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Old 08-09-2014, 01:19 PM   #1
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Montana Trip Report - Parts 1-4 - And the Grand Finale #5

Our road trip to see Montana - July 9 to Aug 2, 2014

This is basically Sherri's journal with some edits and additions by me plus our photos. Sherri is a retired wildlife biologist and bird specialist which explains the detailed wildlife lists.

9 July, Arcata to Aiden, CA
Left home by 10 am. Had been packing for several days. Easier not to have a made rush for 2 days. Stopped at Big French Creek for lunch. Creek was beautiful as always. Saw a few fry/juvenile salmon/steelhead. 5 hours to Redding! We’d never seen so many traffic stops and pilot cars in one trip. Headed east on 299, past Aiden by about 5 miles to Forest Service campground, Rush Creek camp. Nice spot in the trees. Pretty good size trees. Pretty little creek runs through camp. Spent an hour taking burrs off the dogs. Only 2 other campsites occupied.

10 July, Aiden, CA to Willow Cr Hot Spring, OR
Early start today: 8:30. Stopped about 11:30 for lunch at Birding Trail #5 near Plush, along the west face of Hart Mt. Heard one Greater Yellowlegs; that’s it. Drove up Hart Mt. rd. Beautiful view of the valley. Saw about 8 Pronghorn does, some with kids (fawns?). So cute! Drove through to reserve headquarters (about 18 does, bucks and kids nearby). Then on to Hart Mt. Hot Spring. Spring was great, but slippery ladder and deep. We then went to Alvord spring at the base of the east slope of Steen’s Mt. Camp ground was a gravel flat, private, pay. We left. Landed at Willow Creek Hot Spring about 7p. Long day! Just as beautiful here as we remembered. This is an image from a couple of years ago.



The beavers have backed up the creek a bit, flooding this camp site and and running a small stream through the parking lot.



Had the place to ourselves. Goose pair with gooslings (only heard) were not happy at our arrival. Called for quite sometime then moved off up the creek. Heard and saw mallards, redwings, song sparrows, killdeer, meadow lark, finches I couldn’t id, cliff (and maybe bank) swallows. Common night hawks (at least 3) were swooping through camp at dust. Awesome birds. The spring was great. Good soak.



Good dinner (chicken, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and baked beans). Incredible dark pink sunset. Lightning in the distance. A fire started off toward Denio and we could see the smoke column lit up pink by the flames. Full Moon tonight.

11 July Willow Cr Hot Spring, OR to Antelope Reservoir, OR
Up early. The birds started about 4:30. There were so many singing and calling that I couldn’t distinguish single calls. By 6 – mostly quite. Slow start. Soak. Short walk. A Jack Rabbit came quietly into camp. Eddy watched it intently, then with some encouragement from Bill, chased it into the brush. It escaped; Eddy stepped on a cactus and limped back to camp. Ready to pack up and go – somewhere. We made it to Antelope Reservoir, just shy of Jordan Valley, OR. There is a camp ground here, but we went farther down the dead end road and found a lone camp spot with a great view of the whole lake.



37 mph winds and rain as we began to set up camp. Waited it out; passed in about 20 minutes. Canada Geese, White Pelicans, White-faced Ibis, Cormorants, 2 Sandhill Cranes, Antelope (across the lake). Large patches of yellow Ranunculus blooming. Took a nap, then chicken quesadillas. Yum. Watched the geese returning from the fields at dusk and beyond. There was a late rainbow, mostly pink, but beautiful. I had trouble falling asleep. About 2 am another thunderstorm came through. Windy! Rain. Zipped everything up and sat downstairs for an hour or so. Bill slept through it all; except for me yelling that we need to put the top down! He ignored me and went back to sleep. Finally was able to go back up to sleep.
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Old 08-09-2014, 02:24 PM   #2
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Re: Montana Trip Report - From the top part 1

Keep it coming!
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Old 08-09-2014, 03:20 PM   #3
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Re: Montana Trip Report - From the top part 1

Trip report continued:

Sorry - we didn't take many photos on these days.

12 July, Jordan Valley, OR to Goose Cr, ID
Packed up quickly and went to Jordan Valley for breakfast at the Basque B & B and restaurant. Great food. Excellent bacon. Nice atmosphere and good, pleasant service. A place to remember and pass along. Next stop Cabela’s and Walmart in Boise, then north on Hwy 55 to McCall. Stopped along the Payette River for quick lunch; too hot and crowded with rafting and camping Boiseites to stay long. The Valley around Cascade and on up toward McCall was very scenic; green valley ranches and forested mountains. McCall reminded me of North Lake Tahoe and Ketchum. Very touristy, big lake marina, lots of people. Continued on to Last Chance Campground about 2 miles off the hwy and next to Goose Creek. Very nice FS campground. Sites far enough apart, beautiful forest (reminded me of North Carolina forest, but with big conifers). Found a nice spot near the top end of camp. Walked to the creek across the campground. High gradient stream, lots of water.

13 July. Goose Creek
Slept well and late. We decided to spend the day here and stay another night. Just fish, walk, read and relax; and no driving! I talked with a man who was on his way to fish up the stream. He had a baby in his backpack. Said his son loved it! Also had 2 large Samoyed type dogs with him. I saw him on his way out and he said he caught 6 fish in an hour. I fished on one section that was to steep for me. No bites. Walked up the trail toward the falls and found a spot to get down to the creek where the current was slower. Caught 2 fish right away on dry fly. Small (about 7 inches and 5 inches) but fun. Switched to small nymph and caught one, also about 7 inches. Great fun! Bill met me on the trail. I guess I’d been gone about 2 hours. Later tried the faster water again. Lost 3 flies and gave up. We read some more, watched birds a bit, walked again and generally had a great day. It is hard to go to bed when it stays light so long. Bill’s in bed while I’m taking sap out of the dogs’ coats and catching up on the journal. It’s 11 now. I guess I’ll go to bed.

14 July Goose Creek, ID to Lochsa River, ID
Drove through another beautiful valley to Riggins. There is more to Riggins than I remember. So many raft companies and tourist stops. Lots of people. The Salmon is running at 10,400 cfs. Stopped at “Fiddle Farm Fruit Stand” just past Riggins, a store with lots of character. Bought Cherries, apricots, huckleberry honey, avocado, and pickles. The owner knew where Arcata was, said they were from Portland area originally. Oh yeah, had some huckleberry pie! The filling was good, the crust not so much. The climb up White Bird grade was loooong and steep. (We used to be able to climb hills much faster - before I got a bunch of temp guages. ) I missed White Bird completely; just a couple of buildings Bill said. Stopped at a market in Stites for milk. The shelves were ¾ empty. A few used books, boxes of old stuff for sale, about a dozen gallons of milk (won’t fit in our fridge), and lots and lots of eggs! We went on to the store in Kooskia. They had food there; and Pringles too. Saw a Calliope hummingbird where we stopped for lunch today, an awful pull out on the Nez Perce res with garbage, burr filled bushes, and cherry trees. Camped on a sandy river bar between Apgar and Knife Edge campgrounds. The Lochsa River is wide and shallow here; large cobbles and small boulders; long riffles and rapids. Fished the run from where we were down to the top of a rapid. Hooked one fish. It jumped twice (it was about 8 in) and lost the hook. Had a couple of other bites. I need to improve my line handling skills. About 8 or 10 tubers went by. Looked like they were having a good time. They said they liked our van. Lots of sweat bees here. I saw one going in and out of a ½ in hole in the sand by the step. There seemed to be a spotted sandpiper nest nearby. The pair was not happy we were here and worried back and forth when I went down to the river. There was a Kingfisher nest across the hwy in a road cut. The male was coming in with food. Guess the female was still incubating. Song sparrows all around and robins.

15 July, Sand Creek, ID
Continued up Hwy 12 along the Lochsa River. Checked out the Knife Edge Campground. Only a few sites. It’s in the trees and next to the river. Looks like some good fishing spots. At Black Canyon the river narrows and the rapids pick up. Looks like fun. Reminds me of the Rogue; pool drop. Some rapids are more difficult and long. Checked Whitehouse camp. Ugh. All paved. Lots of sites, though they were nicely spaced. A seasonal employee was using a leaf blower to clear pine needles from the roads! I thought the FS doesn’t have enough money for maintenance. Drove on dirt road to White Sand Campground on White Sand Creek (the creek is big; I’d call it a river). About 6 sites. All by the river, beautiful view. I tossed my fly out and immediately caught a fish. Little, but a fish. Two casts and a grab. Then got fly stuck in brush over the water. Fell in while getting it loose. Not too cold! Thunderstorm started so went back to camp. There is a stack of nice firewood, but it’s too hot for a fire. Bill tossed the dog's frisbee into the bushes and we spent quite a bit of time trying to find it. Our neighbor walked by and began helping us. His wife and kids came back from swimming and we all chatted for a bit. The 4 of them travel in a crew cab with a Lance camper, Jackson (a black lab), and 3 cats we didn’t meet. Eddy and Jackson played a bit. Nice people. They apparently move and travel a lot. Fished again before dinner: another small trout. They seem to like the dry flies. Boboli Pizza for dinner. Very good, but next time we only need one! After dinner we walked to the large pond at the camp entrance then followed what looked like a trail that went all the way around the pond. It didn’t. Bill found us a way through though and we made it to the road safely. Lots of no-see-ums tonight.

16 July, Sand Creek, ID
We decided to stay here another day/night. It is an idyllic spot.







After breakfast I went to fish on the creek, the other side of the pond. Caught another small one! Tried a couple of nymphs. After 20 minutes of working the water, I realized I’d lost the fly somewhere! Damn. It was beautiful though and I’m sure there are large trout in there somewhere. I’ll get better! Tonight I’ll try crossing the side channel by camp and fish the main part of the creek. It’s a very big creek, I’d say a river. Didn’t cross the channel. Fell again. Back bad. Beautiful evening.
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Old 08-10-2014, 11:48 PM   #4
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Re: Montana Trip Report - From the top part 1



Nice report. Dig the "stream of consciousness" writing style!
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Old 08-11-2014, 08:51 AM   #5
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Re: Montana Trip Report - From the top part 1

Me too, I wish I could slow down enough on my trips to do that, so I could go back and relive them anytime.

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Old 08-11-2014, 12:32 PM   #6
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Re: Montana Trip Report - From the top part 1

I'm glad you like the style. Basically, I'm too lazy to write my own trip report so I just hijacked Sherri's journal, edited out some personal stuff and added a few comments and photos.

If I'd started from scratch it would probably be all about highways, mileages, mechanical problems, etc. I guess you all lucked out. Another part coming soon.
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Old 08-11-2014, 01:31 PM   #7
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Re: Montana Trip Report - From the top part 1

Montana Trip Report - part 3:

17 July Sand Creek, ID to Missoula, MT
Up to Lolo Pass. Gorgeous! Dropped into Montana. Beautiful valleys. Saw deer and moose crossing signs – but no moose. Bought fishing license in Lolo. Rear end getting worse. Went to Transolution auto shop in Missoula. Not a quick fix. Camped in the back lot while waiting for parts to come overnight. A couple (retired nurse and mortician) and their goldendoodle from Nebraska/Whitefish also stranded. They got a motel. Long night.

18 July
One part came at 9, waiting for the 2nd part. Hot, running out of water, uncomfortable. Van won’t be fixed until at least tomorrow. About 1 decided to get a motel room. Ruby’s Inn, north end of town. Shuttle picked us up, took is to CVS on the way. The room was downstairs, “bedroom” with a comfortable king bed, plus living room, fridge, microwave, and a sliding back door to the 30 ft wide lawn, bordered by large trees and a lovely creek. Even fenced just outside the door. Great place! Showers then walked to dinner at MacKenzie River Pizza. Good food.

19 July. Van won’t be ready until 5, so going to stay another night. Hung out all day. Bill got a shuttle ride to pickup the van. Another good night’s sleep.

20 July. Breakfast at IHOP, bought some flies at Blackfoot Outfitters, and stopped at Walmart then on the road. Long drive. Stopped at the National Bison Reserve and drove the long road through the reserve, about 2 hours. Had lunch at the top of the grade looking down on the valley left by Lake Missoula.



Saw lone bison here and there then small then large herds with calves the last ¼ of the road.







Probably saw about 400 all together. Also saw large mule deer stags and does, pronghorn, Golden Eagle.





The time was well spent. [But the dogs, Summer and Eddy, would like to get back to the boondocks where they don't have to be on leash.]



We intended to stay at a hot spring Bill had read about in a book we bought – Wild Horse Hotspring outside of the town of Hot Spring, MT. It took us a while to find it. The signs were pretty delapadated (should have given us a clue). [It was on an Indian Reservation, which should have been an even bigger clue.] The place was a mess. Road had old board covering the potholes, windows and screen were broken and hanging down. The fences were lined with rows of old tires and 5 or 6 old mobile homes were lined up end to end near the fence line. I looked in the 'office' and heard someone in the back where the tub rooms were, making strange noises. The office had clothes, pots, stuff everywhere and a frying pan on top of an old pot with boiling water. We left before we ended up in some Twilight Zone episode! Very strange place.

Drove up to Blackfoot Ski area somewhere off the west side of Flathead Lake. Passed a house (some really big, fancy homes on the way up) with deer and wild turkey foraging in the front lawn. Camped in a quarry area near the top. It was an open area – great. There were communication towers and a big white radar ball on the top of the mt. Sunset was beautiful. I watched it through the trees. Bill walked somewhere up the road (without bear spray or flashlight – big fight when he got back). I watched for bears – didn’t see any.

21 July
Beautiful male tanager this morning. Bill saw Snowshoe hare. On to Glacier Natl. Park. Camping on FS land west of the Park. Tomorrow we will go up “Drive to the Sun Road” (or something like that). We are camped a few hundred yards from the North Fork of the Flathead River, near confluence with Coal Creek.

I fished a couple of hours. Used big white fly with “legs” and a second nymph. 3 fish rose to the fly, but I didn’t hook them. The wind was affecting my casting, but I did pretty good. The river is very wide hear, with a large sandbar where a creek comes in across from where I fished. Absolutely beautiful river. Wide, shallow gravel edges before dropping off. Fished down about 300 m to a gravel island. It was hard to concentrate on fishing and watch for bears in the streamside vegetation. Had my bearspray on my chest, but still wary. Eddy rolled in something nasty near camp, so we had to bathe him in the river after dinner. Pretty buggy here. Red tailed hawk screamed, pygmy owl (hearing these in all the forests), common nighthawks (also at several of our camps), spotted sandpipers, swainson’s thrush, robins, tanagers, most of the same birds in the forests we’ve stopped in.

July 22
A wonderful day today. Started out about 8:30, early for us. Stopped to look at a large meadow “exhibit” on our way to the “Drive to the Sun Road”.



Lots of old burn areas.




Mountains behind and surrounded by forest – beautiful. “Going to the Sun Road” is about 25 miles and goes from the Agpar visitor center, east over Logan Pass then down to St. Mary Lake park entrance. The road climbs up through the tallest mountains and there are many spectacular views of glaciers, waterfalls, rivers, and valleys. Truly an awe inspiring 3 hours. There was quite a bit of traffic [reminded me of the Autorama ride at Disneyland] , but people moved along at about 35 mph and most stopped at the same overlooks. However, there were many overlooks and we were often alone in them. Took lots of pics, we’ll see how well they turn out. You just can’t capture what you’re seeing and feeling.



[You've all seen good photos of Glacier. We won't bore you with washed out snapshots that only capture 1% of what a professional photographer gets, and the professional only captures 1% of what's there. Go see it, before it gets demoted to Snow Field National Monument. ]

Tried to camp at Cut Bank Creek or Two Medicine campgrounds on the east side, but both full. On our way up the Two Medicine road a guy on a bicycle stopped in front of us and pointed up a gully. Finally saw a bear! It was a cinnamon black bear. Still had upper back and front leg winter coat. Looked to me like a second year bear, just out on its own.

Stopped at the Teddy Roosevelt memorial at Marias Pass on the continental divide (our second time over it today!), then up a dirt road in Lewis and Clark NF. Camp is on top of the hill in an old fire area.



Beautiful Metallic Wood-boring Beetle. [He made the mistake of landing on my arm like a horse fly and got smacked for his trouble. But they're tough; he flew off a few seconds after the photo.]



Walked the dogs up and down the gravel road, then down a dirt track behind us. Getting used to carrying pepper spray and calling out as I go. Thunderstorms expected tonight, and tomorrow with possible heavy rain, but so far distant thunder and some light rain with bright sun to the west and black sky to the east. Wonderful rainbow behind the van; so bright and colourful and can see both “ends”.







Then as we were watching it a second rainbow appeared! Should be a beautiful sunset too. Just after sunset a pickup with an Alaska camper drove up the road. They went past us about 50 feet then started backing up. They backed about 100 yards down the road and pulled into a small track, went in about 100 yards and stopped to set up camp. We can see them through the burned tree trunks. Why so close when there is so much land out here!
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Old 08-11-2014, 05:04 PM   #8
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Re: Montana Trip Report - From the top parts 1,2,3

Here's another chapter. I forget what number we're up to...

23 July Marias Pass to Thompson River
Stopped for about 2 hours for lunch and to fish on the Middle Fork Flathead River. Looked like a good spot, but nothing. Five guys were launching a cat boat and a drift boat. The “guide” of the group was from Oregon. They had fished the North Fork and part of this fork and nothing yet. Bill was great and sat on the river bar with the van and dogs while I fished. The flies were terrible! What a sport!



On our way to the Thompson River we passed a billboard that said “Legalize Jesus” -- what the----!. Bill backed up to take photos and there were about a dozen billboards with bible quotes and “patriotic” quotes.



It was weird! A van was parked outside an office in the middle of the signs, but no one came out. Thank goodness… or God.

Thompson River is a beautiful area. Starts as a small creek in a meadow valley with over your head grasses, riparian areas and amazing views. Found a terrific camp spot in the trees next to the river. Water was shallow here, very clean and cool. Lovely night.







24 July Thompson River to
Fished the Thompson here for a little while before we took off. It was just to scary being down in the creek with a wall of grasses all around, no visibility, animal paths to the water. Just couldn’t enjoy it.



At one point I turned around and saw a black animal climbing up the opposite bank into the grass. A second of panic until I realized it was Eddy! He’d followed me and gone across the creek himself! It took some effort to get him to get back in the water to come to me, but he did it. Someday a water dog?

Back through Missoula. Stopped at Walmart and the Outfitters. Thought about a guided ½ day on the Blackfoot River, but too expensive and my back is hurting too much for hours trying to fish from the raft. We went to the River though. It is one of the scenic drives we are doing from the Big Sky Fishing website. The river front land is much more developed than I expected. You can only camp in designated campgrounds in the “corridor’. Camp was “ok”. Killer steep steps down to the river and back up again. I fished for a couple of hours. Hooked one but he took my fly. It’s colder tonight. We keep missing the storms that are moving through. Great!

25 July
Bill found a drive he wants to do. Drove out of the Blackfoot River area and back to Hwy 200, then to Potomac; Swanson Ln, up and over the mountains to Cramer Creek then Hwy 90. Sounds easy! Not quite. We had an adventure. The dirt roads were poorly, if at all, marked and difficult to follow on the gps map. We backed tracked a bit, then the track turned into a 4x4 road and we turned around. Went back to the last fork and Bill looked at the maps again and thought we had been on the right track. Off we went again to give it another try. The road improved after the 4x4 bit and somehow we managed to take all the correct forks the rest of the way.



Saw an almost white deer somewhere along the road. We kept going up and up. I began to wonder if this mountain had a top! We eventually found the top and stopped for lunch. On the downside we found Cramer Creek Rd. We were running out of water so when the creek actually became a creek, we stopped and filtered water with our new filter system. Eddy explored the creek.

[We came upon hundreds of salt hungry butterflys along Cramer Cr. at a cattle guard]





We hit Hwy 90 and stopped for diesel at the Clinton Conoco and Market. Surprisingly good little market. Stocked up on a few things and headed for Rock Creek Rd. The first part of the road is not what I expected. Lots of big new houses on ranchettes and ranches. Finally saw some Big Horn Sheep in the front pasture of two of the ranches; ewes and kids only.



Pavement eventually ended and we were by the creek. Can only camp in campgrounds here. Staying in Dalles camp. Suspension bridge to Welcome Ck. Trail. Talked to a camp neighbor, Kimberley. They are from Missoula and come here often. Said the fishing is sometimes good. Fished after dinner by the bridge. Bill came with me. Didn’t get any bites.

FS camp tech came around at 10 pm and checked for payment stubs and licenses numbers! She told us that the white “tags” on trees are pheromone patches for bark beetle control. [One patch per tree / only feasible in high value sites like parks and campgrounds.]

26 July
Continued on Rock Creek Road. Intended to head over Skalkoho Pass on the West Fork Rock Creek, but the road was closed. Stopped to reinflate tires, then backtracked.

[No picture of inflating the tires. How about a picture of deflating them?]



Found a free FS campground below East Fork reservoir near Georgetown Lake. Went to set up and found that the dog mats had been left where Bill reinflated the tires. He dropped me and the dogs off and went back for them. Worst camp so far. First choice was loaded with outhouse flies. Moved over one site. Dusty, steep and right on the busy gravel road. County Sheriff went by 3 times. Creek across the road had a diversion system on it; head gates of an aqueduct. It was clean and probably had fish, but didn’t fish here. Side note: folks here are really impressed with the van. Lots of gawkers and friendly questions.

27 July
Broke camp and crossed the road to filter water from the creek. Took an hour or so to fill tank half way. Drove east to Anaconda then south on Mill Creek Rd. (scenic drive). It was incredibly beautiful.



Moose habitat valleys, big ranches, homestead historic site at the base Haggin Mt. Wonderful visitas. Campsite camping only along the road. Took a side road at Mono Creek campsite to Coolidge mt. No camping there, but found a primative road on the way back. Drove up a way. Ran into some ATVers with “what the f___!” looks on their faces when they saw the van coming up the little track. [ It really was fun to see the slack jawed wonder on their faces at this 5 ton monster coming up an ATV track.] Got to a point where we decided it wasn’t wise to go on. Took a side side road and found camp - we named it Horse Fly Flat. Great views. Old landing of some sort. Part of it had been scraped off and mesh put down on about 2 acres. Why? Heard ATVs until almost dark, but then nice sunset. We hunkered down in the van and tried to kill most of the many mosquitos.
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Old 08-12-2014, 04:50 AM   #9
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Re: Montana Trip Report - From the top parts 1,2,3

Great report. Thanks. The first picture is surreal.
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Old 08-12-2014, 08:21 AM   #10
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Re: Montana Trip Report - From the top parts 1,2,3

The one night where you are boondocking and someone comes up the road and then camps right near you? Has happened to me several times! You want to walk over and say, "Really? You need to camp here?"!

I think some people just feel more comfortable being near other people, especially when wild camping. Kinda defeats the whole concept, though. I've even had someone pull up and camp right next to me in a campground where 98% of the other sites were empty. I moved.
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