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Axe for packing

11:25 p.m. on March 6, 2009 (EST)
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I have never been camping with out my truck close by. That said I always have my Axe. This year time for backcountry camping and one tool I can't think of going with out is an Axe. I do want to pack light but don't want to chop wood with a knife. I have been looking at lots and think can't go wrong with a Fiskars 17inch lightest one that looks like it won't break. Before I get one thought I would check see what you guys use. I'm sure some of you use one, and some that wouldn't be caught dead with one. Lets hear your input.

1:46 p.m. on March 7, 2009 (EST)
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First of all I would recommend that you spend some time with a few different groups of campers away from your truck. This time best spent looking at their gear and asking why this or that gear. Also you would be learning their methods for camping.

Although not mentioned by you, Leave No Trace (LNT) camping is very good way to camp. An axe is not required for a successful camp.

I have been known to pack a light weight fold down Buck Saw. For the most part I have not needed to use the thing, accept for trail maintenance. Lightish weight, packs small into an aluminum tube, there when you need it. Camping on the west (wet coast) sometimes requires additional gear. Hope this helps.

3:40 p.m. on March 7, 2009 (EST)
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I have been backpacking for about 20 years, quite seriously in the past 14 years. I have not found a need for an axe or hatchet while backpacking, not that I haven't wished I had one for a few minutes. I do use them around my home and on hunting trips, but they are just too heavy to be practical for backpacking use.

I use a folding buck saw like redpatch5 suggested, a good one with a good blade will slice through most limbs like butter. I do practice LNT, so all I am cutting is deadfall for cooking fires, when applicable. Other than that I have very seldom ever needed to cut wood on backpacking trips.

6:41 p.m. on March 7, 2009 (EST)
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The last time I carried an ax on a backpacking trip was in the mid-60s, the time at which the requirement for all backpackers and campers in the SoCal Ntional Forests was to carry an ax and a shovel, each with a minimum 24 inch handle. The reason for the requirement was that if there were to be a forest fire, all people in the backcountry would be drafted into the fire crew. By the mid-60s, USFS and others realized this was a really bad idea, since so many people heading into the backcountry had no experience and no idea how to deal with wildfires. By that point, I had virtually stopped building campfires, except what you could build with "squaw wood", and was using backpacking stoves for cooking exclusively. The last time I carried a saw of any kind in potential camping situations was in the emergency kit we had in our plane that we used for bush flying (it was required for flying in the "sparsely settled regions" of Canada and might come in handy for cutting your way out of a fabric or aluminum plane, such as we had, in case of an off-airport emergency landing).

Since then I have never seen any use for an ax or saw in any of my backcountry travels (that's 40+ years of spending 50-100 nights a year in the backcountry, including at least one trip a year of 2 weeks or greater - 'course there is no wood to cut on glaciers or anywhere above timberline)

And if you follow LNT principles, axes and saws are useless (except for the macho man displays, in which case you should have a doublebit ax and a 2-person crosscut saw)

7:46 p.m. on March 7, 2009 (EST)
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Bill, I was under the impression that the use of saws, while discouraged, was not a violation of LNT.... IF... you cut up & burned a whole piece of deadfall no larger than your wrist. In other words you did not cut it off of a larger piece leaving saw cuts / marks for others to see. I often find pieces by streams two or three feet long and use them to cook with, on some of my trips. I like to cut them up into 6 in. long ingots to keep the fire minimal. One piece that size is all I need.

Am I mistaken?

8:35 p.m. on March 7, 2009 (EST)
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Here's the info on this from LNT's "Minimize Campfire Impacts" Principle:

Firewood And Cleanup
Standing trees, dead or alive, are home to birds and insects, so leave them intact. Fallen trees also provide bird and animal shelter, increase water holding capacity of the soil, and recycle nutrients back into the environment through decomposition. Stripping branches from standing or fallen trees also detracts from an area's natural appearance.

Avoid using hatchets, saws, or breaking branches off standing or downed trees. Dead and down wood burns easily, is easy to collect and leaves less impact.

Use small pieces of wood no larger than the diameter of an adult wrist that can be broken with your hands.

Gather wood over a wide area away from camp. Use dry drift wood on rivers and sea shores.

Burn all wood to white ash, grind small coals to ash between your gloved hands, thoroughly soak with water, and scatter the remains over a large area away from camp. Ashes may have to be packed out in river corridors.

Replace soil where you found it when cleaning up a mound or pan fire.

Scatter unused wood to keep the area as natural looking as possible.

Pack out any campfire litter. Plastic items and foil-lined wrappers should never be burned in a camp fire.

You can read more on the "Minimize Campfire Impacts" principle -- including what to consider if you're thinking of building a campfire -- at: http://lnt.org/programs/principles_5.php

An overview of LNT principles is here:
http://lnt.org/programs/principles.php

9:41 p.m. on March 7, 2009 (EST)
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As is buried way down in the quote Alicia gave, if you are following LNT, then you

Use small pieces of wood no larger than the diameter of an adult wrist that can be broken with your hands.

And a saw or an ax is of no use (my added emphasis). It isn't forbidden, just useless extra weight, unless you want to look like Paul Bunyan. In which case, you should be accompanied by a pure-bred Blue Ox.

10:32 p.m. on March 7, 2009 (EST)
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Manalishi, I see you are in BC. I belong to two Canadian websites, the winter camping site, [url=http://www.wintertrekking.com]www.wintertrekking.com and [url=http://www.clubtread.com]www.clubtread.com which is a BC based site. (I'm in Southern California, but enjoy reading about camping in other places besides down here.)

The winter trekkers are mostly in Ontario or the northern US such as Minnesota. In Ontario, up north in the boreal forest, they take axes and saws because cutting standing dead trees is permissible and there are plenty of them. They practice "hot tenting" with canvas tents and wood burning stoves in them. They build campfires to keep warm in the -20 to -40C weather they sometimes encounter. But that is a different kind of camping than what we do in most of the lower 48, where fires are often prohibited, as Bill said.

I carried a little survival axe that also has a saw blade in the handle on a bike trip years ago and don't think I used it more than once or twice. I've never used it in the US. I carry it in my car along with a small tool box, but doubt it will ever see the light of day unless I get into a crash or need to help someone else.

3:49 a.m. on March 8, 2009 (EDT)
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Thank you all for the input, I think I needed that. I do tend to over prepare, my truck always has gear that I have never used but is there just in case. Eg. fire extinguisher, tow rope, tools, first aid kit, wool blanket ect... all new and never used. My last truck was stolen 3 years ago and I kitted my new truck out with same as soon as I got it. And would do it again if this one was stolen. But that is smart gear for travel in this part of the woods. A week ago on the way back from a hike we had a freak snow storm and there were cars flip all over the freeway. I picked up a poor motorcyclist that was stranded on the side of the road. Atleast he was smart enough to pull over in a whiteout and leave his bike.

OK enough off topic talk for me. I do believe in LNT and read those articles here and on other websites. I have always followed them and pack out others garbage in the past. Sometimes out here theres too much for 1 man to pack. You can spend hours on some forest service roads here picking up garbage its a shame but thats another story.

And wasn't thinking of making big fires or chopping down anything. But was thinking more along the lines of useing as a hammer for putting up tent but a good rock or small log will do there, and piece of mind just incase tool. I almost broke my foot once breaking fair size sticks won't do that again. Redpatch5 I think has the right idea for me light buck saw, and I do have one in my truck right now lol. So thanks for saveing me $40 redpatch I owe you a beer if our paths ever cross.

As for finding a group to hike with isn't all that eazy my friends aren't all into it. And they work 9-5 jobs I work shift work and never go hiking on weekends always during the weekdays. I have checked a few websites for clubs, and thank you Tom D haven't seen those website clubs I'll have to add them to my favorites and give them a good look. Maybe find a good group there, that don't mind waiting for me to take my photograghs sometimes I can really take up alot of time.

I just got back from a Hunting fishing camping show out here tonight comes once a year was a great show. Finally found my backpack got a good deal on a Tatonka Yukon 70L fits great German company makes them. All I need now is to take a drive to Vancouver to Mountain Equipment Co-op and get a light weight stove (MSR dragonfly), waterfilter , sleeping bag I'm still kicking tires on them.

OK enough pick and pokeing for me tonight my typing skills could use more work then my camping skills. And I do appreciate the feed back from you all.

6:53 a.m. on March 8, 2009 (EDT)
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If it makes you feel better you can get a nice fixed blade knife and when used in conjunction with a rock or piece of wood it will do the same job and you can use it as a knife too.

 

Just Like Bear Grylls lol :)

8:26 a.m. on March 8, 2009 (EDT)
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Manilishi, your truck sounds like my off road truck!

As is buried way down in the quote Alicia gave, if you are following LNT, then you

Use small pieces of wood no larger than the diameter of an adult wrist that can be broken with your hands.

And a saw or an ax is of no use (my added emphasis). It isn't forbidden, just useless extra weight, unless you want to look like Paul Bunyan. In which case, you should be accompanied by a pure-bred Blue Ox.

Alicia, It was a wise decision to post the LNT rules in this thread, I have the site bookmarked on my PC so I can refer to them easily. It is hard to remember everthing pertinent to our lives by memory alone. My daughter has one of the plastic LNT cards (credit card size) on her backpack listing the basic principles. She's cool!

Bill, I will be more than happy to dye my dog blue, he is pure bred, but not an ox. Did the ox walk in front you think? You know, to blaze the trail?

Here in the S. Apps. we have more dead fall than you can shake a stick at, pun intended. I understand many areas are not the same.

I use a Sven saw (smaller and lighter than my trekking pole) to cut up dead fall into very short lengths. While I could break dead fall by hand into longer lengths, I use the saw to get short lengths of 5"- 6" , (if you can break wrist size wood into very short lengths, it is useless for a fire). This way the wood fits into my wood gas (coffee can) stove. I use twigs to get it started of course, but larger diameter wood for uniform heat. Same method for pit fires, this keeps the pit minimal in size.

I have found when I use longer lengths on a small fire I consume twice as much wood as should be needed a lot of times burning the partial lengths that are left just to get rid of the burnt wood in order to follow LNT rules...."burn all wood to white ash".

Yeah, I know there's always that one guy in the class that just has to push the boundries with unique situations, today it's me. HaHa

1:24 p.m. on March 9, 2009 (EDT)
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Alicia, It was a wise decision to post the LNT rules in this thread, I have the site bookmarked on my PC so I can refer to them easily. It is hard to remember everthing pertinent to our lives by memory alone. My daughter has one of the plastic LNT cards (credit card size) on her backpack listing the basic principles. She's cool!

Good for your daughter! LNT has a bunch of those plastic cards, tailored to different audiences and areas. I recently got copies of each from LNT: one for river corridors, one for heritage sites, one for hunters, one for fishing, one for frontcountry, one of the main LNT principles, and one of the main principles, but written for kids.

You can buy them on their web site: https://store.lnt.org/teach

I'll have to put the fishing one in with my son's fishing stuff.

They should add a climbing-specific one too.

I think they're a good reminder of the basics for each situation. Then the LNT website has a lot more info you can read at home for the variables we each come across. Though I feel well-versed in LNT, I'd like to do some of their formal training courses in the future.

4:23 p.m. on March 13, 2009 (EDT)
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The best lightweight hiking axes according to a traditional camping expert here.

http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=1&p=20129&cat=1,41131,43408

From Sweden. A real gem to use, lightweight, but NOT for beginners. Will keep a razor edge for far longer than cheaper axes.

At 120$ CAN and 3 pounds, it better be!

5:31 p.m. on March 13, 2009 (EDT)
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120 is a bit pricey for an axe but Lee Valley does carry quality tools. I'll have to maybe check one out next time I'm by thier store. TY for the heads up thats where I got my buck saw from has held up very good link below...

http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=1&p=44171&cat=1,42884

7:13 p.m. on March 13, 2009 (EDT)
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...
They should add a climbing-specific one too.

There are a couple of climbing specific LNT cards, one for rock climbing and one for glacier travel situations, plus the booklets for each. I have a stack of something like 2 dozen "specific" LNT cards. Some are hard to get ahold of, though.

7:18 p.m. on March 13, 2009 (EDT)
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As Alicia and Bill posted previously, please consider LNT principals.

http://www.lnt.org/programs/principles_5.php

From the LNT website:

Avoid using hatchets, saws, or breaking branches off standing or downed trees. Dead and down wood burns easily, is easy to collect and leaves less impact.

Use small pieces of wood no larger than the diameter of an adult wrist that can be broken with your hands.

Gather wood over a wide area away from camp. Use dry drift wood on rivers and sea shores.

Etc.

Again, my favorite: "Rules are what you abide by as others look on. Principals are what you follow when no one else is around." Principals tell you who you really are.

IMO, If you can't find enough dead wood, or you use it all up and have to cut wood, you need to move on - you've been there too long already.

9:16 p.m. on March 14, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill S said:

There are a couple of climbing specific LNT cards, one for rock climbing and one for glacier travel situations, plus the booklets for each. I have a stack of something like 2 dozen "specific" LNT cards. Some are hard to get ahold of, though.

I figured they had those, but didn't see them at the LNT online store.

They do have Outdoor Skills & Ethics Booklets for a variety of activities, like mountain biking, climbing, caving, etc. https://store.lnt.org/teach

But, I believe the plastic reference cards currently only come in the seven versions mentioned above. If they used to make the reference cards Bill mentioned, it would be good to reissue them for each booklet's activity too, since it's far less likely someone will carry a little booklet along.

3:40 p.m. on March 15, 2009 (EDT)
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Manalishi the bucksaw you show from Lee Valley is the same style I have and have found to be useful. (different colour, probably same manufacturer, do not, do not loose the spring wire at the top.)

As for LNT, Is it harmful to cut and use a tree species considered to be a weed by most of the forest industry? In this part of the woods, some people sometimes collect weed species (alder) for use as camp furniture, tarp supports or other outside uses for extended visits. A buck saw works very well for this. Few people harvest this type of wood for anything more than fire wood, or to smoke their salmon with. More people leave the species alone.

As long as the cutting is done over a fairly large area and away from the trail, I don’t see a problem with that. Usually the species grow thick in small patches when they are juvenile. As mature trees they grow to about 80 -100 feet with two or more main beams and live for about 100 years, shedding their leaves in the fall. Their main purpose appears to be to provide nutrients to the soil over an extended period of time.

Though I suppose that one should only take pictures and leave only foot prints.

4:37 p.m. on March 15, 2009 (EDT)
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Manalishi the bucksaw you show from Lee Valley is the same style I have and have found to be useful. (different colour, probably same manufacturer, do not, do not loose the spring wire at the top.)

As for LNT, Is it harmful to cut and use a tree species considered to be a weed by most of the forest industry? In this part of the woods, some people sometimes collect weed species (alder) for use as camp furniture, tarp supports or other outside uses for extended visits. A buck saw works very well for this. Few people harvest this type of wood for anything more than fire wood, or to smoke their salmon with. More people leave the species alone.

As long as the cutting is done over a fairly large area and away from the trail, I don’t see a problem with that. Usually the species grow thick in small patches when they are juvenile. As mature trees they grow to about 80 -100 feet with two or more main beams and live for about 100 years, shedding their leaves in the fall. Their main purpose appears to be to provide nutrients to the soil over an extended period of time.

Though I suppose that one should only take pictures and leave only foot prints.

Weed? As in invasive species? Or, just an undesirable? There are no weeds in the forest, only in gardens. All plants have a purpose in their respective ecosystems, even if it's just to drop leaves to provide nitrogen to the soil over an extended period of time, but its not...

As soil enrichers
Alders establish symbioses with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This bacteria converts atmospheric nitrogen into soil-soluble nitrates which can be utilized by the alder, and favorably enhances the soil fertility generally. Alders benefit other plants growing near them by taking nitrogen out of the air and depositing it in the soil in usable form, fallen alder leaves make very rich compost.

As pioneer species
Alders are sturdy and fast growing, even in acidic and damaged sites such as burned areas and mining sites. Italian Alder is particularly useful on dry, infertile sites. Alders can be used as a producer of simple biomass, growing quickly in harsh environments.

As wildlife fodder

Alder catkins are one of the first sources of pollen for rapidly declining bee species, especially honeybees, which use it for spring buildup. Alders are also used as a food plant by some butterfly and moth species.

Now, as for cutting - It's not just an LNT thing. If you happen to be on Local, County, State, BLM, or Natl park land, which leaves nothing much but private property, any and all cutting is against the law - invasive/undesirable species includedt. It's not up to the land user to do the clearing without an approved program in place.

6:57 p.m. on March 15, 2009 (EDT)
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http://i578.photobucket.com/albums/ss229/manalishi_photo/IMG_0595.jpg

Ok to be clear on this I do believe in LNT. I would never cut a live or dieing or dead tree down. Wouldn't take large dead fall from the ground (home to lots of critters). I don't like to see it when I'm in the woods. I'm leaning towards not bringing an axe but will my buck saw. As for our forest industry and government in B.C. They don't believe in it as this photo shows, I took last year on a hike was close to virgin forest. Piled over 50 feet high waiting for them to burn due to pine beetle clear cut. Many sites like this in parks, backcountry, all over the place. Its a shame these efforts are to stop the beetles. I think you can't stop them better to leave the forests to do what they do best left alone the will rebound I hope. The run off of these sites must effect our rivers.

Now with piles like that close to a camp site I would see no harm in taking a few good pieces of wood for a fire. Pending there is no fire bans as in mid summer. As long as you didn't stomp on the little trees you can see poping up.

And to add some camp sites you see you can find large pieces of part burnt wood in fire pits from people that have never heard of LNT or don't care. If I'm making a small fire in a fire pan you would need to cut down to size and you would be cleaning up the site. IMO there can be times a saw or small axe comes in handy. I just don't want to sound like I'm the Butcher of B.C. by starting a post on axes ;) I'll leave that title to our Government.

7:22 p.m. on March 15, 2009 (EDT)
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There are a few basic principals in leave no trace but i like to focus on 2:

Abundance of the ressources and respect of the next user.

So: if a kind of tree is abundant AND you can collect it without ruining another person's wilderness experience, then go for it.

That's the problem with saw and axe cuts: they stay for many decades and are not nice to look at. But if you can uproot the tree a bit and cover your tracks, it's still in my opinion LNT.

I have cut popplars that way with an axe to make it look like like it was beaver ;)

Also, it's not possible to pick dead wood of the ground in the northern forests because it rots immediatly. I uproot standing dead spruce by hand instead and use a saw to cut it in small pieces to fit in my stove.

You can also collect some spruce branches that way by snapping them just after a shoot. 2 or 3 per tree will not damage it and it will regrow quickly. It's all about being creative so you can still use some of the wilderness (the abundant part) and hide it's usage for the next person going there.

7:25 p.m. on March 15, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks F Klock for the imput.

When I wrote it I knew it would create discussion.

To clarify a bit. The weed, Red Alder , considered to be an undesirable. My local area, West coast Canada, Vancouver Island, more specifically. Yes it could be illegal to cut, even here. Even though modern man has traipsed through the region off and on for the last hundred years, mostly in search of easily recovered resources, most “land owners” outside of the main cities don’t even have an inventory of the property that they own.

Indeed much of the land is owned by companies whose ownership is spread far around the globe. If not owned by corporations, then it falls under ownership of the crown, provincially. Neither of which really show any concern unless it can be shown that it would hit them in the wallet.

Land clearing, you make it sound as if I am talking about clearing an acre size piece of property for my own use. I can assure you that this is not the case. You are right it is not up to the land user to clear an area without an approved program in place. The time and effort to clear an acre would be far more time than I would want to spend with far less to show for time spent. Especially as I do not own the property.

I think that another way of saying what I said is that I see little harm in using for my own benefit, for a short term, a small amount of a species that grows prolifically and quickly in a harsh environment. Which is then returned to its home environment, specially as such harvesting would normally be away from any trail.

With valley sides covered in Alder and other types of trees it sometimes becomes difficult to see, understand or appreciate the harm in removing a small amount of a species that has little so little respect.

For me this is an occasional thing and not part of every trip outdoors. I guess that I am still learning about LNT.

7:27 p.m. on March 15, 2009 (EDT)
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PS: keep in mind that in Quebec where i live most of the land is public access (and there's tons of it), we can pretty much do whatever we want...

If you want to go on an all-out rampage and leave no trees, futur cut blocks are usually good places. Perfect for big fires in the winter, it'll all be gone when they harvest it anyway. That's what i use for survival practices.

7:44 p.m. on March 15, 2009 (EDT)
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I do agree with the important role each animal or plant etc. plays in it's own ecosystem, and the biosphere as a whole, even if not apparent to the onlooker f-klock. Thank you for the info.

I do also understand what Redpatch5 meant considering the area he lives in.

I do not think it hurts to use resources wisely. the problem to me is improper use, or over use etc.

In general, I feel like this: Sometimes "we" ( lots of people I've talked to) get so wraped up in "THE CAUSE" that they loose their common sense. It does not hurt to hunt and gather in areas that see little or no use. Human beings are consumers of the planets resources, and will continue to be. We do need to be smart about it, but consuming renewable resources is not a great evil. The evil is in doing it to excess, ie. overpopulation, & doing it in ways that damages our planet.

If it is wrong or harmful for me to use a small amount of natural resources in remote areas that see almost no human activity then the animals need to quit doing it as well.

I fully understand the accumalitive impact many areas see, such as GSMNP. I do not burn deadfall, eat fish, or gather edibles in these areas. The impact of 10 - 12 million visitors per year to GSMNP is devastating IMO. But it drives the local economy along with areas like Gatlinberg & Pigeon Forge (tourist destinations) and I would expect the numbers of visitors to keep growing, the advertising sure does!

In short, I will at times carry a small light saw. It does not violate LNT to cut up wood that fits their criteria as layed out on their website and on their printed material, as long as you gather a free laying peice of deadfall and cut that up. I do not cut limbs off larger pieces for others to see the saw marks and ruin the experience of being in a pristine area.

It is my choice to carry the saw & extra 11 oz. if it makes life at camp easier for me. I need to cut up wood small enough to fit in my homemade wood stove, it is very difficult to break up wrist sized wood into 4" - 6" lengths by hand unless the wood is about to turn to dust.

There is more than one way to follow LNT and other such principles, some people paint with too wide of a brush, it is after all important to follow the intent of the law (principle) and not just the letter.

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