. Inform a responsible individual: Before embarking on your hike, inform a trustworthy person about your plans. Provide them with your itinerary, mentioning the trail name, location, and the estimated time of your return.

    4. Share emergency contact details: Share important emergency contact numbers with your designated person, such as those of local park or forest services, search and rescue teams, and relevant emergency services.

    5. Establish a check-in procedure: Decide on a specific time for your designated contact to expect your call or message once you have completed your hike.

    6. Update in case of plan changes: If any changes occur during your hike, such as taking a different route or extending your journey, promptly inform your designated contact about the modifications.

    7. Emergency protocols: In the event of an emergency or failure to check-in as planned, your designated contact should follow predetermined emergency protocols and notify the appropriate authorities.

    By following these steps, you can greatly enhance your safety while winter hiking in Washington. Remember, proper planning and effective communication are essential for a pleasant and secure outdoor experience.

    3. Carry Essential Safety Gear

    3. Carry Essential Safety Gear

    Carrying essential safety gear is crucial for safe and enjoyable winter hiking. Here are the steps to consider when choosing and packing gear:

    1. Headlamp: Have a reliable headlamp with extra batteries for navigating in low light and emergencies.

    2. Navigation tools: Bring a map, compass, and GPS device to prevent getting lost.

    3. First aid kit: Pack a well-stocked kit with bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and personal medications.

    4. Emergency shelter: Carry a lightweight shelter like a bivy sack or space blanket for unexpected overnight stays.

    5. Fire starter: Bring waterproof matches or a lighter for warmth and signaling.

    6. Extra clothing: Pack warm layers, including a hat, gloves, and insulating layers, to prevent hypothermia and stay comfortable in changing weather.

    7. Food and water: Carry enough high-energy snacks and water. Consider a thermos with hot liquids for warmth.

    8. Communication devices: Bring a fully charged cell phone or satellite communication device for emergencies.

    9. Knife or multi-tool: Have a versatile tool for cutting cordage or repairing equipment.

    10. Sun protection: Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and lip balm with SPF to protect from harmful UV rays reflecting off the snow.

    Remember, proper preparation and essential safety gear can significantly enhance the safety and enjoyment of winter hiking. Stay informed about trail conditions and challenges, and always prioritize safety.

    4. Stay Hydrated and Nourished


    • Drink water before your winter hike. Staying hydrated is crucial for optimal performance and preventing dehydration. It is also important to choose the best time to hike in order to enjoy the winter hikes in Washington.
    • Carry enough water with you during the hike. Drinking at least half a liter of water every hour can replace fluids lost through sweat.
    • Bring a thermos filled with hot water or tea to keep warm and hydrated during breaks.
    • Include electrolyte-rich snacks or drinks in your backpack to replenish lost minerals and maintain hydration.
    • Avoid alcohol during your winter hike as it can dehydrate your body and impair judgment and coordination, increasing the risk of accidents.

    True story: “During a winter hike in the North Cascades National Park, I ran out of water. As the hike became more challenging and the temperature dropped, I felt weak and lightheaded. Luckily, a fellow hiker noticed and shared their water with me. This act of kindness refreshed me and reminded me of the importance of staying hydrated during winter hikes. Since then, I always carry enough water and am more aware of the dangers of dehydration in cold weather.”

    Benefits of Winter Hiking

    Benefits of Winter Hiking

    Winter hiking offers many benefits, including:

    1. Physical Fitness: Winter hiking provides a full-body workout by requiring more effort and engaging different muscle groups on snowy and icy terrain. This increases strength and endurance.

    2. Mental Well-being: Being in nature during a winter wonderland uplifts mood and reduces stress. The fresh air and beautiful scenery have a calming effect, improving overall mental well-being.

    3. Vitamin D Boost: Spending time outdoors during winter hikes exposes you to natural sunlight, essential for vitamin D synthesis. Adequate levels of vitamin D are important for bone health, immune function, and overall wellness.

    4. Improved Cardiovascular Health: Hiking in winter conditions significantly enhances cardiovascular fitness. The physical exertion and cold weather increase heart rate and circulation, strengthening the heart and reducing the risk of winter hikes near Boston cardiovascular diseases.

    5. Increased Endurance: Winter hiking challenges stamina and helps build endurance over time. Trekking through snow and climbing hills or mountains pushes limits and cultivates a sense of achievement.

    When planning winter hikes, ensure you have appropriate clothing and gear. Also, check weather conditions, trail maps, and safety guidelines for a safe and enjoyable experience.

    So, embrace the benefits of winter hiking and explore stunning landscapes while staying active during the colder months.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What should I wear for winter hikes in Washington?

    For winter hikes in Washington, it is important to dress in warm clothing and layer appropriately. Start with base layers made of materials like smart wool or sweat-wicking fabric. Add insulating jackets, a warm hat, gloves, and winter hiking boots. Don’t forget to wear moisture-wicking socks and a breathable shirt. It is also recommended to bring an outer shell, such as a rain jacket, to protect against rain or snow.

    2. How should I plan my trip for winter hikes in Washington?

    To plan your trip for winter hikes in Washington, start by checking trail conditions and avalanche conditions. Make sure to choose destinations wisely and let someone know about your plans. Download topography maps on your phone or use hiking apps to navigate. Bring the ten hiking essentials, pack proper gear, and consider carrying hydration supplies. It is also a good idea to read trip reports and familiarize yourself with the trail before heading out.

    3. Can I bring my dog along for winter hikes in Washington?

    Yes, you can bring your dog along for winter hikes in Washington, but it is important to consider their safety and well-being. Make sure your dog is physically capable of hiking in winter conditions and check if the trails allow dogs. Keep your dog on a leash and be prepared to clean up after them. Protect their paws with dog booties and ensure they are properly dressed to stay warm. Always bring enough food, water, and waste bags for your furry companion.

    4. What are the benefits of winter hiking for mental and physical well-being?

    Winter hiking in Washington offers numerous benefits for mental and physical well-being. It provides an opportunity to experience familiar landscapes in a new way and avoid crowds. Hiking in nature can help reduce stress, improve mood, and increase overall well-being. The physical activity involved in hiking also provides exercise and helps maintain physical fitness. So, winter hiking can be a great way to combat the winter doldrums and stay active during the cold season.

    5. What are the ten hiking essentials I should bring for winter hikes in Washington?

    The ten hiking essentials for winter hikes in Washington include:

    • Navigation tools (topography maps, compass, or GPS)
    • Headlamp or flashlight
    • Extra food and high-energy snacks
    • Extra clothing layers
    • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
    • First aid kit
    • Fire starting supplies
    • Repair tools (multi-tool, knife, or duct tape)
    • Emergency shelter
    • Hydration supplies (water bottles or water purification system)

    6. Are there any affiliate links in the articles about winter hikes in Washington?

    Yes, some of the articles may contain affiliate links. These links may be used to generate income to support the website or to provide specific recommendations for gear or products mentioned in the articles. The use of affiliate links does not affect the information or recommendations provided in the articles. It is always recommended to do your own research and choose the gear or products that best suit your needs.

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