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An Alpine Lakes Mistake


Forty-n-Eight
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I'm sure many of you know about the regulations in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in regards to geocaching. I, however, chose to learn about them the hard way. I thought I'd share my story.

 

I'd been thinking about a particular location for about a year and last weekend headed out to hide my cache. After lugging an ammo can 6 miles out and 4,100 feet up, we reached our destination. When I submitted my cache, Team Misguided rightly indicated that it was their understanding that geocaches were not allowed in the Alpine Lakes (a change from a year ago). So, I stopped by the ranger station in North Bend and had a long talk with a couple rangers there. We talked about geocaching and initially they were pretty receptive. They explained that there is a permitting process for "non-standard use" that would cost $95 and would be good for a year. When we started talking about the location and that it was in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness everything changed. They said they'd have to consult with the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Society (or something like that) and started talking about impact studies, etc. and that it was highly unlikely I'd be allowed to do it. They said their tolerance for stuff like that has gone down in recent years. So I said thanks but no thanks.

 

So, with my tail between my legs, I'll head up to retrieve my cache this week. I guess the real lesson here is if there's any question on one's cache placement, ASK FIRST, unless you want to make the same trip twice.

 

Josh

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It's my understanding that the regulations vary depending on the wilderness area. My conversation with the rangers indicated that national forest areas are not nearly as much of an issue as designated wilderness areas. From my research, it appears that wilderness areas are increasingly becoming off-limits to caching.

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Is there a place where the caching restrictions for our area are listed? I have seen the East Coast reviewer Keystone list his local restrictions/permit requirements on his profile. We have a growing list of places that need permits, or are off limits. When I first started caching I placed a cache on a trail on the Tulalip Reservation near the casino. I had no way of knowing except by trial and error that it was off limits. (which I understand). Had I known before I wouldn't have placed it.

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Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Is this a unique requirement of Alpine Lakes Wilderness or is it applicable to all Wilderness Areas?

I believe that physical, as opposed to virtual, caches are banned in all NFS Wilderness Areas, just like the national parks. I hope I'm wrong about this, maybe a reviewer will chime in with a definative answer.

The WSGA site has a page with some land use information for Washington State.

http://www.geocachingwa.org/land-use/faq.asp

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The Forest Service already allows the activities that geocaching consists of. No Impact study would be needed.

 

Impact studies are a requirement for a federal action. Meaning when they do, do something the impact should be known and acceptable. A federal action can be as simple as building a trail or as complex as allowing strip mining in a federally owned area.

 

The key issue will always come down the toe cache container in a wilderness area. Like I said, all other actives that comprise geocaching are already allowed.

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Hopefully this link will work. It is from the Wilderness.net website that has information on all the wilderness areas in the country. This specifically relates to a question about geocaching in wilderness areas. It states:

 

What about geocaching?

Geocaching on public lands, and in designated wilderness, is a growing activity as evidenced by the number of locations and trends documented at: http://www.geocaching.com. Many people enjoy downloading information on a geocache site and then using their orienteering skills and global positioning systems (GPS) units to find the site. Both urban and remote geocache sites exist but in many cases the more remote locations, such as those in wilderness, are the most popular with those seeking to enjoy the outdoors.

 

Wilderness managers have seen an increase in geocaching activity in many areas. And, while wilderness is for the 'use and enjoyment' of the public the practice of locating geocaches in wilderness can lead to social trail development and resource degradation that would not otherwise not occur. In addition, many managers consider geocaches as abandoned property or litter and therefore, they are not allowed in wilderness.

 

Information and education efforts have proven successful in some areas where managers have contacted cache owners or worked with web site providers to discourage geocaches in wilderness and encourage use of Leave No Trace techniques when visiting wilderness.

 

I firmly believe that caches can be placed in such a way that they will comply with the principals of Leave No Trace. Unfortunately not all land managers will agree. I have seen some land managers give permission for caches in wilderness areas I've seen many others say no. My policy from here on out will be to ask for a name and contact information of the ranger who gave permission.

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This information is well and good...for us that read the forums. But there are many that don't, so I think this will be a recurring problem unfortunately.

 

Excellent point. I've been thinking about doing something like Keystone has done with the land manager issues in his area. Up until this last year there really hasn't been many outside policies that aren't currently covered in the geocaching.com guidelines. That is changing and perhaps I'll need to move that idea up to one of the front burners.

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Logbear has also mentioned to me that he has heard of those who remove geocaches from wilderness areas -- a ranger he talked to called them anti-geocaching zealots -- they have gc.com IDs, and the only purpose for that is so they can locate caches still located in wilderness areas and remove them. :)

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Logbear has also mentioned to me that he has heard of those who remove geocaches from wilderness areas -- a ranger he talked to called them anti-geocaching zealots -- they have gc.com IDs, and the only purpose for that is so they can locate caches still located in wilderness areas and remove them. :)

 

Do they return the caches to their owners or do they steal them outright?

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And so the Kaleetan Peak cache journey comes to a close. Yesterday, Nolenator and I headed out to retrieve the ammo box and rescue its contents. I thought I’d write up a trip report to encourage those of you who like backcountry hikes to make this trip despite there being no cache at the summit. It is an incredible day out.

 

We left the Denny Creek trailhead a little after 8am. We climbed the trail in clouds passing Keekwulee Falls, Snowshoe Falls, and across Hemlock Pass arriving at Melakwa Lake a little before 10am. From the outlet stream of the lake, we found a path leading to the outhouse which then branched uphill to gain the ridge above the lake. We followed the boot track up the ridge which varied between trail, trees, and talus eventually arriving at the peak at 5700 feet. The path continued until the ridge become too rough. At this point, we dropped several hundred feet into the west-facing basin draining to My Lake. The path crossed talus in the basin before climbing again to the ridge. The last few hundred yards were back on the ridge until the final scramble up the 160-foot summit gully. We arrived a little after noon.

 

I found the cache right where I’d left it and retrieved the contents including Moun10Bike coin #791, which I’d left in the cache. I never thought I’d see that coin again! We ate lunch and took in the views which included Gem Lake, Snow Lake, Chair Peak, McClellan Butte, Mt. Si, Rainier, and even downtown Seattle. After snapping some pics we headed down. However, instead of taking the same trail back, at approximately N47 27.587 W121 28.637 we took a turn down a rather steep gully into the basin draining to Upper Melakwa Lake. It was pretty easy to get down with only one sort-of-sketchy part. I wouldn’t want to try to go up this route because once we got off the solid rock and into the loose talus, we basically slid down the slope on our butts into the basin; it would be tough to climb up that loose rock. We hopped across the boulders to Melakwa Pass so Nolen could find Melakwa’s Heaven. Then, it was a quick trip down the rocks to Melakwa Lake and out to the trail back to the car.

 

On the way, we decided to take one more look for the Waterslide Find cache, which I DNF’d last Sunday with Ruck and TMP. Nolen confirmed it was gone, so we left the ammo can and log book from Kaleetan Peak as a replacement. Then it was a short trip back to the car arriving about 5pm just as it started sprinkling.

 

So, there you have it. As I said, it’s worth going even if you don’t get a smiley. If you want a .gpx of the route, let me know.

Edited by Forty-n-Eight
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I haven't been around the forums for a couple of days and am more than a little confused. Can someone point me in the direction of a map of some sort, pretty please, showing me exactly what areas are off limits?? I planted a cache this weekend in what looks to be the Mt Pilchuck NRCA from my green trails and want to know if I'm going to need to get permission for before having it reviewed.

 

BTW, nice trip report on WTA, Forty-n-Eight!!

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I ran into the same road block while trying to get several caches approved in the Goat Rocks wilderness. When I spoke to the ranger he told me outright that it was illegal to place a geocache. When I questioned him about what policy forbid this he said he would have to get back to me. I then spoke to a wilderness manager later that day and she told me the 1964 wilderness act gave them the rules to enforce an outright ban on geocaches. She told me geocaches are treated as garbage and removed if found. Even though she hadn't ever found or removed a geocache in her district. She then quoted the same management bullitin that Team Misguided quoted. That's a Wilderness directive that came out about 2.5 years ago. If you read that bullitin you will see they are fine with virtual caches and will work with the geocacher.

 

That wasn't my experience and since virtual caches haven't been allowed in years seems to me they are behind the times by quite a bit. She also told me they are working with geocachers to remove wilderness caches, but couldn't tell me one she had worked with. Since there are no current geocaches in the Goat Rocks wilderness and very few in the whole Gifford Pinchot district I she was blowing smoke.

 

What hydensek quoted is correct. The Wentatchee NF has an outright ban on geocaches and they quote in bold type GEOCACHES are not allowed. This is a direct add on to the the 1964 law. Since this is not legal POLICY then it's a direct discriminatory act against geocaching in my eye.

 

When I questioned the wilderness manager about summit registers, climbing gear that's left. etc etc, she told me that summmit registers are ok because they've been there before 1964. PLEASE, how many summit registers have you found that are over 40 years old?....zero that I've logged.

 

If you read farther into what Team Misguided quoted then you will see that it warns about the possible damage to sensitive areas, that geocaches in hike too areas are very popular and that they should be discouraged. That's an outright falsehood!.....the hike too geocaches are by far the least sought after of all our caches. We have a self regulatory process setup already, so we as a group would cause far less damage than other groups. My Nannie LO cache is near a burned out lookout with all kinds of debris, nails, concrete, globs of glass. When I asked about this I was told the LO was burned down by the FS. This is not a pristine wilderness area in my book. Having a cache there would not subject the area to further damage. If anything it would clean the area up. When I told her about how much the geocachers do for litter pickup she said that's fine it's a FS issue.

 

I have no problem working with FS people and establishing rules and guidelines for geocaching, but when they come forth and single out geocaching over other uses that cause much more damage to the environment it's not right. Our sport has just as much right to use OUR public lands as long as it's done in a controlled manner. They have this attitude that geocaching is evil and has to be stopped at all costs. There will be hoards of geocachers dissending on our wilderness areas. That's almost a direct quote!

 

I'd like to see some policy written, cooporation and not just knee jerk attitudes. The wilderness laws were written long ago and to tack on geocaching as a sidenote is flat out wrong. They see the "caching" as a easy way to include geocaching. Single out the other users, climbers, etc and then I wouldn't have a problem. Sorry for my ramble I'm checking in via wi-fi from my camping spot near Wintrop.

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While I agree with many of the points GeoRoo makes, lobbying multiple government agencies is likely going to be a losing battle. Perhaps an easier solution would be for Groundspeak to allow virtuals in areas that are off-limits to physical caches. It would require them to keep track of restricted areas, but it would also preserve the game in some of the best places to play it. At the same time, we'd avoid clashing with land managers and having to negotiate every single cache we'd like to place. Just a thought.

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Find places where earthcaches make sense - something educational or unique and there you have a wilderness virtual.

 

I don't think we want to over run the site with earth caches but it seems that all major places might have some geoscientific story behind them.

 

It would be nice to have maps online of sensative people, I mean sensative areas...

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Whats the difference between a cache in a wilderness and a high point - Summit log book?

 

Size? Not really as I have seen ammo cans used for summit markers as well.

 

Logscaler

 

Nothing that I can see either. If anything a geocache would be less intrusive as it's hidden. Most summit registers are easliy seen and found. Geocache could be monitored from their comfy office, so any abnormal use would be apparent. Getting them to understand this is fruitless though. Unless you can talk to an active cacher within the FS I don't see anything good happening. Anyone know a FS geocacher?.....I have (2) "summit registers" waiting to be approved. B)

 

I guess there isn't any problem with Terracaching as I see a brand new cache in the ALW. So is Terracaching exempt from the radar? Why isn't there a mention of that activity or a link to their website on the Wilderness website? I haven't gotten into terracaching yet, but from what I know it's geared more towards outdoor hiking type caches. Maybe I'll have to take a closer look.......

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I guess there isn't any problem with Terracaching as I see a brand new cache in the ALW. So is Terracaching exempt from the radar? Why isn't there a mention of that activity or a link to their website on the Wilderness website? I haven't gotten into terracaching yet, but from what I know it's geared more towards outdoor hiking type caches. Maybe I'll have to take a closer look.......

 

Just because the terracaching site chooses to allow terracaches in wilderness area does not mean that they are acceptable. It just means that the terracaching site uses a different set of guidelines for what they allow to be posted to their website.

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And unfortunately, sites like Terracaching that have looser guidelines can hurt geocaching in general. It's hard for land owners to differentiate between different sites. If one site causes bad relations with a landowner, they tend to ban all geocaches, whether they're on Geocaching.com or Terracaching.com. ;)

 

So yes, if Geocaching.com denies a cache because they want to preserve good relations with a land owner, the first reaction may be to go to a site like Terracaching.com to list the cache there. But then, you may be hurting all of us in the long run. :):D:D

 

Groundspeak doesn't have these guidelines just to be arbitrary. They have them because it's in the best interest for geocaching to have a long and happy life. :(

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And unfortunately, sites like Terracaching that have looser guidelines can hurt geocaching in general. It's hard for land owners to differentiate between different sites. If one site causes bad relations with a landowner, they tend to ban all geocaches, whether they're on Geocaching.com or Terracaching.com. :(

 

So yes, if Geocaching.com denies a cache because they want to preserve good relations with a land owner, the first reaction may be to go to a site like Terracaching.com to list the cache there. But then, you may be hurting all of us in the long run. ;):):D

 

Groundspeak doesn't have these guidelines just to be arbitrary. They have them because it's in the best interest for geocaching to have a long and happy life. B)

And the implied irony is: If a terracache were to cause all caching to be banned in an area, only geocaching.com would enforce the ban via reviewers. So we would suffer if the other site's members choose to ignore park/agency policies. (Not saying they do or would, I'm just following the line of reasoning.)

 

I think it's great to have more than one site, to meet different interests and needs, but differing policies are the downside.

 

Edit: For clarification. Thanks, runhills. :D

Edited by hydnsek
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Terracaching may be a disappointment if one is looking for a way to bypass land management regulations which apply to all listing sites. At the time 40n8 placed his hide on Kaleetan a Terracache was also placed by The Mercury Project. Research revelled that the Alpine Lake Regulations have been changed and his hide was dissaproved. The Terracache placed recently was also challenged and time will tell if it accepted by the community.

 

Back in 2005, I was involved with discussions about hides in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness but lost my case and the frog allowed placements finding no hard and fast rule excluding our activity. I have no idea of when the Alpine Lakes changed their policy but they now explicitly exclude leaving cache equipment.

 

Terracachers do not have the same rules as the frog but that does not mean the site purposely violates regulations set by the various land managers. Terracachers on the whole abide by the rules placed by land managers once we learn about them.

 

This forum is not the place to discuss the pros and cons of Terracaching other than to voice disappointment in Groundspeak. I enjoy both sites and would be willing to discuss pros and cons via email.

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The key word here is policy. From what I can see there is no written policy anywhere within the Forest Service that addresses geocaching or for that matter geocaching.com. Individual land managers have taken it upon themselves to make policy on their own. They are using the 1964 definition of "caching" as a go around.

 

Is it even legal to add GEOCACHING in bold type to the Wilderness rules and post them at trailheads? To me that's a bit disturbing considering geocaching is a non issue in any wilderness areas around our state. If you were to catalog the finds of wilderness caches it would amount to a very low percentage of cache finds. Very very low. That's beside the point. I don't like a private group going out of their way to single out any public use or action.

 

Policy is being distributed by a private organization. www.wilderness.net What Team Misguided quoted is directly off their Forest Service Desk Guide for Managers and almost a direct quote from the wilderness manager I spoke with, so they are looking at this site.

 

I'm all for protecting and preserving our wilderness areas and in favor of adding more. When it comes down to excluding only the elite few then I'll be up in arms. Our state has gone out of their way to shut down, block and rule out any access or use in many areas. I see it everyday. Maybe it's time that geocaching.com stuck their foot in the door and made a presence and not stand by passively. I only say that because I don't see anything on the geocaching.com website addressing the Wilderness areas. Im sure they are working with land managers, but the ones I talked to didn't have a clue.

 

Sorry to rant and rave again, but maybe this will stir the pot and get something on the website and take the burden away from our over used reviewers. They do a wonderful job and my hat goes off to them.

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Runhills, it wasn't my intent to stir the pot over Terracaching. I'm a member, but have only looked at the site a few times. Don't even know if I've logged a cache. I get the updates on new Terracaches, so was using that as an example. The cache I saw was in the Enchantments, so that made me go hmmmmm. There are recent wilderness geocaching.com caches and Enchantment ones too, so sorry if It looked like I was picking on Terracaching.

 

Yes, it's a Groundspeak issue. If wilderness areas are off limits then post that on the website or at least make it apparent that they need to contact a land manager to seek approval. Seems pretty simple to me as this isn't anything new. From the bulletins I read it's been in the works for the past 2.5 years by the wilderness.net group.

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Terracaching may be a disappointment if one is looking for a way to bypass land management regulations which apply to all listing sites. At the time 40n8 placed his hide on Kaleetan a Terracache was also placed by The Mercury Project. Research revelled that the Alpine Lake Regulations have been changed and his hide was dissaproved. The Terracache placed recently was also challenged and time will tell if it accepted by the community.

 

Back in 2005, I was involved with discussions about hides in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness but lost my case and the frog allowed placements finding no hard and fast rule excluding our activity. I have no idea of when the Alpine Lakes changed their policy but they now explicitly exclude leaving cache equipment.

 

Terracachers do not have the same rules as the frog but that does not mean the site purposely violates regulations set by the various land managers. Terracachers on the whole abide by the rules placed by land managers once we learn about them.

 

This forum is not the place to discuss the pros and cons of Terracaching other than to voice disappointment in Groundspeak. I enjoy both sites and would be willing to discuss pros and cons via email.

I didn't mean to insinuate anything bad about Terracaching specifically. I'm sorry, I was meaning any other site besides gc.com, and just used Terracaching as an example. I don't know anything about their policies, and don't mean to offend.

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Runhills, it wasn't my intent to stir the pot over Terracaching. I'm a member, but have only looked at the site a few times. Don't even know if I've logged a cache. I get the updates on new Terracaches, so was using that as an example. The cache I saw was in the Enchantments, so that made me go hmmmmm. There are recent wilderness geocaching.com caches and Enchantment ones too, so sorry if It looked like I was picking on Terracaching.

 

Yes, it's a Groundspeak issue. If wilderness areas are off limits then post that on the website or at least make it apparent that they need to contact a land manager to seek approval. Seems pretty simple to me as this isn't anything new. From the bulletins I read it's been in the works for the past 2.5 years by the wilderness.net group.

Are you meaning that it's Groundspeak's issue because they don't post anything about this in their listing guidelines? This isn't something that they can do, because every area, every state is completely different. In some states it's fine to place caches in wilderness areas. Or some wilderness areas are fine, and others are not.

 

In some states each county, each city, and each park system can have different policies with different permits, ad nauseum.

 

There is no way that Groundspeak can account for this in their guidelines. So what they do, is address some of the nation-wide policies like National Parks, and then they are generic about the rest and let the Reviewers deal with it on a local level. If someday there is a nation-wide ban or permit policy for wilderness areas, it's possible that they may mention that in a guideline update.

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Yes, it's a Groundspeak issue. If wilderness areas are off limits then post that on the website or at least make it apparent that they need to contact a land manager to seek approval. Seems pretty simple to me as this isn't anything new. From the bulletins I read it's been in the works for the past 2.5 years by the wilderness.net group.

 

At the bottom of every submit a cache page there are two check boxes. You have to check them before you can submit your cache. They confirm that you have read and understand the posted guidelines for publishing a cache on this site. In those guidelines it states that it is up to the cache owner to make sure they have adequate permission for their cache hide. What you are asking for is already in the guidelines.

 

I also want to say I meant no disrespect to terracaching. I only intended to point out that their guidelines for posting a cache might differ from those on geocaching.com. I'm sure that most of the terracachers out there respect the land managers wishes.

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Yes, it's a Groundspeak issue. If wilderness areas are off limits then post that on the website or at least make it apparent that they need to contact a land manager to seek approval. Seems pretty simple to me as this isn't anything new. From the bulletins I read it's been in the works for the past 2.5 years by the wilderness.net group.

This sounds like something that the WSGA can help with. Currently we only have the State Park policy, but I'll see if I can get a list of guidelines for other areas specific to WA published on the WSGA Website.

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Yes, it's a Groundspeak issue. If wilderness areas are off limits then post that on the website or at least make it apparent that they need to contact a land manager to seek approval. Seems pretty simple to me as this isn't anything new. From the bulletins I read it's been in the works for the past 2.5 years by the wilderness.net group.

This sounds like something that the WSGA can help with. Currently we only have the State Park policy, but I'll see if I can get a list of guidelines for other areas specific to WA published on the WSGA Website.

OK, here it is! To find it, go to the WSGA Website and click on Land Use.

 

Thanks to Team Misguided for the information and Right Wing Wacko for publication. :P

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Logbear has also mentioned to me that he has heard of those who remove geocaches from wilderness areas -- a ranger he talked to called them anti-geocaching zealots -- they have gc.com IDs, and the only purpose for that is so they can locate caches still located in wilderness areas and remove them. <_<

 

I think my "Hadley Falls" geocache is in the Alpine Lakes region. Those who are familiar with it know just how much it would test the rangers resolve to rid the area of caches. FWIW, if geocaches are truly illegal there, I may be willing to guide a ranger back there to remove it... so long as he was a geocacher and could claim the find!

In reality though, I would feel bad having to retire this cache. It's one off the oldest active caches in Washington.

 

Jay of JaySTE

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I think my "Hadley Falls" geocache is in the Alpine Lakes region. Those who are familiar with it know just how much it would test the rangers resolve to rid the area of caches. FWIW, if geocaches are truly illegal there, I may be willing to guide a ranger back there to remove it... so long as he was a geocacher and could claim the find!

In reality though, I would feel bad having to retire this cache. It's one off the oldest active caches in Washington.

 

Jay of JaySTE

 

I just checked and accoding to my green trails map (silverton-no. 110) it looks to me like your Hadley Falls cache is w/i the NF boundry.

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