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The Best Hikes in Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness

64 Triplog Reviews in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness
Most recent of 33 deeper Triplog Reviews
12.1 mi • 200 ft aeg
Headed in from the East TH. Decided to stop by Turkey Creek Dwelling before heading into the canyon. On the drive in crossed the creek a bunch, it was actually really fun driving through the creek crossings. Road seemed nice to me, no concerns or issues.

Didn’t see anyone else during the entire trek in Aravaipa. Saw a group had camp set up near Deer Creek but never saw them.

It was hot AF. Water was even warm. Made it to Booger Canyon, explored up Deer Creek, explored a little up and around other canyons. Set up our hammocks back before Deer Creek.

Wind was insane in the late afternoon/evening. Never saw any snakes. Only a few deer, quite a few turkey, one coatimundi and a skunk that snuck up on me right before dark. Was worried about that one!

As always, so pretty. Although I don’t think I’ll ever plan a backpacking trip during a heat wave here again.
15 mi • 1,000 ft aeg
East Aravaipa
I had an opportunity to head to Aravaipa for a couple of days and having never been to the east end, jumped at the chance. I now know I prefer this side and will come back for sure. At 3 hrs, it's really not a bad drive to get there and the benefits outweigh a little extra time on the road.

Thursday night was the coldest of the season statewide, but we were prepared so it turned out to be no problem despite dropping into the 20s. Friday was an exceptional day exploring a couple of miles down Aravaipa and up the geologic wonder of Hell Hole Canyon. It was a real treat. I'd love to see this one with a little bit more water flowing in it.

After seeing a bighorn up on the cliffs earlier in the day, we spotted some deer as darkness fell. The next two hours proved to be very entertaining!

We wouldn't have noticed the next critter if not for its glowing eyes as we approached on the opposite bank, wondering what it was. Once we were perpendicular across the creek we shone our headlamps to get a better view. At this point it realized we would not just walk by without noticing it was there and it subsequently repositioned. When that happened both Jon and I caught a glimpse of its silhouette and both had the same reaction simultaneously: tarzan swing! That's a big cat! :scared: It seemed nervous at our presence as we shined our lights directly into its glowing green eyes 25 yards across the river. As is common on our hikes, Jon and I each complimented each other on how large and strong we were -- loudly and repeatedly -- :sweat: while once again heading upstream. Jon noted that our hurried 3mph pace in the dark had suddenly increased to about 4mph! :lol:

Shortly thereafter a new set of eyes was watching our passage, but these were yellow. Though they sat high above us along the creek, as we got closer we could see it was just a curious raccoon (my first ever az wild sighting!). As we neared the trailhead, a skunk waddled across our path and seemed to be in no hurry to let us by. At this point we were trying to figure out what animal we wouldn't see tonight! Of course we weren't done yet. Next we spotted a gray fox that thought it was hidden and didn't run until it was obvious we knew it was there. Not much later we spooked a herd of javelina, and enjoyed watching the babies fight the current while swimming across the creek their parents had simply walked across. :lol:

At this point we were happy we would be sleeping indoors for the night and headed back to TNC cabin to meet up with the others and share our stories over a warm fire and some wild fermentation in the coolship.

The next couple of days included more wildlife sightings including coatimundi, turkey, and bobcat. Apparently there are cool birds here too!

I'm a fan of wildernesses. Some are more wilderness-y than others. I've only been to Aravaipa three times, but I think it's one of Arizona's truly wild wildernesses and a wildlife gem. FWIW, we did not see a bear. ](*,) Maybe next time! :)

Foliage
A little dull. Sycamores were solid rust. Some cottonwoods still had a lot of green, others had some nice yellows, and some were mostly bare. Walnuts were prime yellow. Ash hadn't started yet.
2.8 mi • 0 ft aeg
After establishing our campsites at the Fourmile Campground about a 1/2 mile south of the booming (ha!) town of Kolondyke, we drove out to the east trailhead for Aravaipa Canyon. 4x4 is recommended, but you could probably get there in any pickup truck - or at least given the current road conditions. Beware that there are numerous creek crossings along the drive. We jumped out, threw on some old tennis shoes, and headed south on the clearly signed Turkey Creek in search of the cliff dwelling. It was a very pleasant, very easy hike which involved zero route-finding (you simply walk upstream), plenty of shade, crossing through Turkey Creek several times, and an opportunity to be a kid again and have fun on a rope swing. :D You can't miss the cliff dwelling as there's a large sign down by the creek. A short, semi-steep climb gets you to the cliff dwelling. It was not difficult to imagine why peoples of the Salada culture made a seasonal home here...plenty of water, not too hot, abundant wildlife. We would heartily recommend this hike after the 3.5 hour drive from Phoenix. I should add that the Fourmile Campground was very clean, offers flush toilets and running water, and is a bargain at $5 per night ($2.50 for Golden Age passholders). Just be sure to take your own toilet paper as it wasn't always stocked. Another camping option is on the banks of Turkey Creek. While we hiked Turkey Creek, you can actually drive it at least as far as the cliff dwelling. There were several primitive campsites along the way that looked very nice, especially if the temps are high.
8.17 mi • 3,100 ft aeg
Hell Hole Valley - Deer Creek
Had opportunity to hike with a diverse group of fine hikers, 10 including me, guys, gals, old and young. We hiked about 2.5 miles up east end of Aravaipa Canyon and setup our camp for nite. We hiked in and out of creek but water wasn't very cold. Got some snowflakes and light rain the first nite -- had some good bourbon, whatnot and warm grub to keep us from freezing. The next day we hiked 4 miles up Hell Hole Valley (canyon) along Deer Creek and back. A wonderful experience. That nite was clear but cold, more bourbon, whatnot and warm grub to keep us warm. Ice over everything next morning. Hiked backed out after warm breakfast on day 3.
28 mi • 1,300 ft aeg
Did a 3 day backpacking trip in the canyon. Actually my third visit there. All my visits have been in October, but I think this year was the warmest of the three. Water level was as close as I can tell the same as it had been for the others. The main difference was the lack of animals. Last time I bet I saw 30 big horned sheep, this time not a one. Last time I had to hike through various groups of javelina totaling about 30 along the trail, this time not one in sight. I don't know if this was caused by the warmth or not. I did see two large families of coatimundi. I love watching them as they always seem to be having so much fun playing in the trees. There were several different types of birds, hawks, great blue herons, lots of song birds. Lots more people too. Last time there was only one person I saw in three days, this time it was nine. Granted nine people spread over an eleven mile span doesn't make it all too crowded.

The water was great. Cool, about 40 degrees I would guess. This time I was smart and wore a pair of gaiters!!! They are worth their weight in gold. Not once did I have any sand or gravel in by boots. I would never do this hike again without gaiters.

I camped near Horse Camp Canyon.

This was the first time I knew to check for Hell Hole Canyon. In fact that was a goal of this trip. Hell Hole is so misnamed, it is a fantastic place. So different from Aravaipa, but still beautiful in it's own way. I hit it about 9:30am and exited just before noon. I found that a lot of it's beauty was more visible without the sun being directly overhead. Early morning and probably late afternoon are the best times to see this place. It's a slot canyon, not a sandstone one like Antelope, but well worth a visit. After about a mile and a half in I hit a point that it felt like the temperature spiked a good 10 degrees within a few feet. And it kept raising from there on. The walls were getting shorter, must have been getting towards the end of the canyon. It wasn't nearly as nice to view either.

Figuring out the distance and AEG hiked is the hard part. My GPS said I hiked 35.04 miles in the 3 days. But looking at the track shows that I must have scaled a lot of vertical cliffs. With the satellite signals reflecting off the walls I know this number is ridiculous. The BLM map's numbers show it would have been a minimum of at least 20 miles. After playing in MapDex, BaseCamp, and Google Earth I figure 25 to 30 miles is probably about accurate. Seeing as a hike here is like a billiard ball bouncing off the rails, most of the distance covered is spent crossing the stream. Likewise most of the AEG encountered is climbing out of the stream a hundred times. The GPS came up with an ascent of 1529' and a descent of 2468'... From the topos it looks like the west entry into the stream is at about 2600', the entrance to Hell Hole is at 3100' and as far as I went into Hell Hole it gets up to about 3300'. Add in a few side trips and climbing out of the stream a hundred times, I guess I'd figure about 1300' is fair.
11 mi • 200 ft aeg
5am departure from Pima.
Very scenic drive into the East entrance during sunrise.
7am entrance into Aravaipa.
Downstream to Hell Hole Canyon and in up to the spring/hanging gardens.
Back upstream to Turkey Creek and a visit up to the cliff dwelling.
Overcast all day, water felt great, lots of greenery with hints of autumn to come.
Wildlife - 7 javelina (with young), 1 deer, 1 bobcat, 20 vultures, 2 hawks, 1 ring-neck snake, many creek fish, 1 heron, 10,000 caterpillars, 1000 butterflies, insects of all kinds & a very unpleasant amount of biting mosquitoes.
Solid 9 out of 10 trip (1 point deduction due to the mosquitoes).
:D
18.28 mi • 330 ft aeg
Missed out on the last Aravaipa Property Owners Association (APOA) thru hike, I think it was last year, so I wanted to make sure I made it this year, even though it would mean missing the likely peak colors up Bear Canyon way. Most of the folks stayed at the TNC guest house between Cobra Ranch and the pit toilet TH; my wife and I opted for the Spring Hill Suites in Thatcher. She said the area had much improved since she worked for the Corps of Engineers out there 20 years ago. After a long drive, and checking out the Klondyke Pioneer Cemetery ( [ photoset ] ), I was crashing hard. Rather than try one of the area's good sit-down Mexican joints, I opted for a Taco Bell quickie. (I love quesaritos!) 8-[

I woke up about 12:30 a.m. -- I don't sleep well in hotels, even when I bring my own pillow along -- and never really got back to sleep. :(

We met up with the APOA about 8:00 a.m., intending to drive to the Turkey Creek TH. However, two recent 700 cfs floods, plus two recent 1000 cfs floods, had caused some jeep trail damage. (Mark Haberstich, TNC manager, said normal flow is ~12 cfs.) There was a several foot high shelf about halfway, that our driver did not feel comfortable tackling. Especially not with a dozen people hanging off the hay bales in the back of her pickup.

I hung up front with Chris the Speed Demon the three miles from Turkey Creek to Deer Creek. While we took a break, everyone else caught up, then we started up to Hell Hole, a natural arch ~1.5 miles up canyon. While the majority continued up Deer Creek, past the arch, I stayed back to take Hell Hole pix -- about a dozen. (In all, for the weekend, I shot 223 photos and video segments.) :whistle: When, after awhile, they had not returned, I took to studying caterpillars ( https://youtu.be/v5 ... 1y0s ). After an hour, and worried they may have somehow got back around behind me, and considering it was nearly 1:00 p.m. and I still had 12 miles to go, I headed back to Aravaipa Creek, picking up Bill & Linda (who had been bird-watching) along the way. We hiked together the rest of the day. :)

One advantage of the floods was that they had blown away the slime that often covers Aravaipa's rocks, so footing was pretty good on the many creek crossings. Unfortunately, the flood also made the side areas often quite muddy -- as evidenced by the numerous sideways hiker tracks. :doh:

My new 5-10 Water Tennies held up real well. I had previously worn some other brand of water shoes, which were so uncomfortable as to cause stabbing pain, crappy old sneakers (which actually did okay), and sandals, from which I had to dig out 1/2" rocks every 50-100 meters because despite the ~12 cfs flow, Aravaipa's current is strong enough to move small rocks (or cattle thigh bones). Only a few grains of sand penetrated the shoes, and absolutely no pebbles whatsoever. :y:

Near Javalina Canyon I almost sloshed into a snake swimming in the creek. :o When I realized he was enjoying a relaxing swim, instead of attacking, we stopped for a few minutes to watch him ( https://youtu.be/ff ... fnvM ).

One of our non-hiking neighbors, Langdon, owns the old Wagner Ranch, so we ended our hike there, rather than continuing the final .75 miles to the west end TH. 18.28 miles is the longest I've walked in a single day since the 35 miles I accumulated while hitchhiking across Utah in May, 1983, when I was 20 years old. :DANCE: After making sure everyone had made it -- Paul was somewhere back up canyon -- I met up with my patient wife, who had made the four hour end-to-end shuttle drive. :kf: We dropped Bill & Linda off at their place along Aravaipa Rd., took some photos of the Supermoon, then drove all the way back to Sunnyslope. Having only eaten some gorp, I ate twice on the way home: a murderwich from the Dudleyville store (now a Giant) and a supersize Big Mac meal from the Gold Canyon Mickey D's. :D

Despite my right foot being severely sore, I slept like a log. :zzz:

-----

Thru Hike Video: https://youtu.be/ml ... vm-M

Foliage
Not yet. Still lower 90s mid-day, in unshadowed areas. Maybe in another week or two?
0 mi • 0 ft aeg
The drive from Pima, over the pass above Cottonwood Canyon, past the radar towers, down to Klondyke Rd is simply spectacular. I enjoyed the drive from Globe down to Thatcher, and later along Cascabel Road ( [ photoset ] ), but this was even better. My favorite, so far, in Arizona. Like Randy said, just bladed, so doing 35-45 is not a problem. (Except for slowing down on some curves, in case someone was coming the other way.) I assume the speed limit is 35? :-k

I checked the Fourmile Canyon Campground, but Randy wasn't there, so I continued further west into Aravaipa Canyon. I spotted my very first wild turkey not too far from the Salazar Family Church. :y: I was able to get a picture. As I drove away, despite the tires crunching gravel, I could hear multiple other turkeys gobbling.

I stopped at the church, which was unlocked. It was a real Catholic church, complete with altar, pews, stations of the Cross, etc. In a bit of disrepair inside, but still very interesting. Who would have said Mass in a family church? My wife is in Lourdes, with her sister who has cancer real bad, so I said a prayer for her. :pray: I signed the guestbook -- real name, Haz alias would not have been appropriate -- before leaving.

Randy showed up as I was parking at the Aravaipa latrine / info kiosk. I had worn my shorts, as my hiking pants were so muddy from the day before, so before we started out, I switched back into the filthy pants. :yuck: My SUV could have made it the 1.5 miles to the Aravaipa TH, at the mouth of Turkey Creek, but no further. Though not technical, heading up Turkey Creek is strictly high clearance.

Calling this a "cliff dwelling" is unfair to places like the Tonto Cliff Dwellings. Turkey Creek is more like a Salado condo. Seriously, You could not fit more than a family in there, and there's no real sign of any outlying structures.

But, it is a lush area, and would make for good camping. :)

Drive Video: https://youtu.be/p4 ... s4Ng
Salado Condo Video : https://youtu.be/7I ... hvgA
0 mi • 0 ft aeg
Turkey Creek Camping
Usually when I say I am going camping along Turkey Creek, I am referring to the one on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains. But this time I went to a far more remote one. In fact, I had only been there one other time, way back in 1997. The last time I went as far as Klondyke was nearly 10 years ago, so guess I was overdue for a visit. Sort of on my mind after watching the "Powers War" movie recently.

Drove out Thursday afternoon with the intention of camping at the BLM campground by Klondyke. I knew Preston (kingsnake) was going to be in the area Friday, so I told him I would probably be there and I would be looking for him. I knew cell service was likely going to be lacking, so we didn't make any definite plans. If we found each other fine, if not, no problem. He had a more ambitious plan for the day. For me it was a trip to camp and re-familiarize myself with the area. Plus, I figured I could give him a lift up to the cliff dwelling or to the east end of Aravaipa for his hike, in case his vehicle might not be able to reach those spots.

Anyway, after checking out the BLM campground, I had enough daylight, so I headed toward Turkey Creek. It is so wonderful back in there under all those magnificent trees, that I changed my mind and decided to camp in the canyon instead (which I really wanted to do anyway :D ). It was a very peaceful night camping by the old corral near the cliff dwelling. :) In the morning I packed up the gear and drove back out looking for kingsnake. Found him at the perfect spot, by the parking area and bathroom just west of the Salazar place. This is where Stace, the Nature Conservancy land steward I met the previous day said we should park a vehicle. Preston loaded his hiking gear into the truck and I drove him up to the cliff dwelling. But before that we drove the short distance beyond to the the point where the Rug Road exits the canyon and the turn into Oak Grove begins, since I hadn't seen that before.

After some time at the cliff dwelling and visiting awhile, I dropped Preston off at the confluence of Turkey/Aravaipa Creeks so he could do his hike, and I headed back toward Klondyke. The timing for this trip was good in that the road from Bonita to Klondyke had just been bladed, making for a smooth ride along those many miles.
63.07 mi • 11,436 ft aeg
Grand Enchantment Trail #7-9
This was an epic trip and a great way to end 2014. It's one I have wanted to do for over a year and just waiting for someone crazy enough to take this on as a backpack trip, as GET #8 as a day trip was out of my league (left for guys like juanjaimeiii!). Super thankful to find friendofThundergod eager to take it on and help me get one of the most remote sections of the GET checked off the list.

One of the first challenges was just finding someone to help us with the shuttle on this one. I originally had a friend who had committed to do the drop off at the beginning of GET 8 (east end of Aravaipa) whenever I was ready to go, but when the dates were finally picked, he was going to be out of town. Lee hadn't done GET 7 (Aravaipa Creek), and shuttle help for the west end of Aravaipa was going to be much easier to pull off, so we chose to make it GET 7-8-9 rather than just 8-9. Big shout out to friends Al & Kevin for making the 3-hour drive to Aravaipa to pick up my Jeep and drive it home, saving a bunch of extra drive time on trip out.

Sat 27, GET #7-8 (~15mi/1100aeg, 5hr 48min)
Started out about 4am, met up with Lee in Pima to set up a crazy shuttle on the NW end of the Pinalenos. Had a 45-minute detour due to an accident, but he left his vehicle at the end point and I drove us around to the west Aravaipa TH. About 7½ hours after starting the shuttle, we were finally set up and descending into Aravaipa to begin the adventure. Knowing that wet shoes are part of the game when doing Aravaipa (and that we were doing this in late December), I opted to bring a pair of water shoes for Aravaipa, which worked out great. Knowing we had a long ways to go, we opted to do Aravaipa without any exploration. We didn't see any wildlife except for one deer, but we were blazing through pretty quick, finishing all of Aravaipa in 5 hours on the dot. We finished about a half mile ahead of plan, past the old Salazar church, camping out the first night about a half mile or so into GET 8.

Sun 28, GET #8 (~17mi/3300aeg, 9hr 24min)
We woke up to some chilly temps as expected. In retrospect, the one thing I wish I had added to my pack was an extra liner for my sleeping bag. We were in the 20s the first 2 nights, but it was all right, it just gave us extra motivation to get our packs on early each day and take off. One other thing I wish I had done differently was carry less water on this day. Uncertain with water reliability, I carried 6 liters to get to the end of GET 8, which I didn't need to do and put my pack that day at over 50 lbs.

The day started with a little dirt road action before we could hit the western edge of the Santa Teresas to get the blood flowing, and started our climb. Heading down Aravaipa Road at sunrise, we came upon over a dozen wild turkeys waking up from their roost; amazing watching these big birds make their way up and down off of high tree branches! Coming up on the Teresas, it was so cool to know that this beautiful range is one that very, very few Arizonans ever see. We made our way up and into the western end of the Teresas, ending the day at a beautiful, sandy spot in Fisher Canyon, just inside the northern border of the wilderness. We could have gone farther, but knowing we would have to hike another 8 miles before the next campsite possibility, we decided to burn the final hour of daylight and build up a good woodpile for the night.

Mon 29, GET #8 (~16mi/4700aeg, 10hr 36min)
If you are doing GET 8, there is something you should know — there are few trails. In fact, there is no trail or series of trails you can use to go from one end to the other; the only way to do so is to go from the west end to the north end, hike outside the wilderness for a while to the east and then drop back down, hiking south to the southeast end. Topo maps show a trail just outside the wilderness that once existed (they are marked on some topo maps as Black Rock and Cottonwood Mountain trails). Because of two ranchers in this area who I have been told have a particular dislike for visitors of any sort, you have to be really careful in this area. The Black Rock Trail goes onto one of the rancher's land now and cannot be hiked, and this rancher has let the Cottonwood Trail basically fade into nonexistence (as it is on his land now also). The only legal option is to hike a careful loop of about 8 miles out of the wilderness, around the boundaries of their properties, and back into the wilderness, doing some bushwhacking along the way. I actually attempted to find a way to contact these ranchers to ask permission for access beforehand, but was totally unsuccessful.

We started off talking up a storm and soon realized we were following the trail that leads to the ranch (and trouble). Lee boldly decided, rather than to backtrack, to instead bushwhack up a mountainside and back down to a road I was familiar with. The bushwhack was doable and saved us some otherwise useless miles, but it did in looking back on our track put us on one of these rancher's land for almost a mile. It was marked as a forest service road but is apparently an FS road that he also owns (my sincere apologies to the rancher). If you do GET 8, I recommend following the standard route in respect of the ranchers.

After getting this behind us, then the elevation was set to begin, with a climb to well over 7,200 feet near the peak of Cottonwood Mountain. We followed a pack trail up into the wilderness gate and headed toward Kane Spring, which is generally one of the few locations along the route with somewhat dependable water. We headed up the ridgeline, hitting consistent snow around 6,000 feet but thankfully not too deep (we were punching through only an inch or two). Nice views at the overlook on top, I spent some time myself soaking it in before jumping back into catching up with Lee (he was a man on a mission!). My plans were to get to a nice campsite in cottonwood & sycamore trees about 4 miles down the south side of the mountain (outside the Santa Teresa Wilderness), but we ended up pushing a mile beyond that since we had enough sunlight left, making it to a nice campsite right at the boundary of the Coronado National Forest.

Tue 30, GET #8-9 (~14mi/2500aeg, 5hr 30min)
This was the coldest morning of all, getting down into the 10s. My water bottles were literally next to me as I slept, and when I woke up they were frozen. I told Lee, I was especially eager to get up and going super early, and we started out before daylight. Once I got my soreness worked out, we were both hiking at a steady >4mph clip down trails and roads to finish GET #8 and start GET #9. Knowing how eager Lee was to cut the trip short, and my skinny self having had enough of a 40+ lb pack for 55 miles, I came up with a plan to drop the pack as we left Klondike Road. I knew there was a water cache site there for the GET and it would be easy for me to drive back and pick up with minimal time lost...and it would give me a chance to get my running legs on. :y: For those of you who know me, I find it hard to resist not jogging out the home stretch of any hike, particularly if it is downhill!! Plus, I knew GET #9 wasn't the most beautiful section, with a good amount of dirt road walking, so it wasn't a big deal to just bust out the last 8 miles and help a buddy get home a little earlier to his awesome doggies, which I had already met on a prior hike. :D

I jogged part of it, pausing to keep Lee in sight. This guy is amazing with a pack though, and he was able to pass me when we reached the final stretch that has the elevation and cross-country bushwhack to it! :wlift: By the time we we lost all trail and had to bushwhack a trail for ourselves up and over the Dick Peak ridgeline, through thick catsclaw, holly, cactus and manzanita, he was nowhere to be seen. Once I reached the cattle tank at the top of the ridgeline, there was an old trail that descended into a 4WD road and back down to the car.

My plan was to finish by 11:21am (when we started the first day), so that we would have a 3-day finish. I thought dropping my pack would ensure that for me, and Lee pretty much made it; but the final bushwhack added more time than I expected. No real trail and finding only 1 cairn and 1 piece of blue tape in a tree about halfway up, and I finished 26 minutes outside of my goal. It still was a great way to end this segment (the highlight of segment #9 for me), and is one of the things you have to be comfortable with on the GET — some parts are just cross-country and you have to feel comfortable blazing your own trail to a specific destination. Blisterfree (organizer of the GET) in most places like this has done a great job of blue-taping trees for added confidence — but you can't depend on that in every area. Total time on the trail: 31 hours 18 minutes, putting our average at 2 mph over the whole trip.

I have to tell you — if you are looking for remote, GET 8 is the place to be. Actually, with the entire trip, we never encountered a single person (except a few in vehicles on Aravaipa & Klondike Roads). Normally when doing GET 8, water is going to be an issue. One of the plus sides to doing this when we did was that there were recent rains and snow melting off the higher peaks, giving us all the water we needed.

Had a blast getting to know Lee better, lots of cool discussions about American & world history, religion, politics, and even his great taste I share in several alternative rock bands. Great stories from his service time in Afghanistan, & grateful for his service for all of us. : app :

One final reason to :y: for this trip: getting segments 8 & 9 done puts juanjaimeiii & I both at having completed the first 13 segments of the Grand Enchantment Trail, from Apache Junction to Morenci!
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