Windy Lake Provincial Park in the Winter

Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: January 2023

Windy Lake Provincial Park is located northwest of Sudbury and is open year-round. In the winter, Windy Lake offers a variety of activities including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. It also has roofed accommodations available for a comfortable and cozy camping experience.

We managed to book one of the rustic cabins at Windy Lake for the end of January. It was a bit of a rough drive to get there as we encountered some heavy snow and wind just before Sudbury. By the time we arrived at the park, it was just after 10p.m. I had called the park office in advance to let them know that we’d be arriving after hours and they indicated that they’d leave the key to the cabin under the lid of the BBQ.

There are two rustic cabins at the park, both are located near the shore of Windy Lake by the group camping area. The access road to the cabins is located beside the park entrance to the left. The road was in pretty decent shape, except for near the shoreline where the wind had created some deep snowdrifts. We initially parked at the overflow parking area and walked in to assess the conditions. It wasn’t fun. We walked back to the car and decided to just give it a go. Worst case scenario we’d have to use the shovel outside the cabin if we got stuck. And of course we got stuck, but it wasn’t too bad. It was much better than making multiple trips through the snowdrifts to haul our gear in.

The cabin consists of a single room with an enclosed front porch. It can sleep up to six people and comes equipped with a queen bed and a double bunk bed. It also has a table with two chairs and two benches, lighting, a propane fireplace and a small kitchenette with a mini fridge, microwave, kettle and coffee maker. We just had to bring our sleeping bags, pillows, food and water for the weekend.

In case you’re wondering what the washroom situation is like, there are two heated vault toilets located a couple hundred metres away from the rustic cabins. There is no running water, but there is lighting inside. And as far as vault toilets go, they were pretty decent. According to the pamphlet that was left for us inside our cabin, we could also use the flush toilets in the nearby ski chalet.

The cabin was already pretty warm when we arrived. We unrolled our sleeping bags and got ready for bed.

Day 1: Cross-Country Skiing

We woke up to a beautiful day of blue skies and sun. It’s been a bit of a drab and dreary winter so far in southern Ontario and this was the first time in nearly two weeks since we’ve had clear skies. In the daylight we were able to more fully appreciate the beautiful scenery, including a nice view of Windy Lake.

Given all the snow, we were a bit concerned that we’d be stuck at the cabin, but the snowplow came by just before 9a.m to clear the road. So after eating a late breakfast, we headed to the park office to officially check-in. We then drove across the road to the ski chalet. The park has partnered with the Onaping Falls Nordics Ski Club, which maintains over 15 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails. We picked up our trail pass and got fitted for rentals (they accept cash only).

Most of the trails originate at the ski chalet. We started off nice and easy with one of the beginner trails to warm-up. The trail loops through the campground where the four yurts are located, along with the snowshoeing trail. It was quite chilly outside, so we were eager to get moving. The tracks were already set, the trails groomed and we were ready to go.

Once we looped back to the chalet, we headed in the other direction, which required having to take off our skies to cross the road. From here there are three trails to choose from: beginner, intermediate and advanced. We were looking for more of a challenge, but haven’t quite gotten used to our cross-country skis yet, so we landed on the intermediate trail. There were a few interconnecting paths, but we followed the blue arrows to where we needed to go.

The intermediate trail is also known as the Devon Kershaw Trail (5.2km). It was named in honour of Devon Kershaw, an Olympic cross-country skier who grew up in Sudbury and learned to ski at the Onaping Falls Nordics Ski Club. It was marked with blue arrows and there was a sign at every kilometre to help keep track of how much distance we’ve covered.

The trail got down to business right away with a hill to climb up. The trail then meanders through the snowy forest. The path is wide and there is one set of groomed tracks for cross-country skiing on the right. There were a few hilly sections with two really steep hills, but thankfully there was a warning sign ahead so we could brace ourselves and keep our fingers crossed that we didn’t wipe out, which only partially worked.

The trail connects with the advanced trail (marked with red arrows) for a short stretch before looping back to the beginning. We took off our skis to cross the road and followed the rest of the beginner trail through the other side of the park, which passes the summer entrance and park sign. It leads back to the chalet.

At this point it was just past 1p.m and we were getting hungry. We decided to return our rentals as the chalet closes at 3p.m anyway, which wouldn’t give us much time to squeeze in another trail. We picked up our boots, which were sitting right by the fireplace so they were toasty warm. We then drove back to our cabin to eat a late lunch, make a cup of tea and take a break.

We headed out later in the afternoon to snowshoe along the Transition Trail (3km round trip, rated easy), the only trail in Windy Lake. We parked at the chalet and walked along the path to the yurts, which follows the cross-country ski trail. The trailhead is located by site #31 (the last yurt).

The snow was well compacted along the trail for the first stretch. It gets down to business right away with a steep climb up a ridge. The trail then heads down the ridge before winding back up the ridge. This made us seriously question the “easy” rating of this trail. The footprints in the snow stopped before the second serious uphill, perhaps a warning sign for us to turn around. But we forged ahead through the fresh snow, climbing up (then down) a few more steep sections.

The only “easy” thing about this trail was that it was easy to navigate. The trail is well-signed with yellow markers on the trees. The path leads to the rim of a huge crater made by a meteorite that impacted the earth nearly 2 billion years ago. Being up high meant that we could catch a glimpse of the surrounding area, including Windy Lake, through the trees.

And what comes up must come down. At the bench, we headed back towards the campground. Here the path was signed with blue markers. Once we looped back to the campground, we retraced our steps to the chalet. By the time we wrapped up our hike, the sun was low in the sky and it was starting to feel chillier outside.

We returned to the cabin to make some dinner on the BBQ and fried up some burgers and veggie kabobs.

The temperature was expected to plunge to -20°C overnight, so we were thankful our cabin was toasty warm.

Day 2: Winter Hiking

We must have been exhausted from all the outdoor activities from yesterday because we slept in later than usual. After eating a late breakfast, we packed up and headed out. We checked out of the cabin at 9:30a.m and returned our key at the Park Office. We stopped at the chalet to refill our water bottles and to use the heated washrooms.

We initially planned to go to the A.Y. Jackson Lookout, located 10 minutes from Windy Lake, except the parking lot was full of snow. Instead we went to Lake Laurentian Conservation Area, which is located in Sudbury and offers a variety of different trails. We parked at P2, which is located on South Bay Road just over the hill from PI, to hike the Mount Ramsey Trail (3km loop) and Beaver Pond Trail (3km loop) to form a larger loop.

From the parking lot, we first hiked a few hundred metres along the Beaver Pond Trail (signed with red markers), which leads over a wide boardwalk to the forest. At the junction, there was a sign with a turnoff for Mount Ramsey Trail (signed with red markers). We turned left and started to follow the yellow markers deeper through the forest.

The trail features two lookouts, the first overlooks Ramsey Lake and the second provides another panoramic view of the surrounding area. In case you’re not feeling the trail, there’s even a shortcut just before the first lookout. Despite all the snow, the trail was in pretty good condition so we continued onwards. It was also noticeably colder this morning and windy (-12°C felt like -18°C with the wind chill), so we were thankful for the uphills that led to the two scenic lookouts.

The trail connects again with the Beaver Pond Trail, which features a scenic lookout of the wetlands where we first began our hike. The path also intersects with a couple of other trails, but we continued following the red markers.

We wrapped up our hike in the early afternoon and hopped back in the car, thankful to be out of the wind. It was then time to head home. While it was a bit of a drive to get to Sudbury, we had a wonderful weekend enjoying the snow and some of the winter activities in the area.


105 thoughts on “Windy Lake Provincial Park in the Winter

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We seem to be getting less snow here as well over the years. Sudbury is actually the snowiest city in Ontario though and I’d say it lived up to its reputation. It’s a bit of a drive to get to, it’s just under five hours from where we live, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to have snow if you visit in the winter. We’re hoping to return again next year as the cross-country skiing was fantastic.

  1. Lyssy In The City says:

    That is such a beautiful trail to cross country. I love when the snow is all thick and fluffy like that. The burgers and veggies look good too, I wish I could have a grill, one day!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The conditions for cross-country skiing were fantastic and the fresh layer of snow made the forest look magical, especially when the sun was shining. One of my favourite things about staying in these rustic cabins is that there’s a BBQ. It was a nice preview for summer.

  2. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, just look at all that white and fluffy snow, I wish we at least had a fraction of it in Ireland! I believe that just because there are snow and chilly temperatures, it doesn’t mean outdoor exploring and adventures have to go into hibernation.

    There are plenty of winter activities to do during the cooler months, and some of the best can take place in the national parks. All you have to do is don your warmest parka, cosiest hat and gloves and lace up your snow boots. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The forest always looks so picturesque after a fresh snowfall. The conditions were perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. If anything, the cooler temperatures were kind of nice after working up a sweat! I’m always surprised to hear how some people don’t really do much in the winter. It’s actually one of my favourite seasons for being outdoors as the trails are typically quieter and there are no bugs. It’s also much easier to book one of the roofed accommodations at our provincial and national parks. Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

  3. wetanddustyroads says:

    When you don’t have to pitch a tent in such extreme weather conditions, a rustic cabin is luxury accommodation 🙂. Your ski route looks like a white fairy tale wonderland – beautiful photos! Mmm, and dinner looks great … love your veggie kebabs.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know! These roofed accommodations are a great way to enjoy our parks in the offseason. We’ve tried winter camping once, and that was enough for me. It’s much more comfortable to stay in one of these rustic cabins or yurts. The snowy conditions were perfect for cross-country skiing. We certainly earned our dinner that night!

  4. Diana says:

    This looks really pretty! (And really cold.) I love cross-country skiing and this seems like a really nice place to do so. I’m impressed you snowshoed after skiing!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s kind of funny how in the winter it’s typically the sunny days that are the coldest ones. It was actually quite comfortable for cross-country skiing once we started to work up a sweat. We seriously underestimated the snowshoeing trail. The park had listed it as an “easy” hike so we decided to give it a whirl later in the afternoon. It was definitely not easy (or maybe we’re just seriously out of shape)! We worked for our dinner that night!

      • Diana says:

        Yeah, that happens here too. But those sunny days are always so beautiful! Glad you guys enjoyed this one even though it was challenging

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure! The sunny days are great for taking pictures and getting some fresh air. It was also nice having a warm cabin to return to to take a break from the cold.

  5. kagould17 says:

    Looks like a fabulous place for a winter break, Linda….if you want to embrace winter. Your first day cross country skiing and snowshoeing had stellar weather and conditions. That “rustic” cabin looks pretty great as well. Glad it all worked out for you. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but If you live in a place like Canada, it’s best to figure out how to embrace winter otherwise it feels like it drags on even longer! Over the past few years we’ve really enjoyed hiking in the winter and cross-country skiing. It’s a great way to experience a different side of our parks, plus it’s generally not as busy and there are no bugs. We’ve also gotten a bit tired of camping during the summer with all the crowds and noise and much prefer to visit during the off season now. Staying in some of the roofed accommodations like the rustic cabins are much easier to book then too. Thanks for reading. Linda

      • kagould17 says:

        Agreed. In summer, when everyone leaves for the campground or the beach, we stay home and enjoy our yard. Being retired means we can go hiking or biking on the weekdays, so that is a bonus. Allan

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It’s the best way to go. The only camping trips we have in the books for this summer are in the backcountry. We’re hoping to spend more time in our own backyard this summer too as I have big plans for gardening.

  6. John says:

    Wow, such a beautiful park! Beautiful views and so much snow, the lake is gorgeous. I would want to be riding a snowmobile! ❤️🇨🇦

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Sudbury is actually the snowiest city in Ontario, so the whole area around Windy Lake looked like a winter wonderland. Apparently there are hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails. We just stuck to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing though. As much as I enjoy the snow, I’m looking forward to the warmer weather!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There are only two of these rustic cabins in the park and I had to book our reservation nearly half a year in advance. The weather can be unpredictable in the winter, but I’m glad it worked out and that we got to enjoy some blue skies! And the fresh snow looked so pretty, especially when the sun was shining.

      • Christie says:

        I know some of the good cabins are sold out very quickly! Same with good camping sites, reason we bought a cottage (years ago)🙂
        I keep repeating myself we should try one of these cabins during the winter time, they look so cute!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Good call on getting your own cottage! That sounds like a much better alternative to fighting the crowds and dealing with the stress from trying to reserve a campsite or cabin! We’ve stayed in a couple yurts too, but the rustic cabins are my favourite.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve really tried to embrace all the snow here in Canada, otherwise it can feel like a really long winter. The hiking is much more challenging (it’s a great workout though), but having snowshoes or cross-country skis helps. The trails are much quieter and there are no bugs around. I can tolerate the cold, except for when it’s windy.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve actually camped at Windy Lake a couple of times and I can confirm that it’s a great place to visit in the summer. The campground is relatively small, so it’s typically quieter compared to some of the other parks closer to the GTA.

  7. Little Miss Traveller says:

    The cabin looked cosy and the snowy landscape beautiful. I’ve only tried cross country skiing once and that was in Finland. I found it much more difficult than downhill because I hadn’t had any tuition. I’ve not tried snow shoeing yet but would like to give it a go.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Cross-country skiing is harder than it looks, but it’s a great way to enjoy the snowy scenery and get a great workout in! Snowshoeing is much easier, but can also be a great workout. I find they provide better traction and are great for forging a path through the snow. I think you’d really enjoy it.

      • Little Miss Traveller says:

        Yes, I’m sure I’d enjoy both just need a few lessons. When I kept falling over whilst attempting to cross country ski I got some awful bruises as I always landed on the back of the skis! Will definitely try again.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        The first time we went cross-country skiing we foolishly skipped the lessons. We figured how hard could it be? You’re just gliding over the snow! Let’s just say we didn’t make that mistake again! Falling is never fun, but it’s always good to learn the right away to fall to prevent injuries and bruises.

  8. Monkey's Tale says:

    You really had great skies on the first day, but your red ceeks and nose show that it was chilly! I love that they named a trail after Devon, good to support our Olympians 😊 Maggie

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s kind of funny how the sunny days are usually also the coldest ones in winter. But it didn’t take us long to warm-up from cross-country skiing! And agreed, it was nice of the ski club to name one of their trails in honour of one of our Olympians. It sounds like Devon really embraced Canadian winters and all the snow too.

  9. Ab says:

    Looks like a wonderful weekend, despite all the snow. The drive seemed worth it!

    The cabin looks great, very clean and all the amenities that you need. Good thing it was warm enough for the -20 weather.

    One of my good friends recently got into cross country skiing and I can see the appeal of those trails! And especially with a nice bbq at the end of it.

    We have a weekend in Killarney booked with cousins this summer. I can’t wait to go back and explore. If time permits, may check out Windy Lake nearby too.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s a long drive to Sudbury, but it was definitely worth it, even if it meant driving through some slightly treacherous conditions with all the blowing snow. It was fun to try out one of the rustic cabins at Windy Lake. There are only two of them and they are tucked away by the water.

      Cross-country skiing is a great way to keep warm while it’s freezing cold outside. And let me tell you, it is a total body workout! It is a lot of fun though and it’s a great way to cover more distance in a shorter amount of time compared to snowshoeing.

      That’s exciting that you’ll be visiting Killarney this summer!! We’re actually heading up there in the beginning of May (hopefully before all the bugs take over) and will be staying in one of the yurts. I was looking into doing some backcountry camping there later this summer, but seemed to have missed the boat (or canoe?) in terms of reservations.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Linda

      • Ab says:

        It definitely looks like it’s worth the drive even in the snow. I’ll have to try cross country one day. Just need our little one to mature a bit more as it may be too tiring for him and then we’d be in trouble.

        Backcountry camping in Killarney would be amazing! Hope there are still spots left.

        Have a great week ahead. Yay for two consecutive short weeks!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I’m always amazed at how much energy kids have!! But yes, good call on maybe waiting a few years to try cross-country skiing with T. While it’s easier to cover more distance, if things don’t work out, it can be an even longer walk back! I’d also highly recommend taking lessons beforehand, which is something we’ve learned the hard way! Who knew gliding on the snow could require so much work!?

        We may just end up returning to Algonquin for another backcountry adventure if Killarney doesn’t work out. But next year I’ll be better prepared and mark the date in my calendar as soon as the reservation window opens at 7am, five months in advance!

        I’m sooo looking toward to the extra long weekend! We’re hoping to go to the cabin for a couple of days.

      • Ab says:

        The lessons sound like a good plan! Will wait till he’s older.

        Algonquin is always lovely and sounds more than adequate for a backup plan! 😆😊

        Booking camping is always stressful but with that said, we were able to get our 1 camping weekend booked last weekend. 🙌 Going back to Killbear, one of our favorite parks. Summer is shaping up to be busy and exciting.

        Enjoy your time at the cabin!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. It’s great that we have so many camping options in Ontario. But the reservation process can be stressful especially given how popular camping has become. It’s awesome that you managed to book something in Killarney over a weekend in the summer! I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and sunshine. Speaking of which, the weather forecast for the long weekend is looking promising!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Fingers crossed it stays that way for awhile! I’m not a fan of the crazy temperature swings. I do enjoy the thunderstorms that come from it though, like the one from this morning!

  10. elvira797mx says:

    So beautiful place, great photos! Love the cabin so cozy and “Have fun, be fun”.
    Thank’s for share, Linda. Have a wonderful day!
    Keep well.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a bit of a drive to get here, but we had a wonderful weekend enjoying the snowy scenery. It felt good to be cross-country skiing again. The trails were all nicely groomed. And the best part was that it wasn’t very busy!!

  11. Laura says:

    A cozy cabin in the snowy woods is my kind of getaway! I have not cross-country skied for so many years but grew up doing it, and this post gave me such a craving for it. ❄️

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was fun to stay in one of the rustic cabins at Windy Lake and experience a quieter side of the park. It made for such a fun weekend adventure. The conditions were fantastic for cross-country skiing and to enjoy the winter scenery. I am looking forward to spring though!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The rustic cabin at Windy Lake was quite comfortable and cozy. It is very minimalist, but was perfect for the two of us. We had a wonderful weekend enjoying the snow!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! We had a very gloomy winter this year and this was our first day of enjoying some blue skies and sun in a couple of weeks. It’s funny how much the sun can make such a huge difference in our moods. It really does transform the snowy forest and I love how it makes the snow sparkle and shine.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The snow always adds an extra element of challenge. No complaints though as we were in desperate need of a good workout after eating like monsters over the holidays. It may be cold, but at least the snow looks beautiful!

  12. grandmisadventures says:

    Beautiful pictures! What a fun way to spend a couple of days getting out and enjoying those great trails! You just can’t go wrong with some blue skies while you ski and hike. Love the picture of you two 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! We’ve been trying to do a better job of enjoying our winter here in Canada. Cross-country skiing is a great way to stay warm in the cold. And it’s a great way to enjoy the snowy landscape. Plus it was nice knowing we had a warm cabin to return to afterwards for some hot chocolate!

  13. wanderwithfaith says:

    Sad that BBQ is gone already and Day two looks interesting and totally love the Beaver Pond Trail and the view of the wetlands. That must have been a fun packed two day trip!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a fun weekend adventure and a great way to embrace winter. It was nice how our cabin came equipped with a BBQ. It gave us a sneak peak of what summer will be like. As much as we enjoyed the snow, I’m now looking forward to warmer weather!

  14. leightontravels says:

    The toasty warm cabin hidden in the snowy woods – it has all the makings of a perfect weekend getaway. Οr a brilliant horror film ha ha. I love your photos as always! I’m afraid winter sports are not my forte, but you do making snowshoeing and cross-country skiing sound very appealing. You certainly had great outdoor exercise on that first day. I would enjoy the snow hike, the trails look so beautiful and the snow soft and fluffy. I’m impressed that on the second day you had strength enough to go hiking.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ha! It actually does feel a bit spooky to arrive at the park after hours when everything is dark and quiet. My biggest concern is that we’ll get to the cabin only to discover that someone else is inside. This actually happened to us once, but thankfully the lights were on and the people inside saw us turn into the driveway. It turns out they got the cabin numbers mixed up so we ended up trading for the weekend.

      I’ve learned that it’s best to try to embrace the winter otherwise it feels even longer. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are a great way to stay warm when it’s cold outside. It is quite the workout. I’m not going to lie, we were feeling pretty sore on day two, but we figured we might as well make the most of it since we drove all this way here. It’s not bad once you get going though.

  15. Bernie says:

    Love the blue skies and all the outside activities. Temp was perfect. -10 is ideal to keep warm in with any of those options. I haven’t crossed country skied since I moved to the country and don’t have a trail setter. Those trails looks amazing! So did someone fall? No injuries I hope Linda.
    Great idea to grill supper with such a limited kitchen.
    Perfect weekend way to embrace winter!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. The conditions were fantastic for cross-country skiing. The tracks were just groomed and we were among some of the first people to hit the trails. In some ways it was nice that the temperature was a bit chilly as it helped cool us down whenever we had to tackle an uphill. I think we both fell once on different downhill sections. Only our pride was injured. Haha. But not really. We certainly worked for our supper that night. It was awesome how our cabin came with a BBQ. It’s always nice to have a hot meal after spending the day outdoors.

  16. rkrontheroad says:

    NIce looking and well equipped cabin. How nice that it was warm when you arrived! That first sun lighting up the snow photo at Windy Lake is great. I’d go for those veggie kabobs!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There are only two of these rustic cabins in the park and I had to make our reservation nearly half a year in advance. The cabin was quite comfortable and spacious for the two of us. It was nice to have somewhere warm to return to after spending the day outside in the snow. We ended up making most of our meals on the BBQ. It was very convenient.

  17. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    So wonderful place full beauty of nature and so calm and quiet place 🌹🙏👍🏻
    And the photography marvellous and still winter mist can see the places ❄️
    So awesome photo you two dears as well 💕😍thank you for sharing dear friend 🌹🙏

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Driving in the snow to get to Windy Lake was a bit treacherous, but it was awesome for all the winter activities we had planned for the weekend. It may be cold, but at least the snow looks beautiful. As much as I enjoy winter though, I’m ready for spring!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. We had a really dark and gloomy winter this year, so it was really nice to take advantage of the sunny day and spend time outdoors. I just love how the sun makes the snow sparkle and shine. It was cold, but beautiful.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We picked up cross-country skiing a few years ago as we found it’s a great activity to enjoy all the snow. It’s quite the total body workout, but we can cover more distance compared to when we snowshoe. We’ve been trying to do a better job of embracing winter, otherwise it can feel like the cold weather drags on forever.

      • brandib1977 says:

        I am a fan of leaning into your circumstances – especially when it’s something you don’t love. Winter is much more enjoyable when you accept it and find ways to make the season a happy time. I’m glad you found this pastime!

      • brandib1977 says:

        I actually love to hike in the winter because it’s quieter and there are no bugs. The snow allows you to see what critters came before you and makes the landscape so much more attractive. Plus, if you layer up properly, it doesn’t seem so cold!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s very true. It’s nice that we get to enjoy all four seasons as the same trail can look so different depending on the time of year, which always keeps things interesting. It’s all about having the right gear (and attitude)!

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