Hiking Hondo

June 14, 2014

P1020078 After not finding a single geocache in May, and really needing to get out on the trail, I posted a note on the SFV Geocachers Facebook page looking for a hike on Saturday, June 14th.  I got one response, James, aka gerfmeister, wanted to hike the Hondo Canyon to Trippet Ranch segment of the Backbone Trail in his quest to complete the Spinal Tap Challenge.  While I only needed a few caches on this trail, it’s one of my favorite sections of the BBT, I needed a hike, and James needed some BBT caching, so it was a deal. We met up on the road outside of Trippet Ranch for the car bridge.  James’ dad, Chris, joined us and we drove to the trailhead near the intersection of Stunt Road and Saddle Peak Road.  As we drove up the hill, we broke out of marine layer and into the sun.  As we started down the trail, I thought that we had the shade of the canyon when we didn’t need it and wouldn’t have any shade at the end of the hike when the marine layer would have burned off and we could use the shade.  Oh well, that’s how it usually goes.

P1020079California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)

I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few wildflower blooms this late in the year.  We didn’t have much rain this winter, and the rain that we did get was late.  I suppose that might be a reason for the late bloom. P1020081 Hondo Canyon is a steep-walled canyon that runs mostly east and west.  Because of that, the south side of the canyon is very shady and cooler than many of the other Santa Monica canyons.  We saw lots of ferns, but the predominant plant was my old friend poison oak. P1020082

Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum)

Poison oak is everywhere in Hondo Canyon.  We got to see its full color spectrum–from bright green, to red, to purple, to almost black.

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 Indian Pink (Silene laciniata)

It wasn’t all poison oak.  We did get to see some nice wildflowers, too.  I don’t remember ever seeing Indian Pink.

P1020085A typical Hondo Canyon field of poison oak.

This was my fourth trip through Hondo Canyon.  The first time was in 2007 when I was hiking the Backbone Trail for the first time.  Once Spinal Tap was published, I had to go back and pick up the caches that I either missed the first time or the caches that had been placed since 2007.  Once I finished the Challenge, I came back again for some of the newer caches.  And, today, I had 6 BBT caches to find. James needed them all.  He hiked out in front and would stop when we got to a cache.  He would find it or we would look together.  If I could remember where I had found it, I’d give him some help.  Chris was also helpful in spotting some of the harder hides. I wasn’t paying much attention to when the next cache was coming up because James was so focused on it.  When we got to Mossy Rocks, I realized that we had walked right by Foo in the Rain, so we turned around and went back up the hill.  When we arrived at the GZ, I spotted the cache, took a step towards it, and the ground disappeared from under my boot.  Down I went–luckily only about 3 or 4 feet and only getting a minor scratch on my leg.

P1020086Chris in the foreground and James up in front

We had a great time going down the canyon.  We met lots of hikers–almost all women–hiking the uphill direction.  Hondo was a popular destination today. After finding Powder Horn Ranch, James and Chris when looking for Paleolith’s Farewell Cache, while I continued on to Hip Eponymous Foo.  They DFNed Paleolith’s Farewell Cache–too much poison oak–while I took a break in the shade.   P1020088

 Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum)

The Backbone Trail crosses Old Topanga, then goes up and over a ridge before dropping down to Topanga Blvd.  Once you cross Topanga, it’s up the hill toward Trippet Ranch.  Of the entire hike, Dead Horse Trail is my least favorite part.  There are lots of “stairs” built with railroad ties–not my favorite way to hike.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting tired at the end of the trail, or if the trail just isn’t as nice as Hondo Canyon, but it’s just something that you have to do to get back to the cars. P1020089 I am probably being too harsh with my assessment of Dead Horse.  As you can see from the photo above, it does have some nice views.

P1020091Chaparral Yucca   (Yucca whipplei)

I had a great hike today.  I made a couple of new friends–James and Chris were good hiking companions–and hopefully avoided the poison oak. 140614 hondo The hike was 7.2 miles and took 6 hours 20 minutes.  We were hiking for 2 hours 40 minutes–the non-walking time was spent looking for our little treasures in the bushes.


Rocky Peak and Hummingbird Trail

April 26, 2014

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After spending a lot of time on Santa Monica Mountain trails chasing down caches for The SuMMit Challenge and the Santa Monica Mountains History Adventure, I haven’t been on the trail for more than 2 months. The reason wasn’t lack of interest; it was lack of time. My long period of unemployment came to an end on March 3rd and I’ve been trekking to work instead of trekking in the hills.

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I finally was able to break the no-hiking streak today with a great hike to the top of Rocky Peak. Mike (lightningstar) and Cheri offered to keep me out of trouble. The 3 of us drove to the parking area off the Rocky Peak/118 bridge and up we went. The day couldn’t have been better for the hike. Cool, clear skies, with nice white clouds and not too much of a breeze made for great hiking conditions. Both Mike and I needed several caches along the road toward Rocky Peak. We found them all, and then it was up to the top of the peak. We did stop at Rocky Peak , a cache that I found on my first day of geocaching on May 5, 2001, to check on its health. Unfortunately, the recent DNF logs had merit—the cache is missing. I hate to see old caches get archived. I hope the owner replaces it. I’ve contacted him and volunteered to replace it, if needed.

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I haven’t been to the summit of Rocky Peak since September 2002 when I found the Virtual cache Vertigo Peak. The new cache, Rocky Peak, is a Traditional cache, located only a few feet from the Virtual. When I look at the gc.com map, the Smiley Found icon for Vertigo Peak is on top of the yet-to-be-found icon for Rocky Peak. Because of that, I wasn’t aware of the cache to be found for a while.

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I don’t mind hiking alone, but I don’t like boulder hopping without a friend nearby. That’s one reason why it was good to have Mike and Cheri along. We negotiated the trail through the rocks to the top of the peak and were rewarded with the best view that I’ve seen in quite a while. And unlike GoinHikin’s Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo that required 4 trips up the hill for me to find (actually Mike found it with some difficulty, even “knowing” where to look). Rocky Peak was in hand fairly quickly. We descended on a rather steep trail on the south side of the mountain and headed south on the road to the Hummingbird Trail junction. We made a few more finds on the way down the hill, and then it was through the drainage tunnel under the 118 and back to Mike and Cheri’s house.

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It was one of those hikes that you don’t want to end. The weather was perfect, the hills and wildflowers were beautiful, and the time with friends was well spent. Total mileage was about 7 miles, with 8 caches found and no DNFs. A good day of caching!

Here are some of the blooms that we saw.  Enjoy.  And Happy Caching!

 

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Tri-Peaks and the Completion of Two Very Nice Challenges

February 22, 2014

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I’ve been working on two very nice challenge caches, both focused on caching in the Santa Monica Mountains.  The Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure requires finding all the active caches that were placed in the Santa Monica Mountains during the first 3 years of geocaching, that is before May 3, 2003.  There is also an “all but two” provision.  Currently, there are 64 required caches, plus the final.  That means to qualify, you need to find 63 caches.   The SuMMit Challenge requires finding a cache within .2 miles of 24 named peaks in the Santa Monica Mountains.  I love hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, so going for these challenges was a natural.

When I learned of The Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure, I had exactly half of the required caches.  I wanted to work on the challenge, but didn’t make it a priority.  When The SuMMit Challenge was published, I had all but 8 of the summits.  Several of the 8 summits that I needed coincided with caches that I needed for the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure.  I decided to work on both of the challenges together, with the goal of finishing as soon a possible.

Today’s hike would complete both challenges.  I needed one cache on TriPeaks to complete The SuMMit Challenge and I needed Diamond in the Rough Returns and Palos Verdes to Santa Barbara View to complete the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure.  Well, almost.  I also needed Sherwood Forest………….at night! and tried to get it last night, but it just didn’t work out.  I did, however, pick up Sherwood Forest………….at night!, with EcuaDeb’s help, on the way home from our TriPeaks hike today.

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Debbie Checking Out the Ridge and Balanced Rock

This morning, EcuaDeb, OLdweeb, sissopolis, and I met at the Sandstone Peak parking lot and headed UP the trail to the Mishe Mokwa Trail junction.  The plan was to do hike a counter-clockwise route.  It was the first time any of us had geocached on the Mishe Mokwa Trail.  Ken thinks he may have hiked it in the pre-geocaching days, perhaps 20 years ago.  It’s a great trail, with fantastic views.

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P1020022Debbie and Craig at Balanced Rock

To get to Diamond in the Rough Returns, you need to leave the trail and take a route that is better suited for a mountain goat than for a geocacher.  Ken, applying the wisdom of someone who knew what was ahead, stayed behind while Debbie, Christine, and I made our way up the iffy trail to Balanced Rock.  We usually chose the right way to go.  Christine stayed at the bottom of the final pitch and Debbie and I continued on to the Rock.  After a few photos and enjoying the view, we headed back to the main trail.

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We continued up the Mishe Mokwa Trail until we reached the cut off for TriPeaks.  After a few minutes of climbing up the trail, Ken and Christine decided that today wasn’t the day for TriPeaks.  Christine was still coming off of a terrible cold and the exertion just wasn’t helping her lungs at all.  Debbie and I wished them well, then headed up the trail.  Or perhaps “trail.”  Tri-Peaks is a pile of Swiss cheese rocks.  Finding the way through the jumble was a bit tricky, but the photos posted by I assume Faveral, the original cache owner, helped us find our way.

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P1020038Trying to Figure Out the Path to Palos Verdes to Santa Barbara View

P1020039Debbie at SOUTH APPROACH TO TRI-PEAKS

After working our way around and through the rocks, we aimed for SOUTH APPROACH TO TRI-PEAKS, a fairly well melted cache from the Springs Fire in May.  Then it was on to Palos Verdes to Santa Barbara View.  When we arrived at the top, there was a solitary hiker enjoying the peace of the summit.  He came up from the north.  I don’t think he was too happy to share the summit with us and soon left.  Other hikers arrived shortly after we did.  Palos Verdes to Santa Barbara View is a decon container.  Perhaps I should say that it is 2 decon containers.  When I found the cache, we noticed that the last logs were done in 2010.  We signed in, but the fact that the log was missing names we knew had found the cache really bothered Debbie.  She checked in an adjacent bush and found Decon #2, complete with Ken’s wooden nickel.

P1020041fefe158 and His Dad, John

We also found a couple of geocachers–9 yr-old fefe158 and his dad, John.  I always enjoy meeting fellow geocachers on the trail.

P1020042Looking Back the Way We Came

After a quick lunch, it was time to head down the hill.  Debbie needed Buddah’s Belly? for the SMMHA and we figured why not go for it since we were so close.  So off we went.  And so did my energy.  I did OK on the level or downhill, but even just a slight grade uphill just slowed me down, often to a stop.  For some reason, I was just out of gas.  But, slowly–very slowly, we made our way back to the parking area.  Total distance was somewhere between 9.7 and 10 miles.  Debbie’s going with 10 and I’m happy to agree.  Total elevation gain:  2611 feet.  Time:  7 hours 20 minutes.

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To finish the day, we drove to Thousand Oaks and Debbie helped me locate Sherwood Forest………….at night!, which finished off my required caches for the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure.

It was a great day of hiking, even with the problem of the “dry gas tank.”  I appreciate the efforts of paleolith and fastflyer for setting up these great challenges.  I enjoyed finding the “oldies” and remembering how geocaching was done when I started.  I enjoyed the challenge of summiting places that I probably never would have visited without The SuMMit Challenge.  These challenge caches are geocaching at its best.


Malibu Creek State Park

February 13, 2014

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I enjoyed a hike today in Malibu Creek State Park.  This was my first time hiking in the main part of the park.  I came here for 2 caches for the Santa Monica Mtns History AdventureLife is Paramount in Malibu Creek and MASH Cache.  I’m glad that those caches brought me here.  It’s a very nice area.

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I parked on Mulholland Highway, just west of Las Virgenes Road, at the Grasslands Trailhead.  Free Parking beats the $12 to park inside the state park any day.  It only took about 15 minutes to get from the truck to the Life is Paramount in Malibu Creek cache.  It’s a good climb up the hill, but the views are nice.

P1010999After finding the cache, I descended the hill and started walking up the road toward the MASH Cache.  There are several nice caches along the way, including 2 consecutive Earthcaches.  While it was sunny, the morning hadn’t yet heated up and the walk was pleasant.  The road is mainly level, with only one pitch of uphill.  The entire walk was enjoyable.

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After crossing a bridge, the path turns from road to trail.  The trail follows the creek bed.  Not too much farther, the area widens out, you can see a MASH ambulance, and realize that you have arrived at the MASH site.  Just around the corner from the ambulance is the film location for the TV show.  There are several interpretive signs describing what happened and where.  The MASH Cache is easily located.  I thought the ammo box blended in quite with the MASH memorabilia.

P1020003A View from the MASH Filming Location

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After leaving the MASH site, I hiked up Lost Cabin Trail for a couple of caches.  The rock above is near Judy’s Cabin This Way, the second of the two caches that I found along this trail.  As an added bonus, there is cell phone coverage here and I was able to send an “I”m OK” text home.  There are other caches along this trail, but they will have to wait for a return visit.

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One of the highlights of this hike was the Forest Trail.  Forest Trail runs on the south side Century Lake.  The entire trail is in the shade and often in the shade of sequoia trees.  How in the world did they get here?  I was under the impression that I could make a loop by following the Forest Trail to the dam, then cross back over to the road on the north side of the lake.  No so.  Forest Trail is a dead-end at the dam.  I wasn’t a problem, however, because the trail is so nice.

mash 140213Trail profile and track

The entire hike took about 4 hours.  I covered about 7.5 miles and found 14 geocaches.  A very nice day of hiking.


Topanga

February 11, 2014

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After another visit to see my mother in West Los Angeles, I cached my way home by way of the Pacific Palisades and Topanga Canyon for a few more Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure caches.

First up was Skull Rock and Weird Science.  I began my hike at the trailhead below Switching Back to Concrete.  I liked this cache because it introduced me to a new trailhead, complete with special parking and restrooms.  I started off in the wrong direction–up the road.  The proper way is on the concrete dike. After climbing up the hill on the longest concrete path I’ve seen, the cache was a quick find.  Then it was dirt trail hiking along the Temescal Ridge Trail for the other caches.

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The views were interesting today.  Palos Verdes and Catalina were clearly visible, but not the Pacific Ocean.  Everything low was covered in a blanket of fog.  Nice views, none the less.

The next cache was Don_J‘s Why no Cache?  I had a problem with this cache, mainly because it was right in front of me.  I hate when that happens.

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Skull Rock  isn’t too close to Skull Rock, but it has a nice view of it.  The cache is located in the scratchy ceanothus.  As a few of the logs mention, be prepared to get a bit scratched up.  And what’s a geocaching adventure if you don’t draw a little blood.

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I picked up Decent View on my way to Weird Science.  Weird Science was the turn around point for this hike.  After the find, it was mostly an uphill return to the trailhead.

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The second hike of the day was in Red Rock Park.  It’s located west of Old Topanga Road on Red Rock Road.  The parking is posted by MRCA as $5, but there weren’t any envelopes in the Iron Ranger. I’m not sure if that means that they are no longer collecting or if the rangers just didn’t bother to put out the envelope. Either way, today was free parking for me.  There are several Foocachers caches along the trail to Red Rock Roost, but I only found Foos Red Rock Canyon View.  It’s an easy terrain cache.  I passed on the other 2 because I don’t like rock scrabbling/climbing when I’m hiking alone.

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When I arrived at the GZ for Red Rock Roost, I sat down on the couch and spotted the cache right away. I enjoyed looking through the “old” original logbook and seeing names from the past like the sr.hikers.

With this find, I have 3 SMMHA caches today. Only 5 more finds to qualify for the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure. Hopefully, that will happen on 2/22.

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The Temescal Ridge hike to Skull Rock and Weird Science was 2.17x miles, with 1132 feet of elevation gain.  The round trip took me 52 minutes of hiking time and 44 minutes for looking for the caches, taking photos, and getting scratched by the ceanothus.

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The trip to Red Rock Roost was 1.66 miles and 1098 feet of elevation gain.  39 minutes of hike and 37 minutes of sitting, cache seeking, and being lazy.


More Caching in the Santa Monica Mountains

February 6, 2014

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Yesterday and today, I did more hiking to pick up some caches for the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure.  Wednesday’s goal was The Bench, Night to Remember and Then Some, and CELESTIAL CACHE.  All are located in the Conejo Open Space area.

While I had hiked along the trails closest to the city, I had never been very far back in this very nice area.  The Bench  is a straight-forward cache.  Night to Remember and Then Some is more complicated.  It requires finding another cache, then checking out the area you can see from the cache location for something out of place.  Further complicating the find is the fact the the other cache has been archived for years.  I got some assistance from EcuaDeb, who told me the general area to search for the final.  It worked out just fine.  I found the cache without a problem.  The current problem with the cache is that I was the Last to Find it.  The cache owner archived the cache right after I logged the find.  We are hoping that he will reverse that action and Night to Remember and Then Some will live on.

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A very dry depression that can be a vernal pool if it ever rains

I enjoyed hiking is area.  Apparently, a lot of locals do, too.  I saw more people walking these trails than I have in pretty much any other area.

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Here is Wednesday’s trail track and profile.  After hiking here, I moved west and logged CELESTIAL CACHE for another SMMHA find.

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Today’s hike was in Point Mugu State Park.  The target caches were Peace, Love and Joy and So Close, Yet So Far.  I parked at the trailhead at the end of Wendy Drive, hiking up to the Windmill, and then up Boney Trail.  I was amazed at the amount of destruction caused by the Springs Fire in May.  Very little recovery can be seen.  That’s probably because of the lack rain.

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One of my first geocaching finds was along this trail back in June 2001.  The area looked a bit different then.

The weather was cloudy, cool, and the wind got stronger as the day went  on.  I didn’t mind the cool; I was sweating plenty anyway because of the work of climbing the hill.

P1010975View of Tri-Peak from Peace, Love and Joy

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After finding Peace, Love and Joy, I headed down the hill to the Upper Sycamore Canyon Trail to locate So Close, Yet So Far.  It is an offset cache and I figured out a couple of different ways to find it.  I didn’t need both options; I found the cache in the first place I looked.  Sometimes it just works out that way.

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Today’s hike was 7.25 miles and took me 4 hours; 2 hours to get from the truck to Peace, Love and Joy and 2 hours to go down the hill, then back up to the parking area.

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Next trip on the docket is Tri-Peak, scheduled for Saturday morning.


Hiking Topanga State Park for SMMHA Caches

January 31, 2014

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After visiting my mother in West Los Angeles this morning, I decided to return to Simi Valley by way of finding some Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure caches.  I did it with 3 separate hikes.

Hike #1 was to find Reservoir Dog.  OLdweeb gave me some help with finding a close trailhead at the end of Chautauqua. I hiked up to the top of the ridge and then kept going on the very well maintained trail until I realized that it wasn’t leading to the cache. Turned around and returned to the ridge, followed it south right to the cache. My coords were off by 45 feet, but I found the cache before reaching the projected GZ.

Hike #2 was to find Lion’s View.  I began this hike at the Paseo Miramar trailhead at the end of Paseo Miramar Street.   There isn’t any parking at the trailhead. You need to park on the street downhill.   NOTE: If there is a Red Flag Warning, don’t bother coming up here. All the streets are posted No Parking–Tow Away during Red Flag warnings.

For finding Lion’s View, I recommend passing by the cache and approaching it from the north. It’s easier and quicker than going UP the direct approach.

Hike #3 was to find The Pit Stop.   I walked by this cache in December, realized the mistake about 1000 feet later, and decided not to go back to get it. Once home, I realized that it was a SMMHA cache and that I would need to return to get it.

The cache’s abbreviated name on my GPS is “The Pit.” I thought that the cache would be located in a depression. How wrong I was! It’s located UP on the top. The description mentions 2 ways to the cache. I took the direct approach–straight UP the ridge from the north. That requires some climbing. I decided that it was OK for going up, but I didn’t want to return that way. The safer and easier approach is from the south.

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I usually completely forget while I’m hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains that they are located in the middle of a major urban city.  Every once in a while, we get a cityscape view like this one, that reminds us where we are.

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I love the views of Santa Monica Bay from the Santa Monica Mountains.  I grew up in West Los Angeles and spent plenty of time on the beaches shown above.  While I didn’t take a photo of it, Catalina Island was showing off today.

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I’m not sure if the scant amount of rain that we got this week made any difference, but it was nice to finally see some wildflowers blooming.  I hope it is just the beginning.

reservoir dog 140131Hike #1 Track and Profile–Reservoir Dog

lions view 140131Hike #2 Track and Profile–Lion’s View

pit stop 140131Hike #3 Track and Profile–The Pit Stop

The 3 hikes totaled just over 9 miles, with 2281 feet of elevation gain, with 7 total cache finds, 3 of which were SMMHA caches.


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