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Ouray Colorado Vacation Guide and Trip Planning Information for SW Colorado

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Ouray's Wine Country: Just a Scenic Drive Away!


ourays wine country

Ouray's Wine Country: Just a Scenic Drive Away!

Ouray’s Wine Country can be found just up the road in Delta County Colorado.  It is about an hour and a half drive to the towns and landscapes of Paonia and Hotchkiss and Crawford.  Delta County is one of Colorado’s newest developing wine regions with 13 wineries with tasting rooms. Enjoy your drive as you wander through lush farmland, dry desert prairies and sandstone cliffs to emerge in a setting that some compare to a Tuscan landscape.  Numerous maps and guides for the region are available on their tourism website but the one you need for this outing is the wine tour!

Plan a visit in August and you will fall right into any number of wine events.

blackbridge wineryOn a weekly basis you can enjoy Thursday’s Ladies Night at Black Bridge Winery, or Friday Wine Down, featuring wines from Black Bridge, 5860 and other local winemakers. Brick oven pizza is baked on site along with other light bites. Set along the North Fork of the Gunnison River, nestled in the shade of large cottonwoods you will find relaxation comes easily here. 

August 4th - 7th

Follow the West Elks Wine Trail - Pairing the Best of Colorado Wine with the Best of Colorado Cuisine

west elk wine tastingThe trend to eat and drink locally has become a national obsession. Here in Colorado on the Western slope we invite you to an adventure of closeness to the land, experiencing wine and foods grown right here in western Colorado. The winemakers of the West Elks Viticultural Area invite you to join them on August 4th, 5th , 6th and 7th for a tour of the wineries, vineyards, orchards, and gardens surrounding the North Fork of the Gunnison River near Paonia and Hotchkiss, Colorado.

The Wineries of the West Elks AVA announces the third annual West Elks Wine Trail event. Wineries participating are Alfred Eames Cellars, Azura Winery and Gallery, Black Bridge Winery, Delicious Orchards, Leroux Creek Winery, Liliputian Winery, S. Rhodes Vineyards, Stone Cottage Cellars and Terror Creek Winery.

For more details on the Wine Trail visit:


Dinner in the Vineyard at Stone Cottage Cellars - 4th Annual Dinner in the Vineyard Saturday, August 13th 2011

dinner in the vineyardYou are invited to join us for a relaxing evening of great food and wine in the vineyard at the foot of the West Elk mountain range. The afternoon starts with barrel tastings with the winemaker, in-depth tours of the vineyard and demonstrations of the winemaking process. As the day cools, an extraordinary five-course dinner, including hors d'oeuvres, appetizers, three entree courses and dessert, carefully selected by Chef Jardon, begins.

The menu highlights ingredients from local producers, emphasizes the art of food and wine pairing, and features the Stone Cottage Cellars 2009 vintages of Dry Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Syrah, and 2008 vintages of Merlot and Pinot Noir.


Food, Farm, Film & Wine Festival - Aug. 20-21

Join Western Slope and Roaring Fork Slow Food Chapters for our 3rd annual Food, Farm, Film and Wine Festival (AKA Flim Flam) taking place in Western Colorado’s Food & Wine Mecca of Paonia, Colorado!

This event is being brought to you by Fresh & Wyld, Valley Organic Growers Association, Edible Aspen, Edible Front Range, the Paradise Theatre, Delicious Orchards, the Mad Dog Ranch, First State Bank of Hotchkiss and the North Fork Valley Growers!

This year we will be highlighting the wineries and farms throughout the North Fork Valley. On Saturday you will get your Back Country Coffee’s box lunch and have the opportunity to visit and tour various Valley farms (Holy Terror, The Living Farm and Terra Fata) and wineries. Then it’s off to enjoy locally-produced movies at the Paradise Theater. We’ll finish the evening at Fresh & Wyld for a great dinner prepared by Chef Dava Parr and Six89‘s Chef Mark Fischer of Carbondale featuring wonderful local produce.

On Sunday it’s a continental breakfast at the Paradise and then more great local movies. Afterwards, we’ll have a brunch at Delicious Orchards with music provided by Hard Pressed.

Wander into Delta County for a self-guided wine tour and enjoy some award winning wines and pair it with the bounty of the fields and farms of the area. Stop in at Hardin’s Natural Market or Delicious Orchards, both in the North Fork Valley, and grab some fresh local cheese, fresh fruit and natural foods to build a romantic picnic lunch.

Bon Appetite!

About the author:  Kelli Hepler is a graphic artist and tourism professional that creates brochures, ads, pamphlets for her tourism clients with her company, Graphox Design and Advertising.  She makes her home in Delta, Colorado where she lives with her pet rabbit.  

Fall Getaway in Ouray Colorado


jeeping in Ouray coloradoThe room rates at Box Canyon Lodge in Ouray, Colo., are dropping like the foliage that will be falling from the trees when the seasons change. From Sept. 3-Dec. 21 (the first day of winter), Box Canyon Lodge is offering a huge discount: book three nights and get the fourth night free. Call (800) 327-5080 to book.

Fall is a simply superb time to visit Ouray, when the area flora is dressed in its gold-hued best. To add to the experience, there are a number of unique ways to see the fall colors in Ouray, including Jeep tours, scenic drives, hiking trails, hot air balloon rides and hot tub perches. Be sure to pack a camera – there are many frame-able moments to be had!

Jeep Tours

Jeeping is such a big deal in Ouray that the town has been nicknamed “Jeeping Capital of the World.” In the fall Jeeping tours are a great way to get up close and personal with some of the most remote amber-colored Aspens around Ouray.   Popular Jeep autumn routes include The Alpine Loop, Black Bear Pass, Last Dollar Road and Dallas Divide.

Million Dollar Highway

The Million Dollar Highway, which was originally constructed to transport ore from Ouray’s prosperous mines, follows U.S. 550 between Ouray and Silverton. It’s a different kind of Colorado gold that flanks the road during the fall as it winds through Uncompaghre Gorge and climbs to the summit of Red Mountain Pass before progressing into the historic mining town of Silverton. Along the way check out the remains of the Idarado Mine, as well as views of Mount Abrams and Bear Creek Falls. There is dispute over the origin of the nickname, “Million Dollar Highway.” Some claim that it comes from the value of the ore-filled dirt that was used to construct it. Others say the name reflects the cost to build just one mile of the road. One thing no one argues about—the views along the route are worth a million bucks!

Hiking Trails

There are more than 76 hiking trails in and around Ouray, 12 of which begin within Ouray city limits. The Box Cañon Falls Trail is just steps from Box Canyon Lodge and takes less than an hour to reach the top. Lower Cascade Falls Trail provides access to Ouray’s most notable waterfall that is visible from nearly every point in town. This quarter-mile hike will take about 45 minutes and is a great place to picnic. The Perimeter Trail is being built to circumnavigate Ouray and follows Cascade trail for a short distance before breaking off.

Hot Air Ballooning

Get a bird’s eye view of the fall hues by taking a hot air balloon ride high above Ridgway Valley, surrounded by mountain peaks, rocky plateaus and mesas of fall colors. Box Canyon Lodge makes it easy to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience with its Up, Up and Away Special in partnership with San Juan Balloons. The package includes a one-night stay and an early-morning hot air balloon ride. For a romantic getaway, book the honeymoon suite for the experience for just $650/night. Different rates are available based on rooms selected. Advanced booking required.

Hot Tub Hot Spots

For a more mellow fall foliage experience, hop into one of the Box Canyon’s four natural hot springs tubs, offering spectacular 360-degreee views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains. The hot tub temperatures range between 103 and 108 degrees, offering one of the best ways to relax sore muscles after a day on the hiking trails.

About Box Canyon Lodge

The Box Canyon Lodge is located in beautiful Ouray, Colo., nicknamed “Switzerland of America.” Box Canyon Lodge, a hot springs motel boasting four, all natural hot springs tubs, offers a peaceful location, clean, comfortable and nicely decorated rooms, meticulously-maintained grounds and warm, personal service. The Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs has been recognized by a variety of publications, receiving the “Award of Excellence” by the Colorado Connoisseur and Travel Holiday magazine and listed as one of Sunset magazine’s “Best of the West.” Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs has also earned the four key rating from Green Key, a well-known eco-rating program.



Easy Day Trip from Ouray: Morrow Point Boat Tour is Smooth as Silk


Morrow Point Boat Tour is only 1.5 hours from Ouray, Colorado in Curecanti National Recreation Area

Morrow point boat tour 2The Morrow Point Boat Tour is an easy day trip from Ouray and a great way to spend a day on your Southwest Colorado vacation.  The tour typically runs from Memorial Day until Labor Day and departs from the Pine Creek Access Point at Curecanti National Recreation Area (mile marker 130 on US50, one mile or so east of Sapinaro).  The ranger guided tour lasts for 90 minutes and floats along the ultra smooth waters of the Gunnison River between Blue Mesa Dam and the Morrow Point Dam.  Access to this body of water is very limited so there is very little boat traffic (we only saw one person in a kayak who was fishing).

Morrow point boat tour 6The canyon walls tower above the water and as you begin your float downstream, the park ranger spends the first forty-five minutes explaining the unique geology as well as the flora and fauna of the canyon, the discovery of the canyons, the history of the railroads and the creation of the dams.   Birds soar overhead while small mammals scurry along the banks searching for food.  Wild rasberries dot the landscape as well as sagebrush and gambel oak and a combination of firs and spruce trees.  On the return portion of the ride, the ranger mingles with the tourists and you can enjoy the ride.  Eating is permitted on the boat. 

Morrow point boat tour 1Access to the boat tour consists of a long walk down some stairs followed by a wonderful dirt path along the river.  It amounts to some 3/4 mile walk one way and 232 stairs down the canyon walls and then 232 stairs up to the parking area following your excursion.   There is no easy way out except a very slow ascent but there are several benches along the way so take your time.  In addition, there are wonderful picnic sites with some shade along the path by the river and it is a wonderful place to enjoy a restful snack either before or after your tour.

If you go: 

  • You must have reservations and have paid in advance as they have no way to take a payment from the dock.  July is a busy month so plan a few days ahead to ensure your party can be accommodated. 
  • Sit on the starboard side of the boat for best viewing.  It is an out and back tour so technically, you will get great views regardless of which side you choose but the canyon is nearly east/west so the sun will be at your back during the morning tour while heading downstream and might help you get better photos.
  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat.  It is hot in the canyon and there will be plenty of sun. 
Additional photos from the Morrow Point Boat Tour are located on our Facebook Page.
Other Articles about Day Trips from Ouray

Hiking Near Ouray Colorado: Silver Shield Trail


A Short Afternoon Hike to Great Vistas Await You on the Silvershield Trail by Ouray

hayden mountain near ourayFor those people visiting on a Colorado vacation who enjoy hiking, Ouray Colorado is one of the best places to enjoy the trails.  Ouray County boasts over 74 trails throughout the area.  From the City of Ouray, there are numerous hiking trails that lead up into the National Forest and eventually into some National Wilderness areas.  Ouray Colorado hiking has its share of steep ascents and some trails have switchbacks to ease the burden.  Many hiking trails in Ouray provide great views of the surrounding mountains and the Silvershield Trail is no exception.  

The Silvershield Trail begins north of the downtown area next to the Silvershield Mine.  Find the trailhead off of Ouray County Road 17 (County Road 17 is the former railroad grade road that parallels the Uncompaghre River from 7th Avenue and heads north) about 1 mile north of the intersection at 7th Avenue near the mine relics that share its name.

Once you find the trailhead, the trail itself is easy to follow!  The trail begins steeply ascending the beautiful red rock cliff face; it is hot and dry here with some loose rock but it gets better.  There is a small overlook and memorial after 0.3 miles.  

The trail remains fairly steep until you reach the junction of the Oak Creek and Corbett Trails about 1.1 miles.  Just muscle through it because it gets much better!

The remaining 1.2 miles to the intersection of the Twin Peaks Trailhead are less steep and the ground gets nicer and the bounty of the forest reveals lush areas with wildflowers, native grasses, spruce trees and aspens.   Once you reach the intersection of the Old Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks Trail and the Silvershield Trail you can enjoy a snack overlooking some amazing vistas.  You can retrace your steps or take a new way down to get back to Ouray.

It helps to have the Ouray Trail Groups wonderful topographic map of the area.  We sell it at the hotel, and it is readily available throughout Ouray County.  You can order it online too from Ouray Mountain Sports or the Ouray Trail Group if you like to plan in advance.

This is a mostly dry trail (unless you descend via Oak Creek) so bring plenty of water as there is virtually no replenishment in July.  Silvershield trail is 4.6 miles out and back.

Enjoy our natural hot springs that are terraced on the hillside after your adventure; the natural hot springs water reinvigorates tired muscles so you can enjoy a delicious dinner in town!


million dollar highway


us550 from silver shield


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silvershield trail views looking northeast

Ridgway State Park: Lake Appreciation Day - July 16, 2011


ridgway state parkRidgway State Park is located 15 minutes north of Ouray just off of US Highway 550 between Montrose and Ridgway.  It houses three great camping locations, some yurts for rent, as well as the 1000 surface-acre reservoir.  Ridgway State Park offers many activities for young and old including fishing, hiking, biking, walking, boating, kayaking, swimming, and more.  

Lake Appreciation Day:

The 3rd Annual Lake Appreciation Day will take place on July 16, 2011 at Ridgway Reservoir. 

  • It will run from 10 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon.  
  • There will be swimming, concessions, educational opportunities, H2O Joe, a nature walk, a boat tour and many more fun activities.  
  • This year it will be part of the National Lets Move Outside Campaign started by Michelle Obama to help combat childhood obesity.  
  • It has been sponsored by Tri-County Water Conservancy and Friends of Ridgway State Parks.  
  • It would be great to have you there.  Come down to the reservoir and Appreciate the Lake with us.

Hiking in Ouray: The Ouray Perimeter Trail Rocks!


hike ouray perimeter trailThe Ouray Perimeter Trail, the newest hiking trail near Ouray Colorado is a 4.2 mile loop around the cliffs and hills of this strikingly beautiful Colorado mountain town in the San Juans.

This trail has several access points and  includes a suspension bridge, a tunnel, and walks past two waterfalls.  There are several nice spots along the trail to enjoy a picnic so bring plenty of water and snacks and make it a fun, outdoor activity for everyone.

This trail effectively links other trails that leave from Ouray together and hikers will see incredible mountain vistas as they circumnavigate this quintessential mountain town.  

I included the historical photo of a portion of this trail so that you can appreciate the toughness of generations of early Ouray settlers as they descend from the early water tunnel.  (Historical photo courtesy of the Ouray Historical Society).  Both photos in this post are on that water tunnel trail section and show that the only thing that changed were the clothes people wear!


ouray perimeter trail historical


A map and description of the Ouray Perimeter Trail outlines the route in some detail but there are signs indicating the way as well as trail markers.  The final section of the trail uses existing town roads but the western leg of the trail is expected to be completed in the near future.  The Ouray Trails Group is responsible for all of this work and they are to be commended for an outstanding trail, suitable for most active families and adults.

Last Dollar Road Between Telluride & Ouray Colorado Wildflower Update


Colorado Wildflower Update 2011: Southwest Colorado Between Telluride & Ouray

During a Colorado vacation in the San Juan Mountains, don't miss the wildflowers that start blooming in June and complete their cycle by the end of August.  Hunting for them is most of the fun.  As of July 5, 2011, there are fantastic fields of wildflowers on Last Dollar Road. 

Access Last Dollar Road off of Colorado Highway 62, about 12 miles west of Ridgway, just beyond the summit of the Dallas Divide, in Southwest Colorado.  The road is a forest service road and there is a brown sign very close to the turnoff.  It is closed seasonally but summer is a perfect time to check it out!

The road itself from this approach is very doable in a 2 wheel drive car for a few miles (until you cross the creek) even though it is a dirt road.  After the creek, it is a very easy 4WD vehicle when it is dry; if it gets wet, it could be very rutted and difficult to maneuver.  

The lupine and sunflowers are absolutely wonderful right now!  Some paintbrush are out as well as the wild roses and in some wetter spots, there are some Queen Anne's Lace.  If you take the road all the way to Telluride, you will see some free range cattle and sheep along the way.  We also ran into a young buck.    I thought the best part of the road for flowers was before the creek crossing; after the creek crossing there were lovely spots, just not as dramatic at this point.  Photos were taken July 5, 2011.

 As of July 5, 2011:

last dollar road july 2011


last dollar road colorado july 211


last dollar road telluride colorado





sunflowers lupine



aspens along last dollar road


Ouray Has a Mine Tour: Learn About Colorado Mining Country!


Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour in Ouray is a Great Thing to Do with Kids While Visiting Southwest Colorado

Bachelor Syracuse Mine TourJust days ago, if someone had asked what a ‘Single Jack” was you may have thought the term had something to do with online dating. After spending a few hours at the Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour, this and many other terms and phrases will have new meaning.

A short drive north of Ouray, off of County Road 14, hours of entertainment is to be had for the whole family. Mine tours run promptly every hour on the hour, but fear not if you arrive at 1:15; there are plenty of things to see and do while waiting for the next trip into the mine.

blacksmith shop ouray coloradoThere is a working blacksmith shop, where the smith is forging all sorts of metal works most of which are functional tools. Standing behind the safety line, it is fascinating to watch as a red hot piece of metal is shaped into a horseshoe, hammerhead, or knife blade. All questions are good naturedly answered as the host hammers away.

Either before or after the mine tour, don’t miss out on panning for your own gold or silver! In the gift shop you can gear up, then head down to the water and learn the art of gold panning. You also get a jar to put in all the spoils of your efforts, so happy panning!

mine tour cafe ouray coloradoDon’t eat before you head up either! The Bachelors Café serves a phenomenal breakfast, and the brisket sandwich special at lunch is fantastic. It is a blast to watch the chef cook up our meal as he banters with guests and co workers, bringing smiles and belly chuckles as your mouth waters from the smell of your meal on his grill.

Now, no trip to the Mine would be complete without at least a visit to Fence Post and The Bachelor’s Stable. Whether you are a seasoned rider or have never been near a horse, the easy happy demeanor of Fence and his staff put you in the frame of mind of a Cowboy. Of course, they may not let you rope any calves, but a leisurely ride in the hills around the mine on one of their beautiful and well trained horses is an experience not to be missed!

OK, so it’s time for the mine tour! Before boarding the ore car which will take you deep into the mine, you have to gear up. This may be one of the funnest parts of the tour, as everyone gets into a hard hat and rain jacket. The young man guiding you to the hats and jackets is friendly and informative, making a few little jokes as everyone dons their new attire. He lets everyone know that there won’t be a lot of water dripping on you; the jackets are mainly for warmth as the temperature is quite a few degrees cooler inside of the mine. I think the hats are just cool.

entering the mine tour on tram in ouray

Once everyone is geared up, it’s time to board the ore cars. Everyone straddles the benches of a car, and the journey begins. It is hard not to imagine what it must have been like even just a few years ago for real miners taking this same journey every day, but not stopping at the first alcove, travelling deeper into the mountain in the search of veins of silver and gold. In the cavern the tour guide stops, it is difficult to comprehend the strength and drive of the men who once filled this and so many other mines in search of wealth. Even more so when the guide turns out the lights to give one a better sense of the near absolute darkness the miners toiled in day and night.

Perhaps the impression that your hard hat was important for its cool factor alone was a bit hasty, as you can almost feel the weight of the rocks overhead recede upon emerging back into the outside world. After having returned all your miners gear, the gold and silver in the gift shop seems to have a little bit more meaning after having seen how difficult it is to get. Of course, there are also hard hats for the kids in a plethora of colors, which can’t possibly be left on the shelves.

Then it’s back in the car, and a return drive back down County Road 14. You may have seen the signs for Lake Lenore on the way up the hill, but now coming back down, it is impossible to miss the lake itself, and even harder to avoid a quick side trip to gaze at this beautiful little mountain lake.

Farther down the road, you can’t help but marvel at the splendor of the landscape before you, and perhaps feel a twinge of envy for the folks lucky enough to live up on this hill and enjoy this view every day. Of course, it’s fantastic to be able to go home and tell all of your friends about the amazing adventures you’ve had, and there is still a nice long soak at the Box Canyon Lodge to look forward to!

Here are other ways to learn about San Juan Mountain Mining history too!

About the author:  Maria Ziemba works at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs and raises her daughter in Ouray.  She loves greeting our guests and sharing stories and advice for visitors to Ouray and destinations beyond in Southwest Colorado.

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Yankee Boy Basin Near Ouray Colorado Wildflower Update


Colorado Wildflower Update 2011: Southwest Colorado Near Ouray

July 31, 2011

Pictures of flowers near Twin Falls from July 31, 2011, show that the flowers are still in full bloom.  The basin near Twin Falls has numerous flowers that are out and there are many that still have buds too.  The flowers will be fantastic for many more days.  Remember wildflower etiquette:  Do not pick the flowers and try not to walk on them either so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of the basin!

July 22, 2011

Pictures of flowers near Twin Falls from July 22, 2011, from a mobile phone, show that the flowers are coming in beautifully.  The basin near Twin Falls has numerous flowers that are out and there are tons of buds too so the flowers will be fantastic for many more days.  Remember wildflower etiquette:  Do not pick the flowers and try not to walk on them either so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of the basin!

July 1, 2011

Ouray Colorado Wildflowers in Yankee Boy Basin look a little behind schedule in 2011.  Typically, wildflowers peak during the third week of July (July 24th). Here are pictures from July 1, 2011 from Twin Falls and above.  Notice the snow coverage and beautiful lush green foliage.  Yankee Boy Basin is filled with seasonal waterfalls and streams.  There are a few flowers out now, but, the majority are still developing!


Stacking Rocks Just to Stack Them well above Twin Falls


stacking rocks just to stack them yankee boy basin resized 600






Colorado columbines near Twin Falls in Yankee Boy Basin

yankee boy basin columbine


Deer in the woods below Twin Falls

yankee boy basin deer


Jeep sitting between Twin Falls and Wrights Lake Spur

yankee boy basin jeeping


Seasonal Streams and Waterfalls

yankee boy basin seasonal waterfalls


Wrights Lake Spur in Yankee Boy Basin - Notice the trail requires a little snow travel at this point.

yankee boy basin wrights lake spur2 resized 600


Wrights Lake Spur Looking East

yankee boy basin wrights lake spur resized 600


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Telluride: Just a Short Scenic Drive Away from Ouray


Dallas Divide San Juan SkywayEnjoy a Day of Fun in Telluride, Just A 1 Hour Drive from Ouray

Although Ouray and Telluride are less than 10 miles apart as the crow flies, the practical person takes a scenic drive along the San Juan Skyway over the Dallas Divide (second most photographed area in Colorado) and makes it to Telluride in less than one hour.

telluride gondola is free

While in Telluride, take the free gondola ride that connects the two towns:  Mountain Village and Telluride.  Have a dog with you?  Just make sure you get into the car marked as "pet friendly" and let your playful pooch enjoy the mountain air too!  Want to take your bicycle?  No problem, most cars are equipped with a bicycle transport rack on the outside of the car.  And, the gondola ride is still free!

Midway through the ride, at the apex of route, get off and enjoy a nature center and some mountain top hiking trails and bike trails.  You can also mountain bike your way to the bottom of the mountain.

telluride miner statue

Like Ouray, Telluride is a National Historic District and it was founded in the late 1800s with a deep rooted history in hard rock mining, but, unlike Ouray, Telluride has a sister town adjacent to it called Mountain Village.  Mountain Village is a very contemporary, relatively new community with many resort amenities like those found in Vail or Breckenridge.  The gondola serves as public transportation between the two towns and provides people with many unique experiences.

There are numerous restaurants and stores where you can shop, dine, and hang out.  In Mountain Village, there is a jumping swing whereby kids can get clipped into a harness and jump, jump, and jump.  There are lovely walking spaces, public art, and beautiful gardens too.

Telluride is home to festivals all summer long and has a very nice historical museum.

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