BWCA It is a circus out there Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
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      It is a circus out there     

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GraniteCliffs
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08/02/2021 01:15PM  
Oh my gosh. Never, ever, have I seen so many people on a trip as this past week. There were not bugs but people everywhere stacked up like cordwood. Groups of nine around every corner.
Can't wait for the Q
 
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08/02/2021 02:48PM  
That's a bummer. Where were you?
 
4keys
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08/02/2021 03:58PM  
We were up in June, and while the portages weren't too bad when we were on them, after we set up camp we watched more 9 person groups go by than 2 or 4 person groups. And a lot of 3 person canoes.
 
GraniteCliffs
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08/02/2021 04:01PM  
Moose, Knife, South Knife, Eddy Lake, Kek, Fraser, etc back to Ensign and out. Every portage seemed to have multiple canoes with three people in each. One end of a portage had thirteen canoes stacked up on shore or waiting. Two groups said they camped on a portage since there were simply no campsites.
Not sure if it is true but I heard the Forest Service increased the number of permits at the entry points that were open. I heard this from one guy that secured one and later from someone involved in sending out group trips.
 
GraniteCliffs
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08/02/2021 04:05PM  
I am going back again this next week in much the same area. Hoping it was just a fluke this past time and things will be better.
On the upside we had great weather, zero bugs or flies and our group had a great time in spite of the people.
 
straighthairedcurly
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08/02/2021 06:05PM  
GraniteCliffs: "Moose, Knife, South Knife, Eddy Lake, Kek, Fraser, etc back to Ensign and out. Every portage seemed to have multiple canoes with three people in each. One end of a portage had thirteen canoes stacked up on shore or waiting. Two groups said they camped on a portage since there were simply no campsites.
Not sure if it is true but I heard the Forest Service increased the number of permits at the entry points that were open. I heard this from one guy that secured one and later from someone involved in sending out group trips."


We were in that area and had the same experience. But once we dropped south of Kek it was fine. Very quiet. But my eyes popped out of my head when I came to the landing entering Knife and couldn't find my husband in the sea of canoes and people. There were 11 canoes there and you couldn't tell who was coming and who was going. We avoided South Arm. North end of Knife was pretty quiet and no one was on Fraser when we went through. We had Eddy to ourselves but there were a lot of Scout groups taking day trips to the falls so we waited until dinnertime to go.
 
08/02/2021 07:35PM  
I’m planning on a week late September for this reason. Last year was so crowded. Hoping the crowds are nonexistent in 6 weeks.
 
marsonite
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08/02/2021 07:46PM  
Ooof, not what I wanted to hear. I'm going in on Moose in two weeks. I was foolishly hoping the fireban and smoke would cause people to cancel. Maybe I'll hold out hope that the opening of the Canadian border will turn the tide!

It would be nice to get some confirmation about the rumor that the USFS opened up some more permits. That might be a deal breaker if it was true. Moose Lake already has 27 OP permits per day!
 
THEGrandRapids
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08/02/2021 08:32PM  
GraniteCliffs: "Oh my gosh. Never, ever, have I seen so many people on a trip as this past week. There were not bugs but people everywhere stacked up like cordwood. Groups of nine around every corner.
Can't wait for the Q"


Just remember…. You were also there contributing to the overcrowded circus.
 
Voyager
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08/02/2021 08:38PM  
Just got back from 7 day loop out of Cross River entry to exit at Brant. For the most part it was very quiet. I did run into a couple of groups of 9 from some Canadian camp and Cherokee L. had the usual " butt plunkers". I also must commend fellow trippers for keeping the sites I stayed at immaculate. Water levels were extremely low and led to some mud walking leaving Cherokee.
 
08/02/2021 09:45PM  
Voyager: "Just got back from 7 day loop out of Cross River entry to exit at Brant. For the most part it was very quiet. I did run into a couple of groups of 9 from some Canadian camp and Cherokee L. had the usual " butt plunkers". I also must commend fellow trippers for keeping the sites I stayed at immaculate. Water levels were extremely low and led to some mud walking leaving Cherokee."

I would think Cross River would be very very low?
 
Mocha
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08/03/2021 06:28AM  
That’s interesting about the Canadian groups being within the bwca borders. Usually they traveled the border route only. Wonder how they got into our country?
 
Voyager
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08/03/2021 06:58AM  
The 1 Canadian group was guys, the other girls. The guys were out for 20 days. I told him you're so limited as to where you can travel. He stated they had some U.S. kids in the group who couldn't travel in Canada, so they had to stay on the U.S. side. I'm pretty sure both groups had started at Brule, 1 group was headed west, the other north out of Brule. I felt sorry for the kids having to portage those huge wannigans.
 
mjmkjun
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08/03/2021 07:56AM  
Sign of the times. Ain't gonna let up either, I suspect.
 
08/03/2021 08:02AM  
GraniteCliffs: "Oh my gosh. Never, ever, have I seen so many people on a trip as this past week. There were not bugs but people everywhere stacked up like cordwood. Groups of nine around every corner.
Can't wait for the Q"


I came out of Sag on Saturday and I had a similar experience heading down Ottertrack-Knife-Amoeber. It was tough to get over portages with 15+ crossing Monument portage and armadas of 3 and 4 canoes criss-crossing lakes. Thursday of last week was the only down-day where I saw only one or two canoes. I passed at least 13 canoes on my way in and 20+ canoes the day I paddled out. All 17 Sag permits and 27 Moose Lake permits are gone for weeks into August. It was a good thing that I didn't try for SAK or Kek (my original route plan)! Next trip is going to be into the Q.
 
mschi772
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08/03/2021 08:22AM  
GraniteCliffs: "Moose, Knife, South Knife, Eddy Lake, Kek, Fraser, etc back to Ensign and out. Every portage seemed to have multiple canoes with three people in each. One end of a portage had thirteen canoes stacked up on shore or waiting. Two groups said they camped on a portage since there were simply no campsites.
Not sure if it is true but I heard the Forest Service increased the number of permits at the entry points that were open. I heard this from one guy that secured one and later from someone involved in sending out group trips."


I mean... you were there in one of the most popular areas during one of the most popular times of the year. I wouldn't dismiss the entire BWCAW as a circus because of your decision (a decision that made you a part of the circus for everyone else). We were recently on a Sawbill to Wine loop and back trip for a week, and only ever saw anyone on our entry and exit days. Even then, we only saw a handful of people and never even shared a portage with any of them at any time.
 
Lionelhutz
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08/03/2021 08:54AM  
We ran into those Canadian school groups at a portage near Little Sag. Two groups of nine traveling a bit apart. Polite enough, but man did they have a lot of gear. First time I had ever seen those boxes and the head straps. At the completion of our trip, Andy at Tuscarora mentioned they were portaging down the Gun Flint Trail, until the kindness of strangers allowed them to hitch a ride.
 
08/03/2021 10:29AM  
HighnDry: "GraniteCliffs: "Oh my gosh. Never, ever, have I seen so many people on a trip as this past week. There were not bugs but people everywhere stacked up like cordwood. Groups of nine around every corner.
Can't wait for the Q"



I came out of Sag on Saturday and I had a similar experience heading down Ottertrack-Knife-Amoeber. It was tough to get over portages with 15+ crossing Monument portage and armadas of 3 and 4 canoes criss-crossing lakes. Thursday of last week was the only down-day where I saw only one or two canoes. I passed at least 13 canoes on my way in and 20+ canoes the day I paddled out. All 17 Sag permits and 27 Moose Lake permits are gone for weeks into August. It was a good thing that I didn't try for SAK or Kek (my original route plan)! Next trip is going to be into the Q."


Sag usually had open permits in the past. I bet with all the people did youeven see a Ranger. WE need more presents and enfocement.
 
Speckled
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08/03/2021 10:52AM  
Portages were certianly where the congestion was on our trip this spring as well. It seemed as though the efficiency of the groups slowed and clogged them at portages. We carried across one portage and came over the hill to the landing at the next lake to find two other groups, with gear and canoes scattered everywhere. We waited for a while and when it became apparant they'd be quite a bit yet, we cut through the woods, rock hoped and launched a little further upstream in the current near the river. It was clear enough, jut not a great landing.

 
08/03/2021 10:59AM  
Lionelhutz: "We ran into those Canadian school groups at a portage near Little Sag. Two groups of nine traveling a bit apart. Polite enough, but man did they have a lot of gear. First time I had ever seen those boxes and the head straps. At the completion of our trip, Andy at Tuscarora mentioned they were portaging down the Gun Flint Trail, until the kindness of strangers allowed them to hitch a ride. "

We may have seen them too - all the kids had wooden boxes with tump straps...was 7/26.

They were heading south from Polly to Kawasachong.
 
08/03/2021 11:00AM  
Reminds me of a portage my last trip where three canoes were at the takeout with no one in sight, gear everywhere. We waited 20-30 minutes off shore and finally pulled up to see what the deal was. Found a group of girls having a leisurely lunch on the other side of the portage. Their guide (from a camp, not outfitter) didn’t seem to grasp the problem and I tried to be as kind as I could and passed on some portage etiquette. Didn’t seem to make a dent.
 
08/03/2021 02:54PM  
You can't really blame people for entering an area if they have a legal permit. It seems the problem might be too many permits in those areas that needs to be rethought. If people's tripping styles have changed, (Basecampers vs through travelers) then the permits closest to the congested lakes need to be decreased. There probably could be more rangers checking for valid permits as well since there are probably some that don't have one.
 
OldScout48
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08/03/2021 06:27PM  
To clarify about those groups of kids with the Wannigan canoe boxes.

There are 2 camps out of International Falls - Camp Koochiching (boys) and Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe (girls).

These camps have been around for years and previously they had canoed primary in Quetico, but because of the border closures they moved their trips into the BWCA for the summer.

Depending on the ages of the paddlers and experience they are taking some pretty long trips.
 
GraniteCliffs
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08/03/2021 08:44PM  
The circus is not me. And most likely not you.
It is on the portages. Multiple canoes scattered about sideways blocking the trail, packs and fishing gear all over creation and people standing around and making no move to load and go----or move things to one side.
I know they are young and/or inexperienced. I know they will become experienced and are the future of the BW or Q. In other words I know we need them.
But the Portage Circus was in full display last week.
 
08/03/2021 09:12PM  
Sorry Granitecliffs, I was referring to a post further down. If you weren't there someone else would have been. My thought is that not enough campsites in some areas may be solved by decreasing permits in some areas.
Or redistributing some of the permits to lower use areas that are harder to access, and maybe create more campsites in those areas. I'm not sure how often they change the number of permits or how they decide how to allocate them, but it seems there are areas that could use a break.
 
08/03/2021 09:12PM  
GraniteCliffs: "The circus is not me. And most likely not you.
It is on the portages. Multiple canoes scattered about sideways blocking the trail, packs and fishing gear all over creation and people standing around and making no move to load and go----or move things to one side.
I know they are young and/or inexperienced. I know they will become experienced and are the future of the BW or Q. In other words I know we need them.
But the Portage Circus was in full display last week."


That is why they make you or should make you watch a film-some just don't know better and yes some don't care,but I think all most all do.
 
tashit
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08/04/2021 01:37PM  
Thanks for the info on the groups with the canoe boxes, I have never seen those before. We ran into them on the portage from Smoke to Sawbill on 8/1. Man they had a lot of gear and those boxes looked heavy. We waited on the water for a good 30 minutes for them to clear. Their stuff was everywhere and they took a long time but as mentioned they were polite and thanked us for our patience.

I know we were in a busy area but my only real complaint was the group that came to hang out at the island between the 2 northern sites on Smoke (we were on the NE site). First a group of 8 pulled up, followed shortly by another group of 9. I counted 17 people and 6 canoes all hanging out together on the island. They had obviously planned to meet up there.

4 kids then got in one canoe and tried pulling another kid in an inflatable tube. The two kids in the front did not have life vests on while the other 3 did. They quickly got caught in the wind and disappeared behind the island in front of our site. 10-15 minutes later two people from the island jumped in a canoe and quickly paddled after them. Their canoe finally again appeared from behind the island and we started laughing because they were paddling hard but barely moving. Turns out they were towing the other canoe. Two kids were in the canoe and the other three were in the water hanging on to the side of the canoe. They had clearly dumped. Luckily nothing worse happened.
 
dlneeley
 
08/04/2021 03:45PM  
Yes we did that area a few years ago, tried for Wine, after that not so friendly portage but it was late and too many beaver dams, so turned back and camped on Zenith. Thought it was occupied, but was just a tarp, tea kettle and coffee pot, heavy stuff, good for car camping, that they did not want to portage back out so we took it. Went in on a Friday and did not see any one until 2 PM on Sunday on a portage by Hug lake.
 
tomo
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08/04/2021 04:42PM  
I just got back from a trip on Long Island, Cherokee, Brule, Winchell, Horeshoe, etc. Given the popularity of the area, it's no wonder tons of sites were occupied. We got an early start and started to look for campsites around 1 p.m.
Many were occupied, but if we kept paddling we always found something. In my experience, the campsite fear is more psychological than actual.

My brother, who I was with, and who places a premium on nice sites, was continually annoyed that so many were taken. I tried to be more zen and things always worked out without having to resort to a death march day in order to camp.

On another note, we ran into very few people at portages. Most appeared settled at various campsites. We passed maybe one group on a portage, and met a few others coming the opposite way, but most often we had portages to ourselves.

Having said that, when the borders are fully open, I'm planning on avoiding the BWCA for the foreseeable future.

 
08/05/2021 10:49AM  
Speaking of circus. I’ll be joining one next week on the numbers!
 
KarlBAndersen1
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08/05/2021 12:42PM  
PatrickE: "Reminds me of a portage my last trip where three canoes were at the takeout with no one in sight, gear everywhere. We waited 20-30 minutes off shore and finally pulled up to see what the deal was. Found a group of girls having a leisurely lunch on the other side of the portage. Their guide (from a camp, not outfitter) didn’t seem to grasp the problem and I tried to be as kind as I could and passed on some portage etiquette. Didn’t seem to make a dent. "

I would not have been as kind.
 
08/05/2021 01:05PM  
KarlBAndersen1: "PatrickE: "Reminds me of a portage my last trip where three canoes were at the takeout with no one in sight, gear everywhere. We waited 20-30 minutes off shore and finally pulled up to see what the deal was. Found a group of girls having a leisurely lunch on the other side of the portage. Their guide (from a camp, not outfitter) didn’t seem to grasp the problem and I tried to be as kind as I could and passed on some portage etiquette. Didn’t seem to make a dent. "


I would not have been as kind."


Kindly send a rational polite letter to the camp. Most camps are trying to do it right. Maybe a new guide just hird this summer. Should of known, but maybe just forgot or on slow learning curve.
Most people go out of the way to help-a few don't.
 
dustytrail
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08/06/2021 09:28AM  
I just got back from going out of EP37. We were early enough that the 2 portages leading to Polly were empty. By the time we got to the 3 leading out of Polly the portages were a mad house. Canoes and gear strowed everywhere. We where headed north, everyone else south. We met no fewer than 15 canoes on the longer portage alone. When we got to potage between Koma and Malberg there was a full group enjoying lunch on the Malberg end. After we left them we left the crowds and saw almost no one on our trip in the area north of Malberg. We spent our last night on polly and while it appeared to be full it got quite as evening approached. We hit the portages out early and met only one group coming in until the creek going into square. It seemed as though every permit for the day must have entered at the same time.
 
dogwoodgirl
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08/06/2021 10:29AM  
Was just out for a week in the Kawishiwi Triangle with my son and god-daughter. I was expecting it to be really crazy, but it was not. The first day heading west across Kawishiwi R, there were quite a few canoes on the water, but campsites not hard to find. We camped by noon each day, since I have trouble in the heat of the day, and always could find something, usually having our choice of a couple. Only once was there a loud camp near us, and that was a bunch of dads with their kids.

And kudos to the group of kids out of a camp that offered to make way for us on a portage even though they got there first. We let them finish portaging through, and when we caught up to them on the water, the counselors had them stop paddling and let us get some distance ahead. They were all young guys from 13-20 yrs old, and on a 3 week trip.
 
Gaidin53
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08/06/2021 08:50PM  
Just exited today. Moose lake to Knife, North Arm of Knife, to Ottertrack, to Ester, Hanson, South Arm of Knife, West end of Knife, Last night on Birch.

South Arm was a problem. We paddled from West end of,Oteertrack to Ester, Hanson, and into South Arm of Knife. Started paddling around 7 am, Looked all over S. Arm and got lucky taking a less desirable spot in a bay with muddy bottom. We had multiple crews come in looking to see if it was open and then not knowing what to do next. I’d suggest if you want to camp in the South Arm of knife you should be looking for your campsite by 11 a.m..

Sat on Birch last night and had some entertainment, Loon family was fun to watch right in front of our site. Otherwise the 3 sites were taken by the portages that start into knife. We watched one group that clearly didn’t have a clue on how to portage with absolutely crazy amounts of gear piled above the gunnels start portaging Into Knife at like 5. Took 30 minutes before they started to take the last gear across that first of four portages. Saw another group with slightly less gear and aluminum canoes start across at about 6. Watched a Northern Tier Crew gunnel up for an hour instead of moving further toward exiting on Moose to find a campsite. They had talked to and knew the NT crew in the campsite next to ours. We really wondered what they were thinking because sitting wasn’t getting them any closer to a campsite.

Overall we did well getting nice sites all week except in the South Arm of knife. We made smaller moves and made a point of trying to get a campsite early except for that one day when we pushed longer miles.

Also the campsites were cleaner than last year. We still picked up some small items and some garbage rope on Birch. Old pop can my son dove to get on Ottertrack. We didn’t see the amount of toilet paper that we saw all over last year in the wrong place meaning not in the latrine.

Ryan
 
08/06/2021 09:32PM  
Nice report. South Arm in the summr is always busy-nothing new.
 
GraniteCliffs
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08/06/2021 10:02PM  
I did check in with the Forest Service. The said the did not add any additional permits to the east entry points when the closed the western entry points.
 
TipsyPaddler
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08/08/2021 11:12AM  
Voyager: "The 1 Canadian group was guys, the other girls. The guys were out for 20 days. I told him you're so limited as to where you can travel. He stated they had some U.S. kids in the group who couldn't travel in Canada, so they had to stay on the U.S. side. I'm pretty sure both groups had started at Brule, 1 group was headed west, the other north out of Brule. I felt sorry for the kids having to portage those huge wannigans."

We passed that young men group on the Louse River portage headed west out of Trail Lake earlier this week. They clobbered the portage with four heavy royalex canoes and a couple portage loads for each paddler including 4-5 wannigan boxes. They said they normally did Canadian River trips and that was how they were equipped. We did not envy them! The 130 Rod portage to Boze—their destination for the night—was probably rough. I hated to that portage with just a Kevlar tandem canoe and 40 lb pack.

We did the Lady Chain-Louse River route and there were other people about but the group above were the only party we had to wait on to clear a portage and they were also the only group we saw that day. Phoebe, Marlberg and Mesaba had a lot of sites full but we still found good sites available too. We were the only party on Trail.

It wasn’t bad at all for the “high season.”
 
Gaidin53
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08/08/2021 10:35PM  
We saw a camp group of girls carrying the heavier canoes and a huge wannigan. Also some huge packs. We we’re going from Hanson into the South Arm of knife opposite the direction they were portaging. I asked what camp as we were passing but can’t remember what they said. Makes me wonder how many days they were going to be out and if they should have been on one of the far north trips instead of in the BWCA.

Ryan
 
08/09/2021 09:11AM  
We are going in on Moose in 2 weeks. Outfitter has said that it starts slowing down a bit later in August...we shall see.

Tentative plan is to make for Knife on the first day (getting a tow to Birch). Group of 4 with two being a newbie father son (12yo). Would love to take them down through Kek and south but don't know if they have it in them. Mostly want to do what I can to provide a quality experience.
 
BeavertailPaddle
 
08/10/2021 09:47AM  
Ran into a group of 9 mostly teenage boys with many wannigan boxes on the portage from Little Sag to Rattle on 8/5. They were from Northwaters & Langskib, a canoe-tripping camp in the Temagami region of Ontario (about 5 hours north of Toronto). The guides explained that all of them were American citizens who, in the absence of the border closure, would normally be tripping in Canada much closer to their base camp. They also explained that their Canadian campers are tripping this summer in their usual stomping grounds in northeastern Ontario. They were on day 13 of a 21 day trip around the BWCAW. Their gear (the wannigan, rockered royalex canoes, and lots of flimsy shoes) suggest that without the border closure, they would usually be paddling more rivers and doing a lot less portaging.
 
TechnoScout
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08/10/2021 12:30PM  
Cricket67: " Outfitter has said that it starts slowing down a bit later in August...we shall see.
"


Last year after Labor Day, we went in Moose to SAK and it was a ZOO!!! Done this many times...never seen anything like it.
 
eagle98mn
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08/11/2021 09:35PM  
Exited on Monday from South Kawishiwi. Spent the weekend on Clear and had the lake mostly to ourselves. Saturday night we were the only campers on the lake. Our whole route was relatively quiet and the parking lot was half empty. That was a pleasant surprise!
 
backpackingZombie
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08/13/2021 10:29AM  
Just got off Snowbank from a trip up to Ima. SO MANY PEOPLE. They really need to reduce the permit counts to help with this. We were lucky a solo guy allowed us to camp with him one of the nights, otherwise we would have been in a really bad situation.
 
mjmkjun
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08/13/2021 02:46PM  
eagle98mn: "Exited on Monday from South Kawishiwi. Spent the weekend on Clear and had the lake mostly to ourselves. Saturday night we were the only campers on the lake. Our whole route was relatively quiet and the parking lot was half empty. That was a pleasant surprise!"
So glad to read someone had a bonafide, good BWCA experience. Who would have thought that of the popular S. Kawishiwi River?!? Lucky strike!
 
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