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Mini-vacation in Huron County – just in time for March Break

14 Mar

naftel3The following is the second in a series of winter day-tripping ideas from Diva Shari Parsons, who has a special passion for driving adventures, trail hiking and photo opportunities.

Recently, my hubby had a week’s holiday but since we couldn’t “get away” we decided to enjoy some of the local attractions.

There is the saying “a change is as good as a rest” and even one night away from home feels like a mini holiday. We decided to use some travel reward points to book a Jacuzzi King Suite at the Dreamz Inn on Hwy. 21 between Goderich and Bayfield. We had stayed there one night last winter and enjoyed the experience so we decided to do it again.

After checking in, I swam for an hour in their clean, saltwater pool while my hubby alternated between pool, dry sauna and hot tub. We ate a picnic style supper, which we had brought with us, while watching TV on their good-sized flat screen TV. We ended our evening by snacking on potato chips while sharing a romantic soak in the large Jacuzzi tub in the firelight of the electric fireplace. The King bed was comfy as were the downy soft sheets.

In the morning, my hubby skipped down to the breakfast room to grab some free breakfast munchies while I enjoyed another soak in the Jacuzzi tub. When he came back we enjoyed blueberry muffins, yogurt and tea.

The sun was shining and the temperature was mild so after checking out of the hotel, we decided to go for a hike at Naftel’s Creek Conservation Area on Hwy. 21., just south of the Dreamz Inn. The Conservation Area’s entrance is on the east side of the highway. It is not well marked so you need to be looking out for it. The parking lot has a fair amount of space. The trail is popular with people walking dogs and cross-country skiers in the winter.

naftel7The main trail is fairly flat and winds its way through evergreens, hardwoods and cedars in wetland areas so there is a nice mix of environments and eco systems. There is a pond and a couple of tinkling creeks.

The beginning of the trail runs through a conifer plantation. Recent windstorms have toppled a few of the trees and you can see how wide but shallow the root system is that anchors these tall trees. You can tell by the tracks in the snow that the uprooted tree bases make for great shelter for the forest creatures.

naftel2naftel6Boardwalks lead you through mini forests of cattails in the wetlands as well as over bubbling streams, the edges of which are marked by deer tracks coming to the creek for a drink.

There had been a snowfall the previous day so the woods were covered in a fresh blanket of puffy white. Some tree stumps sported puffy caps making them look like giant mushrooms.

naftel5In the cedar groves, the trees on either side of the trail reach up and lean towards each other over the trail forming a natural cathedral ceiling and make the hiker feel like they are walking through a woody tunnel.

naftel1A winter hike on this trail is very quiet and peaceful with only the sound of the occasional chickadee.

The weather was still sunny after our hike and we didn’t feel like ending our mini holiday by going home yet so we decided to go for a country drive. We once again headed north and did the Blyth Road to Auburn then Base Line Road route. This time we decided to explore Maitland Block, a loop that cuts off of the Base Line Road and catches a portion of the Maitland River. It ended up that we weren’t able to traverse the whole road as not all of it is maintained in the winter, but on the way down, we watched a half dozen crows heckling a large hawk and soon saw the hawk’s mate following behind. On the way back up the road, I was looking at the tree-line and spotted a bald eagle sitting in a tree snacking on something. We got to watch it for quite a while before it majestically flew away.

We pulled off the side of Base Line Road at Little Lakes Road and walked down the hill to the historic Ball’s Bridge as that end of the road is not winter maintained. Down at the bridge we noted another group of crows displaying incredible acrobatics as they were swooping and dive-bombing another hawk in a tree.

ballsbridge4The icy edges of the riverbanks were covered with the wide-toed tracks of snowshoe hares.

ballsbridge1 ballsbridge2After walking back to the car (watch for snowmobiles as this is part of their trail) we drove to Londesboro Road. And then turned onto River Line Road. On one side of the road is an old brick building surrounded by antique farm machinery – an interesting contrast of textures and colours. On the crest of the hill, there is a large home resembling a fairy-tale castle, complete with rounded tower. This home has an incredible view of rolling farmlands and woodlands to the east.

ballsbridge8River Line Road becomes Hills Road, (a good name for the location) which is dotted with Victorian farm houses. We then headed through Benmiller on our way home.

There is so much variety and beauty in Huron County that you don’t have to leave to enjoy a winter holiday.

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dreamzinn

Dreamz Inn as Your Destination:

What:

A contemporary designer hotel with luxuriously appointed rooms, with attention to detail. Non-smoking family atmosphere, with saltwater pool, fitness centre, outdoor lounging areas & multi-purpose court. Complimentary breakfast.

Where:

79272 Hwy. 21, at the intersection of Union Road and Hwy. 21. Between Goderich and Bayfield.

When:

Open year round.

Contact:

Website – http://www.dreamzinn.ca

Email – reserve@dreamzinn.ca

Phone – 519.524.7396 or toll free 1.855.524.7396

Mini winter holiday in Huron County: Part I

28 Feb

hikinggoderich4The following is the first in a series of winter day-tripping ideas from Diva Shari Parsons, who has a special passion for driving adventures, trail hiking and photo opportunities.

What do you do when you need a “Winter Getaway” but you can’t actually “getaway”? That was the conundrum facing my hubby and me this past week. With a week’s holidays and only a beer budget, you have to get a little creative.

We decided to take advantage of some of our favourite activities in some of our favourite places right here in our own backyard of Huron County.

hikinggoderich3A sunny day with cold winds called for a road trip on country roads. We started down at the Goderich waterfront where I enjoyed looking at the fantastic ice mounds formed just offshore. The ice covering the one harbour entrance light made the building look like a frosted wedding cake. Snow and ice made for some interesting costumes for the dozens of Inuksuit (that is the plural form) still bravely standing along the ice-encrusted shoreline.

hikinggoderich2A stop at the north end of St. George’s Crescent in Goderich gives a fantastic view of the grain elevators, salt mine, and harbour, which on this particular day held three ships in an icy grasp. Puffy clouds on the horizon mimicked snow capped mountains in the distance. Turn around and you can enjoy the wonderful historical architecture of stately homes such as McDermott’s castle and the former home of lumber merchant Joseph Williams.

hikingauburn5We continued to drive north from Goderich on Hwy. 21 and turned onto Blyth Road (Cnty. Rd. 35) where we enjoyed the sight of rolling snow covered fields criss-crossed with sparkling creeks. After crossing the picturesque Maitland River in Auburn, we turned south onto the Base Line Road and pulled off at Manchester Park to take in the sights and sounds of the Maitland River on a sunny winter’s day. The sunlight made an interesting pattern of shadows on the snow from the long line of poplar trees along the lane. The snow was criss-crossed with the tracks of an adventurous field mouse.

hikingauburn6We continued south on Base Line Road, then turned west on the Londesboro Road and stopped at the former mill in Benmiller, which is now the Benmiller Inn. You can watch the Maitland River flow past the historic River Mills buildings. I took some photos of interesting architectural features frosted with snow. The blue sky, trees and historic building of Gledhill House were reflected in the water of Gledhill Pond.

hikingbenmiller8We returned home having enjoyed the bright winter sun, lovely scenery and some great photo ops.

Grab your favourite hot beverage, jump in the car and explore the beauty that surrounds us in Huron County!

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Ladies on Leave – or LOL – create a weekend getaway in Huron County

22 Oct
Ladies on Leave (LOL) find a weekend getaway in their own backyard.

Ladies on Leave (LOL) find a weekend getaway in their own backyard.

By Guest Diva Darlene Empey 

Eight ladies set out on their annual Mystery Tour get away recently (Sept 11, 12 & 13). The theme of the weekend is to see some things we haven’t seen, participate in some new activities and, generally, just have a nice three-day weekend away.

This year the planner (me) wanted to discover or rediscover attractions in our “own backyard”. Only the planners know where the tour is taking the group, making the element of surprise part of the fun.

We started out in Goderich and here’s what we did:

Sometimes fun comes in the simple things - like mini-golf.

Sometimes fun comes in the simple things – like mini-golf.

First stop, Jillian Walden opened her at-home studio to us, for an hour of simple yoga poses, healthy eating tips (plus a healthy drink and snack) and advice on a host of topics raised by our 50/60-something group.

Jillian energized us for our busy day ahead.

Next we went to the Huron County Museum. It is amazing how much local history is contained here. Most of us had not been to this museum for years, we won’t say how many, but, suffice it to say that the two-headed calf was my most vivid memory.

By the time we were finished at the museum we were hungry. Pat and Kevin’s, on Court House Square,welcomed us for lunch. Everything was ample and delicious, and we all had a complimentary side of Mayor Kevin’s wit.

We then went to the Huron Historic Gaol. Again, a great history lesson and a sobering glimpse into the past.

I have lived in Huron County all my life and had never visited the gaol.

Now, to add a little culture, we visited Sharon Johnston who gave us a lesson playing the harp. Sharon patiently introduced us to an instrument that sounds beautiful no matter what you play, and, even if I do say so myself, our rendition of Three Blind Mice sounded pretty good. But, it paled in comparison to the solo Sharon played for us that sent musical shivers down my spine.

We dined at Beach Street Station, in its private room; the food, service and the view were delectable.

Off to Samuels, in Saltford, where we stayed for the night…beautiful rooms, cheery staff, nice continental breakfast and complimentary cupcakes!

Saturday morning we headed to the beach to see the newest attraction in Goderich. The Inuksuk display is impressive and a monument to the community spirit within Goderich, “Pretty Strong Town”.

We picked up our deli sandwich lunch at Shanahan’s, on the Square, and headed north on 21 to do something we hadn’t done for years….we played mini-golf at Point Farms Market.

Then we visited Susanne and Bill Robinson, at Robinson’s Maple Products. We sampled maple butter, fresh from the spout and toured the facility. This family operation has grown from a maple bush, supplying the neighbourhood with maple syrup, into a business providing dozens of maple products locally and internationally. It was clear from our visit that their secret ingredient is “passion”.

A tour of Blyth Farm Cheese was one of the weekend highlights.

A tour of Blyth Farm Cheese was one of the weekend highlights.

Next stop was Blyth Farm Cheese. Most of us didn’t even know that this award winning cheese plant existed just outside of Blyth. Paul VanDorp gave us a tour of the facility and explained the art of cheese making, the regulations and what he was planning for the future. But, of course, the best part was the sampling. We tasted several varieties of cheese and they were all amazing; my favourite was the “Drunken Goat”.

So, now we were tired and looking for a place to put our feet up. In Blyth? On the Threshers weekend? Yes, indeed. We stayed above the Queen’s Bakery, a lovely, spacious getaway, with a fully equipped kitchen and living room area.

Fine dining is always one of the highlights of our weekend (because we don’t have to cook). Just a few steps from the bakery we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Part II Bistro, including the chef’s complimentary appetizer.

Then, right across the street, we took in the final performance of the Blyth Festival season; the touching story behind “Mary’s Wedding”.

Sunday morning, we enjoyed not getting up too early and nibbling on the fruit, cheese, muffins and cherry loaf put together for us by Scrimgeour’s Food Market in Blyth.

On the last day of our LOL weekend, we headed off to Brussels. We are kind of worn out by this time, but no worries. Kathy McNeil Nichol and her staff at Solace Spa opened the doors at their beautiful historic location to welcome our group. We spent most of the day being pampered with pedicures, massages and reiki. It was a lovely, relaxing day, including lunch from the Jam Jar.

By the end of our weekend we were all impressed, and maybe a little surprised, to discover and rediscover all the things to do and see in Huron County within such short distances of home (and we barely scratched the surface). Talent, art, history, fine dining, accommodations and successful businesses, all just waiting for you to experience them, right in your own back yard.

Thanks to all the people & businesses that made this a great weekend for us!

Hiking in Huron

17 Oct

By Diva Cindy Fisher

Well, okay. . . there have been a few flurries in the forecast for this weekend but don’t let that discourage you from hiking in the fall colours in Huron County – Ontario’s West Coast.

There are still weeks of good fall weather for hiking and if you pick up a County Hiking Guide or view it online. You will see that there are over 25 hiking destinations featured from all over this great County. Put them all on your bucket list!

Menesetung Bridge.

Menesetung Bridge.

Let’s start at the lake, with a recent photo of the Menesetung Bridge captured this week by Debbie Carroll. If that doesn’t hustle you out the door, I don’t know what will! I appreciate this bridge over the Maitland River and am so thankful that it was saved from demolition when the CPR line was abandoned – I can’t imagine Goderich without it.

This converted railway bridge in Goderich will link you to several great trails:

– the GART (Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail) – 13 kms and beautiful pastoral scenery;

– the Sifto Loop – 1.6 km – follow the blue blazes off the north end of the Menestung Bridge;

– the Menestung Trail – 1.8 kms – follow the yellow blazes off the north end of the Menestung Bridge, and;

cindy&friends– the Maitland Trail – You can follow the white blazes off the GART near Tiger Dunlop Tomb entrance. The trail is a total of approx. 50 km but you don’t have to do it all in one day J. Some people do, but I prefer a more relaxed approach in my enjoyment of the outdoors; it was pretty fun to do ½ of the trail (25 km) on the Camino weekend event at the end of September – hundreds of people agreed! And here I am with my neighbours, happy and hiking!

Goderich also has the Millennium Trail (about 3 km along the Maitland River in Goderich) and the Maitland Woods behind the Columbus Centre – and also great trails behind the Maitland Cemetery.

So many trails……so many trail snacks!

On the way to Bayfield you can check out Naftel’s Creek Conservation Area, right on Highway #21 between Union Road and Kitchigami Rd – can’t miss it.

In Bayfield, you will find three great trails there – Sawmill, Heritage and Woodland. The Sawmill starts north of the village and river, at the end of Sawmill Rd. Heritage and Woodland start from Clangregor Square.

Near Bayfield you can find the beautiful Varna Trails starting at the Stanley Recreation Complex just west of Varna on County Rd. #3/Mill Road. Who doesn’t love the 2 kms at Bannockburn CA just east of Varna – a real fall jewel.

There are great trails near Exeter (McNaughton / Morris Dam); and I haven’t even mentioned Hullett Provincial Wildlife Area or the Lobb Trail near Clinton. Wingham has a clever trail associated with the former CNR Bridge and Blyth has a nice greenway trail on a former rail bed. Benmiller boasts the Falls Conservation Area.

I love living here…year round…next time I will share some great local spots to cross country ski.

If you like to go on guided hikes, check out what is happening on: www.maitlandtrail.ca or at www.bayfieldtrails.com . Both of these trail associations also have pretty sweet detailed trail guides so that you won’t get lost. If there is signage regarding hunting this season, asking you to not use a particular section of trail, then don’t – here are lots of other hiking spots around.  So get off the couch (unless you’re cheering on the Blue Jays), go out the door and walk – you will be glad that you did.


 

Oct. 18, 2015 – Editor’s Note: Cindy sent in this photo after a fall hike on a snowy day.

cindy

Mud bogging at Walton Raceway for the pure fun of it

17 May
Driver Derek Tout and Heather Boa in front of Knight Rider.

Driver Derek Tout and Heather Boa in front of Knight Rider. Photo by Melody Hodgson.

By Diva Heather Boa

Dressed in a strappy, fitted rose-coloured gown, I could have been going to a formal party. Except for the brilliant magenta rubber boots.

Although I’d picked up a formal dress at a thrift shop to wear just for fun on this mud bogging adventure, the boots reflected my practical side. After all, it’d be tough sloughing in heels if the car stalled in a massive mud puddle during Walton Raceway’s mud bogging event.

Of course, I could have followed driver Derek Tout’s lead and abandoned shoes for bare feet. And he wore a 10-gallon hat. A hat would have been a good idea too. But then, Derek’s been mud bogging for a decade and this was my first time. I’m usually more at home with a good book and a glass of wine.

Derek finds me a plastic lawn chair to help in the climb up to the passenger seat of Knight Rider, his custom built ’84 Racaro package Trans Am set on a ’72 bus frame with ’94 Chevy half-ton axles. The interior is riddled with dried mud from previous rides, the seatbelt and harness ready to put on.

We line up to take our turn on the course, engines revving around us, the smell of gasoline hanging in the air. There are ATVs, side-by-sides, jacked trucks, off-road trucks, farm trucks and even family vehicles. From here, I can see people of all ages, children and dogs, gathered at the fenceline to watch. Atop a cattle trailer, four men in jeans sit on a couch, getting a clear view of the pit. There are rows of trucks, a scattering of tents and campfires. There is a record crowd of nearly 3,000 on the grounds, and 316 trucks and ATVs registered. Many have stayed overnight, camping in the campground set further afield. Walton Raceway is also home to the annual Parts Canada TransCan National Championship that draws thousands from across North America to watch and compete in motocross competition every August.

Mud bogging at Walton Raceway from Heather Boa on Vimeo.

Our windows are down and the view out the sides are clear, unlike the front windshield, which still had a sheen of mud from previous mud bogging adventures. Derek expects he will make about 10 trips through the course today, running through a small pond of mud, through a tight track in the trees, and along a hilly path that runs the length of the spectator area. In this first run, he will take it slow because his car has been acting up. I don’t know if that’s a polite way of saying he’s going slow because of his inexperienced passenger.

He taps the emergency brake (I think) and tells me the handle will be my best friend. I hang on to it and to the door handle.

Photo by Melody Hodgson.

Photo by Melody Hodgson.

We tip over a hill and ease into what looks like a small lake of mud. The tires grab hold of the muddy bottom and propel us forward, the murky water swallowing the tires. We stall. A few pumps of the red button on the dash and we sluggishly move forward again, water rippling around us. So far, we’re dry and mud free, settled firmly in our seats.

I relax, release my hands from their death grip around the holds. I don’t know whether to talk to Derek or leave him alone to concentrate on his car, so I say nothing. It’s almost like we’re in a paddle boat, gently propelled forward. Not at all what I expected. In my mind, I had envisioned a bumpy ride where I’d be grateful for the harness and handholds, and worried the car would tip on its side.

We make it through the massive mud puddle, unlike many who need to be pulled from the heavy mud through the day, then the tires gain traction at the exit on the far side. The engine revs, the tires spin, and mud flies. It lands like a bunch of dead bugs on my dress, my hair, my lips. I eat gritty mud that reminds me of the dregs from campfire coffee – just not as tasty. Even with sunglasses on, the mud sticks to my eyelashes.

Then we fly through the bush, between trees and over small knolls. Contrary to what I thought beforehand, I’m not scared at all. How can I be? Between a muddy windshield, muddy sunglasses and mud in my eyes, I can’t see anything anyway. As we come out of the bush, Derek barrels down on a patch of mud. Thick globs of mud fly around us, and there’s a sound kind of like a metal snap from the underbelly of the car.

“That doesn’t sound good,” he says, as he casually removes a hunk of mud the size of a small rock from between his shoulder blades. He hops out of the car and checks its underside, and determines the noise wasn’t what he thought it might be. But the ride is cut short anyway.

I slide out of the car, a bit disappointed we’re done but grateful to Derek and Walton Raceway for making the mud bogging experience happen.

Next time, I want to go faster.

Below, you’ll find some photos from today’s event. Just click on any of them to view in a larger size.

The perfect catch in Huron County

7 May

fishingontheninemileBy Diva Jenna Ujiye

Poles, rods, lines and reels can really get confusing when it comes to me and fishing. On April 25 I decided to head down to the

There were plenty of happy fishermen on opening day this year.

There were plenty of happy fishermen on opening day this year.

river for opening fishing weekend (always the 4th Saturday in April for Zone 16 which is most of Southwestern Ontario). I went looking to catch a fish, but I caught much more than that!

One of my first memories as a child is ice fishing on a small lake in northern British Columbia with my family. I’m fairly sure I spent more time looking down the holes in the ice and gallivanting around the snow-covered lake than actually fishing. After moving to Goderich, I gave up fishing and moved on to different hobbies!

Living in the hamlet of Port Albert, Ontario, I had heard we have some really great fishing, especially along the Nine Mile River. I woke up early(ish) and headed down to the river. I was amazed at the number of vehicles in the parking lot near the bridge. There were cars, trucks, trailers and lawn chairs set up, showing me that there must be many fishermen along the river.
As I walked up to the river, there were 15-20 people fishing right under the bridge and as I walked along to see what people were

doing I ran into a fisherman carrying a fish he had just caught. I was super excited and asked him if I could take a photo. He then took a photo of me holding the fish… this is when I learned how not to hold a fish (the above photo is how not to hold a fish, the below photo is kind of how you’re supposed to hold a fish).

And here's how not to hold a fish, this diva learns.

My next stop was to find out a little bit more about fishing. I ran into a group a

fishermen who were taking a break and asked if they could share some fishing knowledge with me. They were a super welcoming group handing me yummy Italian IMG_5250style charcuterie and beverages and giving me a comfy place to sit. My first question was: What kind of fish are running right now? With a response of – Steelhead Trout! My second question was: How many fish are you allowed to catch? And the responses to this question got a little muddy. So I decided that I would do more research later on.

Port Albert General Store.

Port Albert General Store.

Another amazing asset to the area is the Port Albert General Store. I stopped in to check in with Steve, Brigitte and Angus and found the store filled with customers purchasing everything from pizza to snacks to bait and fishing gear. This store has truly embraced the community. They offer wonderful food, gas, convenience items and more. One of my favourite offers they have is their farmer’s market, which runs from May to October, but I’ll save that story for later.

So in the end, I really didn’t go fishing, but I made some new friends and found out some great fishing information! I also found out that there are quite a few rules for fishing, which can all be found online.

Find out more about outdoor recreation and other activities that make Ontario’s West Coast an ideal family getaway, by visiting online.

fishingunderthebridge

The Port Albert bridge is a fine place to pass time fishing.

 

Stocked pond provides hours of family fun

5 May

fish3By Diva Caroline Thuss

Looking for a great (and inexpensive) way to entertain everyone from young to old now that the nicer weather is here?

Hop in the car and take the short and scenic ride to Falls Reserve Conservation Area in Benmiller and check out its stocked fish pond.

My family headed out for our first fishing adventure of the year at the Falls Reserve on opening day. For the cost of a gate pass ($15 per vehicle) and a fishing permit ($8 for adult and $4 for child) for the stocked pond we were ready to enjoy several hours at the beautiful location.

fish5Don’t have a fishing rod? Don’t worry! The Falls Reserve is a loaner site for the OFAH / OPG TackleShare program where you can sign out a rod, etc. like you borrow from a library! The fish pond is located shortly after you enter the park and very close to the Maitland trail. There is lots of room for picnic lunch on the grass or a table nearby.

When we arrived there were already several people around the pond looking for that beautiful big trout. Some were using spinners, others jigs, and some the classic worm bait to get them to bite. We chatted briefly to the father and his son who had caught their quota of four beautiful trout already and were heading out. It was great to see so many people taking advantage of this program.

We enjoyed the sun while we cast out our lines hoping that we might get lucky. It did not take too long before we had a fish on the line and were able to reel in a nice sized trout, which my kids were super excited about…okay I was a little excited too as it has been a long time since I was able to catch a nice sized fish. We did release a few other lucky ones as the kids were more excited about the chance to reel one in than the thought of eating our new “friend” for dinner. It is all about building a positive experience for the children and encouraging them to practice sustainable fishing.

We will be back on July fourth when they host the Family Fishing derby, which is like a small derby for children with lots of prizes fish6and excitement from what I have been told.   This annual event will occur from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  There is no cost to participate although park admission will apply.  The maximum park admission fee is $15 for a car load of people.  There are three age categories (10 and under, 11-17, 18+) and prizes will be awarded for the three longest fish caught in each category.  A prize will also be awarded for the smallest fish of the day.  There will be a variety of prizes donated by local sponsors and provided by the Falls Reserve C.A.  After prizes have been awarded according to the categories a draw will be held to give away the remaining prizes so all participants are encouraged to register to be eligible to win a prize.  They must also be in attendance to win a prize.  There will be a barbecue and refreshments available during the event.  Bait will also be available to purchase.

We were able to enjoy a short hike on the Maitland Trail as well before heading back into town to dress the fish and get it ready for the barbecue. Yummy! You can access the recipe I used here.

What: Falls Reserve Conservation Area

Where: 80900 Falls Reserve Line, RR 4, Goderich, ON N7A 3Y1

Why: Stocked Trout Pond

When: Day permits valid from 8 am. to 10 p.m.

Cost: Daily vehicle permit: $15. Daily pond permit: $8, adults; $4, children aged 5 to 12 (April 25 to June 26, trout only); no charge children aged 5 to 12 (June 27 to Sept. 30, catch and release only.)

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