Bon Echo – owls, coyotes & whipping winds!

I have been hearing about the great Bon Echo Provincial Park for many years now.  I had wanted to explore it and seeing as I had a free weekend in September and a willing and eager camping partner, the time to visit there had come!

I did my best to research Bon Echo but other than the Ontario Parks Website and a few posts here and there, I couldn’t find a whole lot.  I contacted Bon Echo Outfitters and got a hold of Jane who gave me all the details and answers I needed.  She was very helpful and if you’re looking for rentals in or around the park, I would give them a shout!    As I have my own kayak, I don’t require to rent one, but my friend Steph did.  I was told they didn’t open until 2pm on Fridays in September, but I was planning on arriving between 9 and 10am, so she said to message her when I was at a certain point and she would come and meet me.  What an awesome person!

After the rental details were sorted, I worked on our menu, which was to be extremely simple. I had been living it up camping all summer with some pretty amazing dishes and I just wanted to have easy meals this trip, keep the weight down in the bearvault and not spend too much time cooking meals.

Thursday night I had some issues packing. I just couldn’t seem to get done.  As I’d just returned from my solo trip a few days ago, I had to unpack, clean and repack all my gear, but differently.   I ran out of nalgene bottles and had to condense things as I was only bringing the my BV500 Bear Vault I’d gotten from MEC so I used vitamin and old pill bottles.They worked amazing and were just the right size. Somehow I managed to get everything in it!  It wasn’t so much just the food, but sunscreen (which ended up in a tylenol bottle), bugspray (which ended up turning into 6 towellette wipes,) and toiletries, (unfortunately it is difficult to condense deodorant! – SOMEONE MAKE A SMALLER SIZE!) , and a bit of alcohol!  Being outdoors for two nights in a row,  when it’s chilly out, it’s nice to have a few cocktails.  I used a metal water bottle for some coconut rum that was put in the boat cubby when not being used and another metal water bottle for Stephs’ wine. The baileys fit in one of my small nalgenes I’d bought recently from Algonquin Outfitters.  I broke all the eggs and put them into 2 vitamin bottles, 4 eggs in each and they were the perfect size and didn’t leak a drop! LOVE!

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I woke up at 430am on Friday morning, anxious to get on the road.  I did so by 530, arriving at Bon Echo by 9:30.  A four hour drive is perfect!  The scenery en route was amazing and if it was an indication of what was to come, I would be a happy girl!  When I drove through Tweed I actually stopped at a park I drove by to take some photos as it was so beautiful I couldn’t resist.

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I pulled into Bon Echo and went in to the office to  register and found this lovely person! She got my permit written up, and then I was all set to get my adventure started!

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I received  a message from Jane from Bon Echo Outfitters that she was waiting for me at the lagoon. I attempted to find her but got a bit lost so she drove out to get me and I followed her back in. Not only did she come to the office five hours early for me, but now was literally taking me to their shop.  Pretty nice indeed.  I paid her for Stephs kayak rental and got the life jacket and bailer for her, took a photo of Jane and her son Andre, thanked her profusely, and headed to Joe Perry Lake to start my adventure!

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I had read a blog post last week that advised the portage from the parking lot to Joe Perry Lake was about 500m and was downhill and flat and very good for carts or wagons.  I had a kayak cart that I had never used and got it out Thursday night while I was packing. Part of why I was running so late packing, was that I was trying to get the cart setup and noticed the tires were flat. I went to the gas station to fill them up but they wouldn’t hold the air. I brought it hoping it would work without the air. hahaha! Super HUGE wishful thinking! hahaha!    I set it up with my kayak on it and put all my gear on it,  but it was a bust and a waste of time. I’d have to look into this for another trip. Poopy!

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For now, I would have to carry stuff. On the way to put my boat down just inside the portage, I saw a  little cart sitting empty just waiting for me to use it. I was very happy for it’s assistance and packed it up and brought it along! Thanks random strangers who left this cart! You rock!

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pic for my mom of me portaging my boat, she says she doesn't see pics of me doing it! well, yeah, kind of difficult but I got one!
pic for my mom of me portaging my boat, she says she doesn’t see pics of me doing it! well, yeah, kind of difficult but I got one!

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The portage took me about a half hour to do the 2 trips there and back. I could only carry my boat by itself so the rest went all in one trip with that awesome cart. Not bad at all.

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I packed my boat and it tipped at first when I got it off  land. Everything was water proofed but it still scared me a bit. I got everything balanced a little better and headed off to my site, 524, which was just a 10 minute paddle 2 sites over from the portage.

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The site was even better than the photos on the Ontario Parks website! I unpacked the boat and began setting up almost immediately. It was really warm out, about 25 degrees and I was anxious to sit in the sun and go for a swim before Steph arrived.  I started with the tents, then the tarps.  Usually I do the tarps first, but there was no sign of rain and 0%POP so I figured I was safe to change things up a bit.

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It took me a few hours with lunch in between to get everything set up, wood cut, fire pit prepped, water filter filled up, etc etc.  Then I went down to the rocks by the water to look for wildlife and check things out. The rocks were so amazing. They had all different types of rocks mixed into them and I was amazed by them! Unfortunately my photos do not do them justice, I’ve always had a hard time photographing rocks, something I love dearly, but I guess not everything is meant to be seen in photographs.

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The sun was now partly sunny instead of full sun as it was when I arrived, of course, but I went for a swim regardless. It was so refreshing and I enjoyed it immensely! The water was crystal clear and pretty warm.  Sadly, this might be my last swim this summer, so I had to take advantage and go for it!

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After my swim I went for a paddle in what we would in future, call ‘the maze’. As on my way back to the site, I got stuck in it a few times, going through channels that led no where and had to turn back and try the next one. The area to the left of the site was marshy and full of tall grasses and beaver dams and I got stuck a few times, in addition to getting stuck in the maze!  The area, however, photographed nicely so that was a big bonus!

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While exploring I got a text from Steph advising she would be at the portage shortly, so I paddled over to meet her and help her with the kayak. She had never packed one before and wanted some advice.  We got her kayak into the water and loaded it up, putting a few things on my boat also, as it was now empty, then made our way to the site.

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Steph got settled in and had brought a few hotdogs with her for our dinner. I had actually never had hot dogs in the backcountry so it was kind of neat, and very easy. We set up the grill on the fire pit and shortly after it got dark as the sun set before 7pm now.  It started to rain a little bit on and off,  but luckily the shelter was solid, so we sat in it by the fire and enjoyed our time in nature.

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sorry, very dark, pic of making the hotdogs on the grill.
sorry, dusk, pic of making the hotdogs on the grill.

As we were making the hot dogs and the light was just stating to fade for the night, I looked over in the trees near our tents.  I saw something very large and white going from about 8′ high on one tree, up to about double that on the next tree beside it.  I was amazed and couldn’t believe what I’d seen.  It was incredibly magical and totally surreal.  It was a barred owl and I had never seen an owl in the wild before!!!!! Funnily, when I left my site in The Massasauga last weekend, just before heading out I found a feather and was told it was an Owl’s feather. Maybe it was a sign of what’s to come? Super cool indeed!

It flew over to another tree close by and I got out the flashlight to find it.  He was sitting on a tree and I shone the flashlight on it while Steph did her best to get a photo of it.  As it was almost dark and far away it didn’t come out the best, but just like the bear pics, I know it’s there and it made me happy to have it.  Here is the picture that was taken by Steph, along with a photo of a barred owl so you can see what we saw a brighter clearer version of what we saw.

Photo credit Stephanie Mercier
Photo credit Stephanie Mercier
Internet photo, not mine. Example picture of a Barred Owl.
Internet photo, not mine. Example picture of a Barred Owl.

Then he flew away, just as quickly as he arrived in all it’s magical splendour.  I was so delighted and felt so fortunate to have seen this amazing creature, I spent the night grinning and saying, we saw an owl, we saw an owl! lol.  It’s the little things, right? 🙂

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The s’mores were awesome as usual. We sat by the fire enjoying it until just after ten when we started hearing strange sounds.  It sounded like wolves or coyotes howling, laughing, being murdered… the sounds were unbelievable and I had never heard anything like it until now.  I recorded them as best I could and put it on my twitter and my Facebook and  was advised by a few different people that they were coyotes.  Take  a listen.

After a bit they stopped and I was told by my friend Iain,  that they were nothing to worry about, so we headed to bed shortly after to get some sleep.  It was a great day and I couldn’t wait to see what tomorrow would bring. I was also looking forward to testing out my new thermarest I’d gotten from Outdoors Oriented to see if it was comfy cozy.  Night night!

I woke up at 615, and got ready to go for a paddle. I loved morning paddles, they were so calm and peaceful and usually no one was out. It was the best time of the day! Steph joined me and we were delighted with this view upon going to get in our kayaks into the water.

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We set off towards the maze getting some great morning photos.

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Sorry, there are so many, I am not the best at picking which ones should be shown, so I just post them all! lol

We headed back to the site as we were both starved and I used my new Woods Pan set to make us a nice breakfast.  Cheese omelettes, bacon and english muffins and hot chocolate with baileys (coffee for steph). So good! It hit the spot!

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The forecast was basically rain all day, between 11am and 7pm, with the morning and evening being clear.  After our breakfast, the sun disappeared into the clouds and it became overcast and rained on and off most of the day, but only lightly, not enough to ruin our time outside.  At some point, however, we were expecting 5-10mm of rain and that would ruin our fire pit and make it difficult to get it going later when it cleared up.  I got a pretty bright idea to keep this from happening. I used the grate that was there, covered it in the few pieces of foil I bring for emergencies and then put it over the pit.  Voila! Firepit umbrella! YAY!!! Usually I would cover part of the pit with the tarp, but for this trip, I didn’t bring my enormous tarp due to space, so this would be a very good alternative.

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Steph did some schoolwork and  I spent my time working on blog stuff. Taking photos of gear for future reviews, taking timed selfies, watching the marsh for moose and wildlife, (which other than the frog and caterpillar I found,  there was none),  and, generally relaxing and enjoying being out in nature.

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For those of you who have never backcountry camped, this is what the ‘facilities’ look like.  We call this the #privy, #pooper, #outhouse#thunderbox etc, etc. Ours was quite far down the trail, but decent and not too smelly, thankfully.

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The winds started to pick up later in the afternoon and I decided to make some additions to the tarp/shelter we had.  It was the worst when the winds started howling and the rain came down sideways, and you then realize your shelter is not secure, too late! We were expecting 32km wind gusts and I wanted to be prepared. I had a bunch of garbage bags (I always bring about 10 of them, they take up no space but are extremely useful in times like these) and I attached them to the key areas where I thought the rain would try and come in.

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I secured the other lines with thicker rope and tied down some of the areas that the wind would pick up the tarp and lift it, basically letting in all the rain and wind in, which we didn’t want. I was pretty happy with the final outcome! I went back to the shore to look once again for wildlife and relaxed a bit before dinnertime. No luck!

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Around 5 it started to rain pretty hard and the wind picked up. We waited about an hour to make dinner until it calmed down a bit, but it was still a little challenging cooking with the wind.  Thankfully, it was nice and dry in the shelter and the fire was still going strong under the foil umbrella, so all was pretty good! 🙂

We made shrimp pasta for dinner, using nesting noodles. They only take about 3-5 minutes to boil. I used my new Woods Pot set and really liked cooking with it. I will be doing a review on them coming up so stay tuned for that! I heated up some greek dressing with feta, added chopped peppers, garlic, shrimp, sautéed them for a bit and then mixed in the pasta topping it with some fresh cheese that Steph had brought. It was really delicious and perfect for the weather we were having. Warmed up your insides.

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We cleaned up and shortly after dinner the weather broke and the sun came out. Just as forecast, it was nice again for sunset.

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Unfortunately, it lasted only as long as the sunset did. Although the sunset was really pretty.  To the left of our site we had some beautiful pink and purple clouds marching across the sky. They were just gorgeous!

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But to the other side of us, the black clouds started to roll in and they looked incredibly evil!!!

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We battened down the hatches once again. The sky opened up and it started to pour, but the rain wasn’t really the worst part, the wind was.  It had to be well over the 32km gusts that were predicted and it whipped through our site, trying very hard to dismantle our shelter but it did not succeed.  We sat on the picnic table nice and dry. I was in awe of the tarp and the ropes and that they didn’t let loose or break and was at the same time, extremely proud of my work on it! It was my first bad storm in the outdoors this summer (amazingly) and it was nice to see that my skills were still able to hold up to a stormy night, with crazy strong winds!

Steph and I were both tired and it wasn’t much fun just sitting under the tarp watching the wind play with it and the forest. There was no lightening or nothing really cool to see, so we both decided it was a good night to get to bed early and get a good rest in, and at 845 ish, we headed to our tents.  I puttered around a bit, putting the backpacks inside and organizing stuff in my tent.  Around 915, I decided to use the privy one last time before sleeping and was so glad I went out.  The sky had cleared and it was full of beautiful stars, complete with a very bright crescent moon, reflecting in the lake.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo as night photos for me, are difficult as most of my pictures are taken with my iPhone. I stood and enjoyed the view for about fifteen minutes and then chilly, headed to bed around 930 and got a great nights sleep, cozy in my marmot -9 bag and on top of the new Thermarest which was amazingly comfy!  I went off to dreamland and had the best sleep ever!

I woke up around 630 and went out to survey the damage the winds had left.  After I went to bed, I woke up a few times to hear the wind was howling again and the rain was on and off.  Surprisingly, the tarp  was up, almost exactly as it was when I set it up. A few of the garbage bags had come loose but otherwise, it was steady eddie and I was really proud of my work and that it held up so well in such strong winds. Here is a shot of it, the morning after, lol. The fire pit umbrella worked great as well! I got a fire started quite easily when I got up, it wasn’t wet at all! 🙂

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The sun was up and the sky looked cool so I jumped in my kayak and headed into the maze to get a few pics.IMG_1129 IMG_1131 IMG_1141 IMG_1173 IMG_1178

I met up with Steph shortly after and we went for a paddle around the lake. When we got back to the site we had a nice breakfast, egg, bacon and cheese wraps and then slowly started to pack up our site.

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Then it was back to the way we found it, well, a bit better as I always do my best to pack out any garbage that was left from the previous tenants. It was a gorgeous day and I was sad to leave the site, but we were headed to the beach here to check that out after our little portage to the car.  It didn’t take us long and soon we were driving out of the Joe Perry Lake parking lot and out to the Bon Echo Beach area.  It was absolutely gorgeous there!

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We ate our lunch at one of the many available picnic tables and looked out onto the lake.  There were a few people on the beach, some were swimming and I was sad I wasn’t one of them at the moment.  After lunch we walked down to the lagoon and took a look around, then drove through some of the car campground to check out some sites, circling good ones on the bon echo newspaper along the way.  Steph had lots of work to do when she got home so around 3 she headed out for the 4-5 hour drive back. I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye yet, so I headed to the Visitor Center and the Gift Shop to check things out there!

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The visitor centre was pretty neat and had a lot of displays of what you’d see in the park.  There was also a section that showed the pictographs and I asked the ranger how I would go about seeing them. She pointed to the window, out to the massive rock face facing us and said they were all along the rocks and the best way to see them was by water.  Funnily, I had a kayak and I was not ready to go home yet, so I decided to put my boat in the water and go check them out. I was not disappointed and so happy I went!

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I saw a bunch of the pictographs, they were all over the rock face and they were really neat to look at.  The sun was out and it was really hot paddling along the rock, with no wind to cool me off, even though it was only supposed to be 18 degrees, it felt more like 25!  I found a little ledge to park my boat on and got out and went for a quick swim!

small ledge I pulled my boat up to and got out for a swim at.
small ledge I pulled my boat up to and got out for a swim at.

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After my swim, I figured it was time to get on the road back home, as much as I didn’t want to go, it was inevitable.  I put my kayak back on my car for the 2nd time today, changed into some dry clothes and headed out of Bon Echo Provincial Park.  I totally get why people think it’s a great place, I definitely enjoyed my time there and I was looking forward to going back again one day soon!  Thanks to everyone that makes Bon Echo a special place to be, Thanks to Bon Echo Outfitters for being so awesome and thanks to the bears for leaving me be on another back county adventure!!

I really hope you enjoyed reading my post.  Please leave a comment if you have any questions, criticisms or just want to say hi!  Thanks for reading!

Happy Camping!

Camper Christina

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9 thoughts on “Bon Echo – owls, coyotes & whipping winds!

  1. Hi Christina. I just finished reading this blog and again, I was not disappointed…..I know what you mean by how exciting it is to see wildlife. 🙂 …..My husband and I took a day trip to Bon Echo on July 4th of this year. We wanted to hike the Cliff Top Trail and see the Pictographs. When we got there, the park was very busy. The visitor parking by the South Beach (near the lagoon/rental shack) was full and we had to keep circling the parking lot until we saw someone pulling out. So, off to the lagoon we go to get on the Mugwump Ferry only to learn that there was a wait time. 😦 That meant that we could only do one of the things that we wanted to do that day. We decided that we would take the Mugwump to Mazinaw Rock and hike the Cliff Top Trail. After climbing many sets of stairs, we reached the top of Mazinaw Rock and hiked the trail. It was awesome. There is four different lockouts. It was just Amazing. 🙂 When we made our way down and back to the lagoon area, we went for a little stroll over to the point where the narrows are. We sat there and just took in the beautiful scenery and the activities going on all around us. The Alpine Rock Climbing Club were climbing the rock just across from the point.(we learned that climbers need to register at the Park Office prior to climbing ) We also watched some illegal climbers who ended up getting escorted off the rock by the Park Wardens. We wondered around the park taking pictures and just enjoying the day. We didn’t want to leave but we knew we had to get home to our dog. We plan on going back. Next time we will rent kayaks or a paddle boat and go see the Pictographs. We are planning a camping trip for next summer. Can’t wait. 🙂

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    1. Wow! Cathy, what a great comment. Do you have a blog? You clearly have the gift to write and should have one if you don’t already? We wanted to do the cliff top hike also but they do not run the ferry in September they told us. I was going to give up on the picto’s when I found out I could see them on my own with the kayak so lucky me! I hope to do that hike one day as well! If you are car camping there, lmk. I wrote down a few of the best sites we could find and will happily share with you since you are such a wonderful person !! Thanks for following!

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  2. Thank you for your compliment on my writing Christina. 🙂 I probably broke every rule regarding grammar. No, I don’t have a blog but have toyed with the idea……I got so caught up in telling you about our Bon Echo experience, that I forgot to mention to you that I found your tinfoil umbrella very clever…..I have also read some of your other blogs and like your cooking ideas. I will definitely have to make s’mores your way. As a matter of fact, I was at my local No Frills and saw the biscuits you use and immediately thought of your s’mores. LOL. :)…..As for the campsites, I will have to go online and do a mock reservation because we have a 22 1/2 foot trailer(an older one but it keeps us warm and dry) and I know that some of the campsites at Bon Echo will not accommodate that size of trailer. But I appreciate your offer to guide us to good campsites. 🙂

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    1. Oh, I don’t know too much about trailer sites unfortunately. My glamping tent is big, but not that big! hahaha. You make me so happy with your comments! Thank you so much for making my day, yet again! You are a lovely person and I appreciate you more than I can say! I hope you bought the cookies! Everyone that’s tried them, loves them!!! You will too! Have an amazing evening! 🙂

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  3. Hi Christina – great blog posting again. I haven’t been to Bon Echo in years – but your blog makes me want to go back (soon!!). You are lucky to have ‘partners in crime’ for your backcountry trips – I have a hard enough time to convince people to go car camping, let along ‘into the woods’. Killarney and the Crack was great this past weekend – although there were no fall colours?!?!? The colour change is very late this year; a couple reds here and there but that’s all. Still didn’t take away from the effort and reward of hiking the crack. Any thoughts of hiking the entire La Cloche Silhouette Trail?? There was a guy checking in ahead of me – completing the loop solo and I was thinking in my head “take me with you”!!! Anyways, look forward to the next blog. Jen

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  4. Great post Christina. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. If you ever want to hike the Clifftop Trail you can actually take your own boat over and tie up at the dock (just don’t dock at the end where the Mugwump docks). I imagine they take the dock out when the tours are done but there would still be a place to tie up. Something to consider for next time.

    You can read about our most recent trip to Bon Echo here.

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  5. Looks like another great trip! We love Bon Echo. It is so beautiful with Mazinaw Rock and the big lake and pictographs but it does get overcrowded in the summer, especially on weekends. Clifftop Trail is definitely worth a visit. Kishkebus Canoe Route is another fun thing to do. It’s about 20 km long and can be covered in a day. It was, in fact, our intro into portaging years ago. Bon Echo is also the park where we did our first overnight backpacking trip on Abes and Essens Trail (https://gonecampingblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/a-different-side-of-bon-echo/) and where I sprained my ankle. Oh, so many memories 🙂 We’ve never camped on Joeperry Lake, though, but definitely want to try. Sounds like it was an amazing experience!

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