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Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15, AZ

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Guide 89 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Globe S
3.3 of 5 by 13
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Distance One Way 28.57 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,015 feet
Elevation Gain -2,272 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,448 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 36.73
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7  2019-01-12 ttretta
9  2018-12-26 Sredfield
10  2018-11-29 mazatzal
34  2018-11-24 tibber
45  2018-11-23 desertgirl
44  2018-11-23 tibber
30  2018-11-22 tibber
113  2018-02-13
Arizona Trail Passages 13-15
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 7
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
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Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Mar, Apr
Sun  6:12am - 6:20pm
Official Route
11 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Overview: From the Freeman Road Trailhead the route heads to a pipeline road, turns to the north and follows a two-track, and then turns west. It crosses one road and then crosses Haydon Ranch Road. It goes under some high-tension powerlines, crosses two two-track roads and then crosses a gasline road. It then turns to the west, crosses a large wash and begins following a fenceline. After going through a gate the trail turns to the northwest and passes by a large boulder pile. From here the trail continues through the desert, crossing several washes, another road and another gate, just above Tecolote Ranch Road. After crossing this road the trail keeps to the north, crosses under the same high-tension powerlines and joins a road. It follows this road for almost 2 miles and then heads cross-country before joining another road. From here the trail turns north, passes several road junctions and climbs to a gate on a hill. The trail descends down the northeast side of this hill and then follows a drainage to a road. After leaving the road the trail descends down to Ripsey Wash, follows it for a ways and then turns into a side canyon and begins climbing up onto the 'Big Hill'. After switchbacking around the hill the trail heads north-northwest along a ridgeline. It turns to the east and then back due north, and then starts a long descent. After crossing several washes the trail reaches newly constructed trail leading to the Florence-Kelvin Highway at the yet to be constructed trailhead. It crosses the highway and heads in a north-northeast direction. After crossing a large wash it curves around and down to the Kelvin Bridge and the Gila River.

Southern Trailhead: Freeman Road

Northern Trailhead: Gila River - Kelvin Bridge

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2018-07-14 HAZ_Hikebot

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent of 23 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    Arizona Trail Passages 13-15
    This week's adventure on the Arizona Trail was one full of learning new things about myself, and also continuing to try out new experiences, techniques and gear. My new hiking friend Dana Law was kind enough to have me tag along on what was originally planned to be an 8-day 102 mile hike through 5 passages of the Arizona Trail. Things don't always go quite as planned...

    The night before our hike, Dana and I stayed at the Chalet Village Motel in Oracle, owned and operated by the wonderful trail angel Marney. Marney also had arranged a ride to the American Flag trailhead for us the next morning and had also confirmed that water was staged for us at the Tiger Mine trailhead at the start of passage 14.

    We set off from Oracle, AZ to start passage 13 on Tuesday morning at first light. Our plan was to complete 13 and do a good chunk of the first part of passage 14. We set our goals for 16 miles and ended up camping after just short of 18 miles thanks to Dana's very positive attitude throughout the day which helped me to push more miles than I'm normally comfortable with especially with a full pack. This day was sunny and comfortable, but we knew that the weather was going to turn on us during the next 24 hours of the trip. Our camp was flat and rock-free, the weather was calm, and we both got good sleep.

    Day 2 brought us through most of the remainder of passage 14. The beginning half of passage 14 really is a bleak section of unattractive and overgrazed desert unfortunately. We encountered light rainshowers just as we reached Beehive Well mid-day, our first reliable water source and our lunch stop. I was dealing with a forming blister on the ball of my right foot, so I had to cut it open and tape it up to be able to continue. Soggy shoes and lots of downhill to Beehive were the demise of my feet that day. The tank and cattle trough were both full of algae-ridden water filled with hundreds of dead bees, and the larger tank had at least one dead bird in it. There was a small old building next to the windmill by the tanks, and inside of the building we spotted a giant crab spider, which I have never seen before. I brought out a new prefilter for water such as what was in the trough, attempting to help clarify some of the yuck out of these less-desirable water sources, however the connection on my homemade prefilter failed/leaked and we had to set it aside. Out came the Sawyer filters and we took only the water we needed as we continued on through the rain. We reached camp just 4 miles short of the start of passage 15 at Freeman Road and set up camp just before the heavier rain started. It rained constantly all night long, but we did end up getting 2 extra miles on today as well. Surprisingly, both of us got sufficient sleep that night.

    Day 3 was a wet morning. This was the first time that Dana and I have ever had to break camp in a steady rain while on a backpacking trip. We did surprisingly well with getting our packs loaded up in our own small tents, saving the take-down of our tents for last before we headed out for the day. We crossed Freeman Road and loaded up on cached water from the resupply box at the trailhead for passage 15, met with 2 wet hikers Half Ration and Greenpeace, and pushed on to get as many miles as we could for the day. Being that the rain had been falling for over 24 hours straight, the trail conditions that day were quite miserable. Soggy shoes, nonstop rain, and very slippery clay mud on the trail slowed us down and made our footing very sketchy for the entire day. I grumbled and cussed about the conditions, but again Dana kept that positive spirit and really got me through the rest of the afternoon until we set up camp after another 17 mile day. We were now over a half day ahead of schedule and excited about possibly finishing early. Yet again, we both slept but it was somewhat broken up by short naps here and there.

    Day 4 began with no rain! At this point, we only had 15 miles left to get to Kearny, AZ for our resupply and an awaiting motel reservation. We would actually be shaving off an entire day of our agenda if we could push through today at a good pace. We had our biggest climb of the trip thus far ahead of us, so we set off at first light. Fortunately for us, the rain had let up all night and we only encountered a few light showers through the high point of the rest of passage 15. Ripsey Wash provided us with a great place to take a lunch break before the final climb and then ascent into town. We made it into Kearny with the last of our patience, looking forward to hot showers and putting on dry gear so we could get some dinner at the highly recommended Old Time Pizza just down the street from the General Kearny Inn.

    65 miles in just 4 days with full packs was a new record pace for me, especially considering 30 hours of literally non-stop rain in the middle 2 days of the trip.

    Breakfast on Saturday morning was shared with James Simmons, steward for passage 16a, and we also ran into Half Ration and Greenpeace again. Great talking with them while the power was out at the Whistle Stop restaurant!

    Now for the bad news...

    While in Kearny on our zero-mile day, we were closely monitoring the upcoming weather for our remaining 2 passages - 16 and 17. Monday's weather forecasted 25mph winds in the town of Kearny with steady rain all day, and gusts of wind up to 40mph. Snow was also expected at the 4000' elevations, which were what we would be climbing into as we ascended into the Tortilla mountains. After weighing out the pros and cons of continuing in such conditions, we both agreed that conditions would have been too risky for us to continue.

    We will be back later this year to conquer passages 16 and 17, and hopefully more together. Hiking with Dana was a true pleasure. He has completed the entire Pacific Crest Trail, and I was very humbled by his fitness, attitude and backpacking experience. It was an honor to hike with him and I can only hope that he will allow me to join him on some of his future adventures.
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    I thought I would post our triplog since I don't see very many triplogs for November. We started out on Freeman Road on Friday morning. The weather was nice, 75 degrees, with a little wind that kept the heat down a little bit since there wasn't a cloud in sight. We had brought plenty of water so we only needed to stop at Ripsey trough. Water was a good supply. We used the water from the spicket in the middle of the trough, so it was clear.

    The trail condition was great.
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    AZT: Oracle to Superior
    We started at the American Flag Trailhead near Oracle around 9:30 AM on the 27th of December and finished around 4:00PM at the Picketpost Trailhead near Superior on the 1st of January.

    In all honesty, I had fairly low expectations in terms of scenery along this segment, but it met and surpassed my expectations in a few places. The trail danced between grassy hill sides with a few cedars, to stereotypical Sonoran desert landscapes with large Saguaros. The final ~30 miles along the Gila River and in the canyons near Superior took the cake though. The climb out of the Gila River area is simply spectacular. The rock formations along the canyons are very Superstitions esque, but also very grand and unique in their own right.

    The days were short, and the nights were long and cold. Defrosting gear and thawing frozen water bottles by the fire was a daily chore up until the last morning. I was a little apprehensive about packing an extra jacket, but it was well worth the weight in the end.

    Besides the freezing temperatures at night, the weather was great and we had the opportunity to cowboy camp under the stars for the entire trip. Before the moon came out, we had some amazing views of the stars along the more remote sections of this hike. We knew we were getting closer to Phoenix as the big light to the north west grew bigger and more stars began to disappear.

    It was hard to make as many miles as we wanted some days because of the limited amount of daylight, but we averaged about 16.5 miles a day, and we put in a 20 mile day at the very beginning of the trip.

    We saw very few people out on the trail, especially along the Black Hills and Tortilla Mountains segments, but still more than I had expected (which was zero, except near roads).

    We had all of our water and half of our food cache stolen from the Kelvin-Florence TH. Thankfully a few bikepackers from Flagstaff were ending their trip just as we got into the trailhead and offered to give us their food and water so we could finish. Trail magic. I wouldn't of had enough food to finish and we would have had to either end the trip there or walk into Kearny for more food. This incident put me in a pretty sour mood for the rest of that day.

    We had one 25 mile stretch without a water source through the Tortilla Mountains, and another little stretch right after leaving the Gila River and climbing into the canyons near Superior. But overall, it was very doable. Big thanks to the volunteers who put out water near Mountain View Tank in the Black Hills, and at Telegraph Canyon Rd/FR 4 in Alamo Canyon. An extra liter or two can be the difference between an awesome day and a trudge in the desert.

    It feels good to have this segment of the AZT done. We have knocked out most of the desert basin segments now, and once spring rolls around we can start hitting up the ranges in southern Arizona. I can't imagine how hot it gets out there in the spring when thru-hikers usually pass through this area. There is little shade after the Black Hills, and you feel completely exposed under the sun.

    It felt great to get out, hike, and sleep under the stars for 6 days. I had been itching for a big trip pretty badly.

    Onward to the next segment!
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    AZT15 Ripsey Wash Loop
    Needed this hike to clear my head, do some thinking, and try to forget the past week. Enjoyed the walk along the ridge line. Had lunch near a ranching setup just south of where the AZT crosses Ripsey Wash that Topohiker reported a few months back where there was a full water trough.

    Weather was perfect.
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    I took Fan to see the san Pedro river. We parked at the Freeman TH and as we pulled there was a fellow hiker stocking up the water cache. He said that the cache was full to the top.
    We headed down the AZT to the Bell hive well and took a short break. Then we took the GET down to the river. We tried to find the Putnam spring. Unless it in the middle of the wash, we didn't find it.

    Fan was highly disappointed with the San Pedro river. She considered it more of a creek. I wanted to hike into the Aravaipa creek. The plan was to continue down the Putnam wash, go under SR77 and go up Aravaipa. Two fence lines and bridge construction put a stop my plans ](*,) . I tried to detour around but that area is riddled with private property. I couldn’t find a legal way around without going about ½ mile to north. Then I just explored up the river and bushwhacked over to the Camino Rio road. The road follows the river and yes there private property along the road. I looks like someone owns a portion of the river.

    I met back up Fan and we took Putman’s wash / rancher road back to Freeman road. We came across a herd of cattle near the Whitehead well. The herd was blocking the way. This was the first time that the cows didn’t run from us. The bulls gave us the stink eye and started scratch sand in the wash. I gave them the vegan story, but that wasn't working this time [-X . We had to walk around the herd. Then is started to rain on us :o ! I rained for about 10 minutes.

    The temps were on the cool side in the morning and night. It got very chilly after the rain. There was on & off rain for drive back until we hit the 60.
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    Azt 14 & 15
    Through hiked 14&15 during a perfect wildflower season with AWESOME company... Probably one of the most fun group-backpacks I've ever had. We all had similar hiking styles and speeds for the most part, and the miles fell away like butter. Well, maybe not all of them :)

    Day 1: 14.25 miles on Passage 14. We started with Scott, Roger, India, myself and a tag-along for part of the day named Mark (I think that was his know how I am with names!). He left us at Tucson Wash. We had great hiking conditions, and we knew we had to make some miles even after setting up shuttles in the morning. Luckily, there's nothing in those first 14 miles that is going to hurt too much. There was even evidence of some recent and good quality trail maintenance in the first miles. We averaged about 2.5mph and made camp in the waning light after filling up a few miles earlier at a very full and pretty Mountain View Tank.

    Day 2: 14+ miles to Freeman Road. We spent some time exploring around camp, including checking out a massive (and relatively fresh) fallen saguaro, but waited on breakfast to try to get an earlier start. After we crossed the massive sandy expanse of Camp Grant wash and headed up Bloodsucker we found Cow Head tank, which was very nice and full as well - though some of us decided to wait until Beehive and regretted it. Breakfast in the shade of a big mesquite at Cowhead was delightful. Beehive was full but quite green and slow to filter, even in our gravity system. We saw some GET hikers off in the distance, but they left before saying hello (freaking through if ;) ). Began the very long, if admittedly kind climb out of Camp Grant drainage to the shoulder of Antelope Peak. We ran into another GET through hiker and Jan and Joan, who were doing a hike of the AZT SoBo from Superior.

    On the slopes of Antelope, we started to get sprinkled on by the high, whispy clouds. It was completely unexpected, and felt more like hiking in a virga than getting wet. Scott was finished at Freeman - he'd already conquered 15 - and we picked up Joe. They both had great snacks for us in the car, and we filled up on water an eats and made our camp by a particularly spectacular sunset.

    Day 3: After 2 big days (for us at least), we decided to go for a short one on day 3, a decision made easier by the weight of 8 liters of water in our packs. About an hour into the day, I stopped to adjust my pack and found a hole in one of my water bladders... a frustrating discovery. (It was made even more frustrating by the fact that I ended up not really needing that much water since it was fairly cool all day.) We lunched at the boulders, where we rested tired feet and enjoyed the meager shade provided. It wasn't hot - but it was bright 'brella weather, and escaping the sun was starting to become something of a dance.

    At about 9.5 miles from Freeman, we made camp in a sandy wash bottom. Temps dropped low enough in the wash to freeze the condensate on our sleeping bags (those of us who slept out anyhow). Note to self: you know better than to sleep in a wash bottom when it's cool out. Another note to self: the old, old 20 degree bag is probably close to needing retirement now.

    Day 4: It would have been a 10 mile day, but a little lost trail detour while ticking off miles under the power lines added a mile and a half. We also checked out a water source (dirt tank) just off the trail that wasn't on any of our literature - and added a little more there. It looked like a good tank - nice sized and cleaner than some of the cement ones we'd seen so far.

    We're starting to see more wildflowers - in particular lots of beautiful blooming yuccas. We loved the descent into Ripsey in the afternoon light - with fun canyons and big saguaros. We passed up the metal tank at 17.2, thinking there'd be good water ahead. Then we missed the turn off for the larger tank at 17.6, leaving us dependent upon the tank in Ripsey wash. There was water there, but it was shallow and smelled like cow. We pre-filtered, then used my gravity filter, then ran it through the charcoal filter. Guess what. It still smelled guessed it...the back end of a cow.

    Even gatorade couldn't touch that.

    We made a nice camp on a shelf just above the wash bottom (we learn fast) before the trail turned up to climb "The Big Hill".

    Day 5: Started the morning with a climb up the Big Hill and loved ourselves all over for waiting. The climb was cool, much of it in the shade - the flowers were welcoming and lovely and we had a grand time both up AND down the hill. Can't recommend this strategy enough - especially considering how long the ridgeline is on the other side of the hill and how windy camping up there would have been.

    It was a great day - we had fun rescuing helium balloons (which still held enough gas to have fun on) and taking tons of flower pictures. We traded out skanky cow water for fresh bottled water at the cache at the Florence-Kelvin Highway (just enough to get us to the end) and trucked through the desert to the bridge. We'd parked at the parking lot beyond the bridge so we could really get the whole passage done, but my feet wished I'd parked at the highway.

    We were in time for pizza at Old Town (and salad, and fried pickles, and fried cheese curds). Then we drove everyone back to their cars and were home in time for dinner. Good days on the trail. I needed to get out and clear my head, and I returned feeling like myself for the first time in months. Hiking really IS better and cheaper than therapy.

    Good shows on the northern end of 15 - light shows in the lower elevations. Above 3000' was still pretty bleak, though.
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    Ripsey Spring / Mine / Ranch
    This was a Ripsey day. I parked in the Ripsey wash near the A Diamond ranch (sorry JJ it's still not for sale!). I hiked up the Ripsey wash to where it crosses the AZT. Then I went looking for the Ripsey spring. My first attempt was ended by a wall. My second attempt ended by fence line. I was about .15 miles from the spring ](*,) . I backtracked and got around the fence line. I didn't find the spring where my GPS said it was. I found it by following a wet drainage to where the wetness stopped. The waypoint is: N33 01.702 W110 58.734

    Second on my agenda was the Ripsey Mine. Along the way I went by an un-named well site. The Ripsey mine is one of (or the) biggest mine sites I've seen. I spent close to an hour checking out the site. The main site had three levels and 3 holes. There was 2 smaller mines near the main site.

    Next on the list was to check out a structure I saw on the satellite view. The structure was a water cache system for game.

    Now for the last item on the agenda: the Ripsey ranch ruins. If you’re going to explore in this area, I highly suggest you use a GPS with a loaded route. None of the roads are signed. The only signed road/trail is the AZT. A lot of the roads don't appear on the topo maps. The best bet is to use the satellite view to draw up your route. I was following my HAZ track route when I came across a local rancher. We chatted for a minute and he told me a quicker way to return from the ranch. He was in process of converting the old ranch for his cattle. The only thing left at the old ranch was a foundation and a well/windmill. There's new cattle pens that the local rancher was talking about.

    It was a fun hike with lots to see. The morning and night was cold, but the afternoon was a bit toasty. I might return to explore around the mine some more.
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    We parked at the Freeman TH and headed north to the "Ripsey Wash" segment of the AZT. Fan's now completed section 15 of the AZT. : app :
    The wind was fierce and cold. I didn't warm until lunch time. For lunch we found a gully that blocked out the wind. Fan took an extend break as I explored the maze of roads.

    There was a mountain bike endurance race going on this day. The event started at the Picket post TH (5am) and ended at the Tiger Mine TH. 92 miles!
    We saw 10 racers though the day. The first one went past us at 12:30 (10 miles from Freeman TH). The last one past us at 6PM about 5 miles from Freeman TH.
    The quarter moon was obscured by clouds, so I got to use my new 2,000 lumen headlamp.

    As we approached the Jeep, we saw another headlamp waiting for us. It was the last mountain biker. He needed to warm up, so he sat in the Jeep with the heater cranked for about 15 minutes. He still had ~28 miles to go. I offered him ride, but he was determined to finish the race this year. Last year he bailed at the Freeman TH.
    Fan and I calculate that he would finish the race between midnight and 1am.
    If it wasn't for the wind, it would have been a perfect hiking day. The racers had 25 MPH winds on the ridgelines. There was one gust that knocked my Android phone/HAZ GPS off the backpack. :o
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    This was Fan’s first time on section 15 of the AZT. We started at the northern TH off of the Kevin-Florence highway. There was a smattering of snow on the mountains and a surprising amount in the shady parts of the desert floor. At one point we saw three deer’s about a 1/3 mile out. I noticed something moving and realized it was deer. When they stopped running, they blending in. Some of the washes were frozen over.

    Fan took a rest break about 3 miles from the AZT 15 A/B marker. We took the Ripsey wash back to the Kevin/Florence highway.

    The hike started out and ended cold. The weather was perfect from 11am to 4PM. At the end I had three layers of shirts/jackets and a ski-mask on. The full moon allowed us to night hike without a flashlights.
    Tortilla Mountains - AZT #15
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    Seeing the San Pedro river been on my list of things to see ever since I saw it from the AZT. This seemed like a good weekend to check it out. I started at the AZT trail-head off of Freeman road and headed down the AZT. The Beehive well is where the AZT and the GET go their separate ways. The GET follows the Putnam wash and takes a turn to the left(north) when it hits Camp Grant wash. The Putnam spring is puts out a good flow of water. I went poking around Camp Grant wash a bit.

    When you see a train bridge you're near the river. At this point the GPS track from HAZ becomes important. You have to zig-zag around a fence line by going on South Camino Rio road and back into the wash. Now your right at the river. The San Pedro river looked more like a creek. I was able to cross without getting my feet wet. I saw a bunch of ATV's and horseback riders here. Now your in the flood plain of the river. The Aravaipa creek had water flowing in it. The GPS track helps guide you to out of this are and onto the Aravaipa road. There a lot of private property in this area and the GPS track helps you avoid it. I explored a bit before having lunch and returning.

    This was a fun hike, but the wash can get annoying with the loose sand. I found if you hike to the extreme right or left , the ground was more solid. The weather turned out perfect. It almost got warm and the clouds came in and cooled things down

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    From the PHOENIX AREA to North End TH START(to hike south): Take Hwy 60 to Superior; In Superior take Hwy 177 south for ~15.5mls to MP 152.2; Just before crossing Railroad Tracks turn Right on to Kelvin/Florence Highway and continue for 1.3mls; Just after crossing the Gila River(the Kelvin-Riverside Bridge), park on Left side turn-out off highway; NOTE: AZT Passage 15 "actual" North End TH is located just back across the bridge at the Railroad Track Crossing; NOTE: For AZT Passage 15 south end TH START(to hike north) driving directions, see the "" website for details;
    page created by Grasshopper on Feb 15 2009 6:18 pm
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