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A hiker crossing a swingbridge over the Huxley River on a hike in the South Island of New Zealand. Huxley River swing bridge.jpg
A hiker crossing a swingbridge over the Huxley River on a hike in the South Island of New Zealand.
A hiker enjoying the view of the alps Escursionismo sulle Alpi.jpg
A hiker enjoying the view of the alps

Hiking is a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails or footpaths in the countryside. "Hiking" is the preferred term in Canada and the United States; the term "walking" is used in these regions for shorter, particularly urban walks. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the word "walking" describes all forms of walking, whether it is a walk in the park or backpacking in the Alps. The word hiking is also often used in the UK, along with rambling (a slightly old-fashioned term), hillwalking , and fell walking (a term mostly used for hillwalking in northern England). The term bushwalking is endemic to Australia, having been adopted by the Sydney Bush Walkers club in 1927. [1] In New Zealand a long, vigorous walk or hike is called tramping. [2] It is a popular activity with numerous hiking organizations worldwide, and studies suggest that all forms of walking have health benefits. [3] [4]


Hiking in Argentina Tour to the Quebrada de las Conchas.jpg
Hiking in Argentina
People hiking in the Koli National Park, Finland Koli hiking by Jarno Artika 940 x 600.jpg
People hiking in the Koli National Park, Finland

In the United States, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom, hiking means walking outdoors on a trail, or off trail, for recreational purposes. [5] A day hike refers to a hike that can be completed in a single day. However, in the United Kingdom, the word walking is also used, as well as rambling, while walking in mountainous areas is called hillwalking. In Northern England, Including the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, fellwalking describes hill or mountain walks, as fell is the common word for both features there.

Hiking sometimes involves bushwhacking and is sometimes referred to as such. This specifically refers to difficult walking through dense forest, undergrowth, or bushes where forward progress requires pushing vegetation aside. In extreme cases of bushwhacking, where the vegetation is so dense that human passage is impeded, a machete is used to clear a pathway. The Australian term bushwalking refers to both on and off-trail hiking. [6] Common terms for hiking used by New Zealanders are tramping (particularly for overnight and longer trips), [7] walking or bushwalking. Trekking is the preferred word used to describe multi-day hiking in the mountainous regions of India, Pakistan, Nepal, North America, South America, Iran, and the highlands of East Africa. Hiking a long-distance trail from end-to-end is also referred to as trekking and as thru-hiking in some places. [8] In North America, multi-day hikes, usually with camping, are referred to as backpacking. [5]


The idea of taking a walk in the countryside for pleasure developed in the 18th century, and arose because of changing attitudes to the landscape and nature associated with the Romantic movement. [9] In earlier times walking generally indicated poverty and was also associated with vagrancy. [10] :

United Kingdom

Claife Station, built at one of Thomas West's 'viewing stations', to allow visiting tourists and artists to better appreciate the picturesque Lake District, Cumbria, England. Claife Station.jpg
Claife Station, built at one of Thomas West's 'viewing stations', to allow visiting tourists and artists to better appreciate the picturesque Lake District, Cumbria, England.

Thomas West, an English priest, popularized the idea of walking for pleasure in his guide to the Lake District of 1778. In the introduction he wrote that he aimed

to encourage the taste of visiting the lakes by furnishing the traveller with a Guide; and for that purpose, the writer has here collected and laid before him, all the select stations and points of view, noticed by those authors who have last made the tour of the lakes, verified by his own repeated observations. [11]

To this end he included various 'stations' or viewpoints around the lakes, from which tourists would be encouraged to enjoy the views in terms of their aesthetic qualities. [12] Published in 1778 the book was a major success. [13]

Map of Robert Louis Stevenson's walking route in the Cevennes, France, taken from Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879), a pioneering classic of outdoor literature. Travels-map.jpg
Map of Robert Louis Stevenson's walking route in the Cévennes, France, taken from Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879), a pioneering classic of outdoor literature.

Another famous early exponent of walking for pleasure was the English poet William Wordsworth. In 1790 he embarked on an extended tour of France, Switzerland, and Germany, a journey subsequently recorded in his long autobiographical poem The Prelude (1850). His famous poem Tintern Abbey was inspired by a visit to the Wye Valley made during a walking tour of Wales in 1798 with his sister Dorothy Wordsworth. Wordsworth's friend Coleridge was another keen walker and in the autumn of 1799, he and Wordsworth undertook a three-week tour of the Lake District. John Keats, who belonged to the next generation of Romantic poets began, in June 1818, a walking tour of Scotland, Ireland, and the Lake District with his friend Charles Armitage Brown.

More and more people undertook walking tours through the 19th century, of which the most famous is probably Robert Louis Stevenson's journey through the Cévennes in France with a donkey, recorded in his Travels with a Donkey (1879). Stevenson also published in 1876 his famous essay "Walking Tours". The subgenre of travel writing produced many classics in the subsequent 20th century. An early American example of a book that describes an extended walking tour is naturalist John Muir's A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), a posthumously published account of a long botanizing walk, undertaken in 1867.

Due to industrialisation in England, people began to migrate to the cities where living standards were often cramped and unsanitary. They would escape the confines of the city by rambling about in the countryside. However, the land in England, particularly around the urban areas of Manchester and Sheffield, was privately owned and trespass was illegal. Rambling clubs soon sprang up in the north and began politically campaigning for the legal 'right to roam'. One of the first such clubs was 'Sunday Tramps' founded by Leslie White in 1879. The first national grouping, the Federation of Rambling Clubs, was formed in London in 1905 and was heavily patronized by the peerage. [14]

Access to Mountains bills, that would have legislated the public's 'right to roam' across some private land, were periodically presented to Parliament from 1884 to 1932 without success. Finally, in 1932, the Rambler’s Right Movement organized a mass trespass on Kinder Scout in Derbyshire. Despite attempts on the part of the police to prevent the trespass from going ahead, it was successfully achieved due to massive publicity. However, the Mountain Access Bill that was passed in 1939 was opposed by many walkers' organizations, including The Ramblers, who felt that it did not sufficiently protect their rights, and it was eventually repealed. [15]

The effort to improve access led after World War II to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, and in 1951 to the creation of the first national park in the UK, the Peak District National Park. [16] The establishment of this and similar national parks helped to improve access for all outdoors enthusiasts. [17] The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 considerably extended the right to roam in England and Wales.

United States

Thoreau walked 34 miles (55 km) to Mount Wachusett, shown here. Abbey and the mountain.JPG
Thoreau walked 34 miles (55 km) to Mount Wachusett, shown here.
The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,653-mile (4,270 km) trail spanning the United States from north to south Ritter Range Pacific Crest Trail.jpg
The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,653-mile (4,270 km) trail spanning the United States from north to south

An early example of an interest in hiking in the United States is Abel Crawford and his son Ethan's clearing of a trail to the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire in 1819. [18] This 8.5-mile path is the oldest continually used hiking trail in the United States. The influence of British and European Romanticism reached North America through the transcendentalist movement, and both Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) were important influences on the outdoors movement in North America. Thoreau's writing on nature and on walking include the posthumously published "Walking" (1862)". [19] His earlier essay "A Walk to Wachusett" (1842) describes a four-day walking tour Thoreau took with a companion from Concord, Massachusetts to the summit of Mount Wachusett, Princeton, Massachusetts and back. In 1876 the Appalachian Mountain Club, America’s earliest recreation organization, was founded to protect the trails and mountains in the northeastern United States.

The Scottish-born, American naturalist John Muir (1838 –1914), was another important early advocate of the preservation of wilderness in the United States. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings inspired others, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large areas of undeveloped countryside. [20] He is today referred to as the "Father of the National Parks". [21] In 1916, the National Park Service was created to protect national parks and monuments.

In 1921, Benton MacKaye, a forester, conceived the idea of the America's first National Trail, the Appalachian trail, and this was completed in August 1937, running from Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine to Georgia. [22] The Pacific Crest Trail ("PCT") was first explored in the 1930s by the YMCA hiking groups and was eventually registered as a complete border to border trail from Mexico to Canada. [23]

Significant destinations

Ridge hiking trail in Japan/ Mt. Akadake from Mt. Yokodake Mt.Akadake from Mt.Yokodake 08.jpg
Ridge hiking trail in Japan/ Mt. Akadake from Mt. Yokodake

National parks are often important hiking destinations, such as National Parks of England and Wales; of Canada; of New Zealand, of South Africa, etc.

In Continental Europe amongst the most popular areas for hiking are the Alps and in the United Kingdom the Lake District, Snowdonia, and the Scottish Highlands. In the US the National Park system generally is popular, whereas in Canada the Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia are the most popular hiking areas. The most visited hiking area in Asia is probably Nepal. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is possibly the most hiked short trail in South America, with Patagonia in Southern Chile and Argentina also proving popular.

Hiking in Chile is characterized by a wide range of environments and climates, largely because of Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape, which is 4,300 kilometres (2,700 miles) long and on average 175 kilometres (109 miles) wide. These range from the world's driest desert, the Atacama, in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the center, to the glaciers, fjords and lakes of Patagonia in the south. The longest hiking trail in Chile is the informal 3,000 km (1,850 mi) Greater Patagonian Trail [24] that was created by a non-governmental initiative.

Trekking route 10 in Dogu'a Tembien (Ethiopia) Inda Abba Hadera trekking route.jpg
Trekking route 10 in Dogu'a Tembien (Ethiopia)

In Africa, Ethiopia is emerging as a hiking destination. Trekking maps exist for Simien and Dogu'a Tembien.

Long-distance hiking

View of Mont Blanc from the Tour du Mont Blanc (as seen from the Aiguilles Rouges). A view of Mont Blanc from the Tour du Mont Blanc, 2007.jpg
View of Mont Blanc from the Tour du Mont Blanc (as seen from the Aiguilles Rouges).

Frequently nowadays long-distance hikes (walking tours) are undertaken along long-distance paths, including the National Trails in England and Wales, the Kungsleden (Sweden) and the National Trail System in the United States. The Grande Randonnée (France), Grote Routepaden, or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (The Netherlands), Grande Rota (Portugal), Gran Recorrido (Spain) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. There are extensive networks in other European countries of long-distance trails, as well as in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, and to a lesser extent other Asiatic countries, like Turkey, Israel, and Jordan. In the Alps of Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, France, and Italy walking tours are often made from 'hut-to-hut', using an extensive system of mountain huts.

In the late 20th-century, there has been a proliferation of official and unofficial long-distance routes, which mean that hikers now are more likely to refer to using a long-distance way (Britain), trail (US), The Grande Randonnée (France), etc., than setting out on a walking tour. Early examples of long-distance paths include the Appalachian Trail in the US and the Pennine Way in Britain. Pilgrimage routes are now treated, by some walkers, as long-distance routes, and the route taken by the British National Trail the North Downs Way closely follows that of the Pilgrims' Way to Canterbury.


A simple dry magnetic pocket compass Kompas Sofia.JPG
A simple dry magnetic pocket compass

The equipment required for hiking depends on a variety of factors. Day hikers generally can carry at least water, food, a map, and rain-proof gear. [5] Hikers have traditionally worn sturdy hiking boots [5] for stability over rough terrain. In recent decades this has become less common as some long distance hikers have switched to trail running shoes [25] . Boots are still commonly used in mountainous terrain. The Mountaineers club recommends a list of "Ten Essentials" equipment for hiking, including a compass, trekking pole(s), sunglasses, sunscreen, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a fire starter, and a knife. [26] Other groups recommend items such as hat, gloves, insect repellent, and an emergency blanket. [27] A GPS navigation device can also be helpful and route cards may be used as a guide.

Proponents of ultralight backpacking argue that long lists of required items for multi-day hikes increases pack weight, and hence fatigue and the chance of injury. [28] Instead, they recommend reducing pack weight, in order to make hiking long distances easier. Even the use of hiking boots on long-distances hikes is controversial among ultralight hikers, because of their weight. [28]

Hiking times can be estimated by Naismith's rule or Tobler's hiking function, while distances can be measured on a map with an opisometer. A pedometer is a device that records the distance walked.

Environmental impact

Parts of many hiking trails around Lake Mohonk, New York State, US, include stairways which can prevent erosion Mohonk Mountain House 2011 Hiking Trail against Guest Rooms 2 FRD 3281.jpg
Parts of many hiking trails around Lake Mohonk, New York State, US, include stairways which can prevent erosion

Natural environments are often fragile and may be accidentally damaged, especially when a large number of hikers are involved. For example, years of gathering wood can strip an alpine area of valuable nutrients, and can cause deforestation; [29] and some species, such as martens or bighorn sheep, are very sensitive to the presence of humans, especially around mating season. Generally, protected areas such as parks have regulations in place to protect the environment, so as to minimize such impact. [29] Such regulations include banning wood fires, restricting camping to established campsites, disposing or packing out faecal matter, and imposing a quota on the number of hikers. Many hikers espouse the philosophy of Leave No Trace, following strict practices on dealing with food waste, food packaging, and other impacts on the environment. [30]

A cathole for human waste Cathole.png
A cathole for human waste

Human feces are often a major source of environmental impact from hiking, [29] and can contaminate the watershed and make other hikers ill. 'Catholes' dug 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 inches) deep, depending on local soil composition and covered after use, at least 60 m (200 feet) away from water sources and trails, are recommended to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

Fire is a particular source of danger, and an individual hiker can have a large impact on an ecosystem. For example, in 2005, a Czech backpacker accidentally started a fire that burnt 5% of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. [31]


Child walking in a forest in 1989. Child in a forest - 1989-08-15.jpg
Child walking in a forest in 1989.

Because hikers may come into conflict with other users of the land or may harm the natural environment, hiking etiquette has developed.


Hikers in Norway's Galdhopigg are roped together for protection against falls into crevasses. Galdhopigg.jpg
Hikers in Norway's Galdhøpigg are roped together for protection against falls into crevasses.

As discussed in Hazards of outdoor recreation, hiking may produce threats to personal safety, from causes such as hazardous terrain, inclement weather, becoming lost, or exacerbation of pre-existing medical conditions. The dangerous circumstances hikers may face include specific accidents or physical ailments.

Potential hazards involving physical ailments may include dehydration, frostbite, hypothermia, sunburn, sunstroke, or diarrhea, [33] and such injuries as ankle sprains, or broken bones. [34]

Other threats include attacks by animals (e.g., bears, snakes, and insects or ticks carrying diseases such as Lyme) or contact with noxious plants that can cause rashes (e.g., poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, or stinging nettles). Attacks by humans are also a reality in some places. Lightning is also a threat, especially on high ground.

An elk attacking a tourist in the Grand Canyon, USA. Human-wildlife conflict.jpg
An elk attacking a tourist in the Grand Canyon, USA.

The crossing of glaciers is potentially hazardous because of the potential for crevasses. These giant cracks in the ice are not always visible as snow can be blown and freeze over the top to make a snowbridge. To cross a glacier the use of a rope, crampons and ice axes are usually required. Deep, fast-flowing rivers pose another danger that can be mitigated with ropes.

In various countries, borders may be poorly marked. In 2009, Iran imprisoned three Americans for hiking across the Iran-Iraq border. [35] It is illegal to cross into the US on the Pacific Crest Trail from Canada. Going south to north it is more straightforward and a crossing can be made, if advanced arrangements are made with Canada Border Services. Within the Schengen Area, which includes most of the E.U., and associated nations like Switzerland and Norway, there are no impediments to crossing by path, and borders are not always obvious. [36]

See also



Snowshoer in Canada Snowshoer with perching bird.jpg
Snowshoer in Canada

Related Research Articles

Trail Path with a rough beaten or dirt/stone surface used for travel

A trail is usually a path, track or unpaved lane or road. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland path or footpath is the preferred term for a walking trail. The term is also applied, in North America, to routes along rivers, and sometimes to highways. In the US, the term was historically used for a route into or through wild territory used by emigrants. In the USA "trace" is a synonym for trail, as in Natchez Trace. Some trails are single use and can only be used for walking, cycling, horse riding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing; others, as in the case of a bridleway in the UK, are multi-use, and can be used by walkers, cyclists and equestrians. There are also unpaved trails used by dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles and in some places, like the Alps, trails are used for moving cattle and other livestock.

Appalachian Trail 2,160-mile hiking trail going through fourteen US states

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is about 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long, though the exact length changes over time as parts are rerouted or modified. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy describes the Appalachian Trail as the longest hiking-only trail in the world. More than 2 million people are said to take a hike on part of the trail at least once each year.

Tuscarora Trail

The 252-mile (406 km) Tuscarora Trail is a long distance trail in the Ridge and Valley Appalachians that passes through the US states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. In the south, the Tuscarora begins at a junction with the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Mathews Arm Campground, 0.4-mile (0.64 km) south of the AT's crossing of Skyline Drive at MP 21.1 in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. In the north, it rejoins the Appalachian Trail at the top of Blue Mountain just west of the Susquehanna River and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, creating a 435 mi (700.1 km) circuit known as the Tuscalachian Loop. The Tuscarora Trail was built as an alternative parallel route for the Appalachian Trail. It was built farther west, in a more wild corridor, because it was feared that development would force closure of the AT, before passage of the National Scenic Trails Act of 1968.

Pacific Crest Trail Long-distance hiking and equestrian trail in the USA

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), officially designated as the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, is a long-distance hiking and equestrian trail closely aligned with the highest portion of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, which lie 100 to 150 miles east of the U.S. Pacific coast. The trail's southern terminus is just south of Campo, California by the U.S. border with Mexico, and its northern terminus is on the Canada–US border on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia; it passes through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Trail running mountain sport

Trail running is a sport-activity which combines running, and, where there are steep gradients, hiking, that is run "on any unpaved surface". It is similar to both mountain and fell running. Mountain running may, however, include paved sections. Trail running normally takes place in warm climates, or on good paths, or tracks which are relatively easy to follow, and does not necessarily involve the significant amounts of ascent, or need for navigating skills, normal in fell running. Unlike road running and track running it generally takes place on hiking trails, often in mountainous terrain, where there can be much larger ascents and descents. It is difficult to definitively distinguish trail running from cross country running. In general, however, cross country is an IAAF-governed discipline that is typically raced over shorter distances.

Backpacking (hiking) Outdoor recreation of carrying gear on ones back, while hiking for more than a day. It is often but not always an extended journey, and may or may not involve camping outdoors

Backpacking is the outdoor recreation of carrying gear on one's back, while hiking for more than a day. It is often but not always an extended journey, and may or may not involve camping outdoors. In North America tenting is common, where simple shelters and mountain huts widely found in Europe are rare. In New Zealand, tramping is the term applied though overnight huts are frequently used. Hill walking is an equivalent in Britain, though backpackers make use of all kinds of accommodation, in addition to camping. Backpackers use simple huts in South Africa. Trekking and bushwalking are other word used to describe such multi-day trips.

Overland Track hiking trail in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia

The Overland Track is an Australian bushwalking track, traversing Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It's walked by more than nine thousand people each year, with numbers limited in the warmer months. Officially the track runs for 65 kilometres (40 mi) from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair however many choose to extend it by walking along Lake St Clair for an extra day, bringing it to 82 kilometres (51 mi). It winds through terrain ranging from glacial mountains, temperate rainforest, wild rivers and alpine plains.

Westwoods Trails

The Westwoods Trails is an extensive hiking trail system in Guilford, Connecticut. The trail system has approximately 39 miles (63 km) of trails with features including caves, lakes, streams, rivers, and interesting rock formations. The preserve extends across land owned by the Guilford Land Conservation Trust, which also owns many other land parcels across the town which provide hiking trails, and the State of Connecticut. The trails are accessible for walking, running, and mountain biking. Hunting is only allowed on state land during the season.

Outdoor literature A literature genre about or involving the outdoors

Outdoor literature is a literature genre about or involving the outdoors. Outdoor literature encompasses several different subgenres including exploration literature, adventure literature, mountain literature and nature writing. Another subgenre is the guide book, an early example of which was Thomas West's guide to the Lake District published in 1778. The genres can include activities such as exploration, survival, sailing, hiking, mountaineering, whitewater boating, geocaching or kayaking, or writing about nature and the environment. Travel literature is similar to outdoor literature but differs in that it does not always deal with the out-of-doors, but there is a considerable overlap between these genres, in particular with regard to long journeys.

Trekking poles are a common hiking accessory used to assist walkers with their rhythm and provide stability on rough terrain.

Thru-hiking, or through-hiking, is to hike an established end-to-end hiking trail or long-distance trail with continuous footsteps in one direction.

Andrew Skurka American hiker

Andrew Skurka is an American professional backpacker who is best known for his two long-distance hiking firsts—the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop and the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route. He was named the 2007 "Adventurer of the Year" by National Geographic Adventure and the 2005 "Person of the Year" by Backpacker magazine.

Fastpacking Backpacking meets trail running

Fastpacking is a marriage of trail running and ultralight backpacking: "hiking the ups, jogging the flats, and running the downs," depending on the gradient, because of the weight carried. Participants carry a light pack with essential supplies, including a sleeping bag and tent, or similar form of shelter, if mountain huts or other accommodation is not available. The weight carried will vary but fastpackers aim at no more than 15 pounds (6.8 kg) and some achieve less than 10 pounds (4.5 kg). This activity may be undertaken either unsupported, self-supported, or supported. "Unsupported fastpackers make no use of outside assistance along the route", while self -supported fastpackers will leave caches of supplies along the intended route.

Walking in the United Kingdom Aspect of outdoor activities in the UK

Walking is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the United Kingdom, and within England and Wales there is a comprehensive network of rights of way that permits access to the countryside. Furthermore, access to much uncultivated and unenclosed land has opened up since the enactment of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. In Scotland the ancient tradition of universal access to land was formally codified under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. In Northern Ireland however, there are few rights of way, or other access to land.

Outdoor recreation

Outdoor recreation or outdoor activity refers to recreation engaged in out of doors, most commonly in natural settings. The activities themselves — such as fishing, hunting, backpacking, and horseback riding — are characteristically dependent on the environment practiced in.

Long-distance trail Long trail used for walking, backpacking, cycling, horse riding or cross-country skiing

A long-distance trail is a longer recreational trail mainly through rural areas used for hiking, backpacking, cycling, horse riding or cross-country skiing. They exist on all continents except Antarctica.

Meredith J. Eberhart, widely known by his nickname Nimblewill Nomad is an American perpetual hiker and has been the focus of various news stories. Eberhart published a book about one of his long-distance hikes, and as of 2018 was settled at Flagg Mountain, Alabama.


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