Hers – Gorge Metro Park

There were so many good things about this past Sunday, and the hike Casey and I took was just was the cherry on top. Actually, I take that back. The milkshakes we got after the hike were the cherries on top…but more about that later.

We headed about 40 miles south to the Akron area for this week’s hike. Earlier in the week Casey had sent me a link about some of the best hiking spots near Cleveland, and Gorge Metro Park was on the list. Since we had both never been before we decided to check it out, and I’m so glad we did. I read on the site that the Gorge Trail was one of the most scenic, but also the most difficult being classified as “Primitive” and earning a “Class D status.” (Neither of us knew what Class D meant…but more on that in a minute as well.)

After checking the trail map when we got to the park, we found the Gorge Trail and headed off. Unfortunately, so did most of the other people that were there. The trail was crowded and we got stuck behind a group smoking (One of my absolute pet peeves – I go into nature for fresh air not secondhand smoke. Also, this Earth is not your freaking ashtray. Pick up your damn cigarette butts up. OK, rant over.) and talking about one of their friends – a heroin addict who’s been on methadone for two years with only one slip up, but now she’s on a pretty good track and forming a relationship with her kids. Luckily, I found an opening on the trail and picked up the pace to quickly leave that group in the dust. After a couple comments about the conversation we had overheard, Casey and I were able to regain some focus on the nature around us.

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As we started up an incline, we really began to lose the crowds. We came to a crossroads where one direction was deemed “easy” and the other was deemed “hard.” Naturally, we chose the hard way (is there really any other way?!). Immediately we began to climb in elevation – over rocks and through rock tunnels – until we reached the top of the gorge. We saw what looked like a path down to the river below and started down it. Loose gravel and soil gave way under my feet. I found a slight overlook and stopped for a moment. I told Casey that I really didn’t think it was a trail, but rather just a run off and asked if he wanted to continue. He said he definitely thought we could make it. I took a deep breath and kept going, knowing that after that point there was no turning back. (I think this is probably both of our biggest strength and weakness. We’re both stubborn to the point of possible foolishness.) One of my biggest fears is falling, and I was envisioning myself tumbling down the cliff face we were attempting to scale down. But I didn’t want Casey to see that fear, so I tried my hardest to just get down all by myself. There was one moment that I knew I needed to take his hand, and I’m grateful he was there to help me, but at the same time, I wish I could’ve just done it completely by myself. (See? I told you. Stupid stubborn.)

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When we finally made it down, we darted toward the rushing river – excited that we had finally made it to solid ground. Only then did we look back. My jaw dropped at the sight of the cliff we had somehow just scrambled down. It was so steep, and it was definitely not a path that we took. As we walked along the river, we came up with what Class D could possibly mean. D for “Difficult.” D for “Da fuck you thinking?!” D for “Don’t fall.” (In case you want to know the REAL definition: The Class D designation is for primitive hiking trails with steep, narrow and irregular routes and rocks and roots.)

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We continued on an easy path (anything after that would be considered easy) along the river until we finally came to the major draw of the park – a pretty decent sized waterfall. Casey and I parked it on a rock to watch the falls for a few minutes before making our way back to the car (and back to the crowds). As we were heading out, he asked if I wanted to get a milkshake. We had earned it, and it was definitely the cherry on top of a fun, difficult, scary, rewarding and totally-worth-it hike.

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Hers – Furnace Run MetroPark

 

After spending the day indoors staring at the sunshine and blue skies, I was really ready to get to meet Casey for our walk. We put off going out over the weekend since we had errands and Easter. We decide to meet on Tuesday after work at Furnace Run MetroPark just about 10 minutes from where we live.

As I drove out to the park, and was reminded of when Casey and I first started dating. This is exactly how we would meet up those first few months. We’d find a park halfway between he and I, and would go for a walk in the evenings after work. It made me almost giddy to see him like I always used to feel driving down to meet up.

I also really loved the drive out to this park. It was warm enough to roll the windows down, and I got to take some rural backroads as I admired the houses and green grass. Maybe it’s just because we’ve been entrenched in gray for the past few months, but everything looks so green. Like greener than green. It’s like glowing!

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We met in the parking lot, checked out the trail map and decided to do the two loops around the park, which would total just about 2.5 miles. I loved pretty much every inch of the trails. Everywhere we looked I wanted to take a photo. There were some small creeks, a lake, a meadow, woods, fallen trees and it was all bathed in perfect sunset light.

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Aside from one steep hill, the trails were relatively easy so Casey and I mostly just moseyed along hand in hand – stopping a bit to take silly boomerang videos or to get up close to the wildflowers starting to bloom. It was just a lovely evening walk. (Random side note: Does anyone else always pronounce the word “lovely” in their head with a British accent or is it just me?)

It wasn’t the most vigorous hike, but I think this may become one of my standard parks to visit. It’s close enough and easy enough to head to after work to get some time with nature after spending most the day in an office. I’m looking forward to plenty of summer evenings here.

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His – Hinckley Reservation

noun

noun: slog; plural noun: slogs

  1. 1.

a spell of difficult, tiring work or traveling.

“it would be a hard slog back to the camp”

synonyms: hard worktoil, toiling, laboreffortexertiongrinddrudgery; More

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This is the word I will use to describe this week’s hike. There are other words that were used on the trail this week. Most of them would make your mother blush and probably would be followed up with washing your mouth out with soap. We knew going into our 52 hikes in 52 weeks challenge that they all wouldn’t be pleasant. Hiking is, literally and figuratively, filled with ups and downs. However, Tara and I made a promise to each other at the beginning of this year that we’d do this together and hold each other accountable.

The weather finally broke this weekend. Saturday was in the sixties and yesterday was in the seventies. It was a welcoming forecast considering we had a freak snow storm only day before. For those who have never been, Ohio can be a bit temperamental this time of year. I think a small contributor to why this hike was a slog this week was the amount of physical activity that I participated in this weekend. Saturday was a 5K at the Cleveland zoo (new PR of 25:39!!!), followed by walking around the zoo. I came home only to leave out again with Tara.

We went to a bunch of stores for a bunch of random items. The highlight of our purchases was patio furniture from Big Lots (I’m very pumped to get my money’s worth out of it this summer). Sunday I woke up early to go grab my golf clubs, followed by basketball, followed by golf, and then our hike. My muscles are were and still are on fire. I was worn out before the hike even started. Tara assured me we could go later in the week, but, I insisted on pressing on.  We made our way out to Hinckley Reservation in Hinckley, OH.

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We probably should have just turned around when we arrived. The rest of Northeast Ohio was at Hinckley Reservation yesterday with us. We’ve hiked it together before so we set down a familiar path around the lake. It turned out to be a poor choice. The path, which is mostly dirt and roots, was drowned by all the melting snow. (Remember the freak snow storm?) Every step was cold, wet, grueling mud. I don’t know if many people know this, but I consider myself an introvert. I need time to get away from people and recharge my batteries. That’s one of my favorite attributes of hiking – peace and quiet in the woods… far, far away from people.

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There would be none of that yesterday. No peace, no quiet, no alone time… People. Were. Everywhere. It just wasn’t my day. Not only were these people out, they were annoying and in the way. One woman in particular was with her daughter and an overweight beagle named Cooper. She had some peculiar habits… she’d speed walk ahead of the daughter and the plump Mr. Cooper and when she lost sight of them would come storming back and scold them for not keeping pace.  This would usually be comical for me, but with how muddy the trail was yesterday it limited your path for walking. The lady (and I use the term loosely) clearly had very little manners and repeatedly cut us off and splash mud on me in the process. I really just felt bad for my chubby friend Coops. He just wanted to be at home dipping into his endless supply of Milk-bones and Beggin’ Strips.

We finally outpaced most of the riff-raff on the trail and got to the asphalt multi-use path. At this point Tara and I agreed that the hike just felt like work this week. We compromised to go home, knock out our chores, cook dinner and drink a few adult beverages. That’s exactly what we did. On the drive home we did confide in each other that the walk was worthwhile, even though it didn’t go as planned. I think we both got what we needed out of the hike this week even if it was slogging through the crowded woods. And to wrap this up, just because I said I would, “Go fuck yourself San Diego.”

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His – West Creek Reservation

20170402_160614.jpgWe were back at it again for hike number fourteen of the year. The weather was pristine, the people were out in droves, and they ALL brought their dogs. I’m a huge animal lover; dogs will always have a soft spot in my heart. When I see them, I often tell Tara about how I want to kidnap them and give them a better home. We have a cat, Zooey, who is an only child, so I can’t act on my inhibitions. However, it will never stop me from dreaming of pooch-napping every single one of them… well except small dogs, because those aren’t really dogs.

Tara deserves a lot of credit for her patience with me this week. I was like a squirrel that drank four Redbulls and followed it up with a couple of pots of coffee. Everything caught my eye. Tara’s brakes and maneuverability were put to the test. I really just couldn’t help myself. We usually go a bit earlier, which means lunch is afterwards. I had a full belly and a racing mind. I was overly fascinated and incredibly terrified by my first ever up close look at a couple of cell phone towers. For those who don’t know, the His portion of the blog is deathly afraid of heights. So, looking straight up at something like this causes sweaty palms and raised blood pressure.

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For those who don’t know me, I’m a bit of a country bumpkin in some respects. I don’t wander about in the midst of the city. Towers are just fixtures amongst a city skyline. Other than the towers there were a couple of things I noticed on this hike. One, Western Reserve Creek is not a bad spot. You think a park jammed in between Parma and Independence would lack the charm and outdoorsy rural feel most are looking for when hiking. You’d be wrong about judging this book by its cover. We’ve had our share of urban adventures (please refer to Garfield Heights and Big Creek blogs). This one was surprisingly pleasant.

 

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There were quite a few people out that I wouldn’t expect – (yes, Pokémon Go players are back) but once we made it past the paved portion of trails it was peaceful and serene. It was muddy trails and dense forest. You can tell the trees are on the brink of exploding back to life. The chirping of birds, crickets, and croaking of frogs tell you that spring is in the air. @HisandHerHiking (shameless plug – follow us on Instagram and Facebook) is ready for all the green to come back after 6 months of gray.

The other observation from this week is you need several copies of Rosetta Stone to keep up with all the different dialects. If you want to properly eaves drop and people watch you HAVE to be multi-lingual in this reservation. It always amazes me that even when in the middle of the rust belt you will hear a variety of heavy accents and foreign conversations. All in all, the warm weather brought a longing to go deeper into the woods, escape the wailing sirens and bustling roads, pitch a tent and escape it all. Those days aren’t all that far away. Until then, poor Tara will have to deal with squirrels and their caffeine habits.

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Hers – West Creek Reservation

 

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This past week’s hike was a bit different in that we didn’t get out first thing in the morning. I picked up a shift at my second job for a few hours, so we set off around 4 p.m. It was sunny and in the low 60s – weather that automatically puts me in a fantastic mood. We decided to check out West Creek Reservation because it was only 15 minutes from where we live and we had dinner that needed cooked!

With that said, 15 minutes from where we lives tends to be … how do I put this nicely? … a mecca of hillbillies, cheap motels and discount furniture warehouses. So, I was pleasantly surprised when we pulled into West Creek. There’s a pretty large shelter, a watershed stewardship center with wonderful restrooms and a fairly expansive trail system.

Casey and I decided to take the paved trail to a dirt path that would loop us back to the paved trail system. Judging from our previous trail plans gone awry, I had my doubts about this. We started out on the concrete trail, and like always in the first few spring days in Northeast Ohio, everyone and their brother was out. But it’s ok because they all had their dogs with them, so Casey was in his glory.

There was a ton going on on the trail – dogs, telephone towers, lakes that almost look like you can walk across them on planks – so Casey was distracted and pulling me all over the place. It’s ok, I didn’t mind following wherever his curiosity led him…except I put my foot down when he was going to attempt to walk across the pond on the wooden planks. (In my defense, they weren’t connected to the banks of the pond but rather about three feet away, so that you’d have to jump to make it.)

 

We finally got off the paved trail and into the woods. It was a little muddy, but not enough to be annoying. It surprised me a little that once we got off the crowded main trail, there was hardly anyone venturing into the woods. (There’s probably some kind of metaphor here about following the crowd and being afraid to go off on your own and take the road less traveled, but I’m not feeling super philosophical today, so I’m just going to acknowledge it and move on.) There are neighborhoods and roads close by the trail, and you could occasionally here some traffic noise, but for the most part everything and everyone disappear. And that’s one of my favorite parts of taking these walks – no matter if we go near or far, we can always find a little slice of nature where things disappear. It’s nice not to have to hear traffic, see a flood of billboards, and smell the fumes of a city. We get to replace that with birds singing, trees towering and fresh air.

IMG_20170402_164313434It’s this simplicity that has me addicted to these walks. Over the past two years, I’ve been making a huge effort to simplify nearly all aspects of my life (possessions, hobbies, ethics, etc.), and this is really serving as my weekly reminder to keep after that process. Because it takes time and a very dedicated mindset to live simply. I’m glad these walks have turned into motivation to keep following my goal, which is taking a path that not everyone takes or understands, but I’m ok going on a the road less traveled. (Ok, maybe I did get a bit into that metaphor!)

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His – Erie & Canal Reservation

It was the best of times… it was the worst of t… wait, wrong story. Saturday morning got off to a much different start than last week. Last week we were lathering on sunscreen. We were poolside in our shades and bathing suits. This week we got the full Ohio experience… pouring rain, white out snow, blustery howling winds, sporadic peeks of sun. Temperatures jumping from the sixties to the twenties and everywhere in between. March in Ohio is like playing a game of winter roulette. You spin the dial and hope for the best. However, you have to realize the odds are ALWAYS stacked against you this time of year.

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So there we were, March 4th 2017… Tara and I having a weekend of “nothing to do.” Our weekends where we claim we have nothing to do usually end up jam packed with action and events. Tara was feeling a bit under the weather and I NEVER beat her out of bed, so I tried to exploit the situation. It was 07:00AM and I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. I snuck out of our bedroom and tried to surprise her with breakfast in bed. As quiet as I tried to be, I got about 5 minutes in and my plot was foiled. Tara caught me red handed cracking eggs and making toast. Defeated in my attempt, I made her sit on the couch while I prepared the rest of the meal.

 

My first try at making over easy eggs quickly turned into “fried eggs for Casey” The second batch was a success. We scarfed it down and bundled up to face the frigid day. Outside looked very inviting. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the sun shining a little too bright if there is such a thing. Snow still sprawled across the ground, it reflected every ray cast upon it. We drove the twenty-something minutes down a familiar route to a reservation I’ve never been to before on the outskirts of Tremont.

 

Tara had already warned me, showing me physical evidence that this would be a very urban hike and the greenery would be at a premium. If I had learned anything about urban hiking is that if it goes poorly enough… I’ll end up drinking pints at a bar. When we turned into the parking lot, I feared the worst. Factories all around us and the parking lot was only a dozen spots or so. We were already there, so we went for it. To my surprise, this wasn’t all that bad.

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They had some art along the way. They had a very pristine and glimmering river that also paralleled with the Erie canal. (I am still searching for the answer as to why the canal was dug separately when they could have utilized the mighty Cuyahoga.) The asphalt path was clear and other than industrial noises from time to time, the path was teeming with song birds of all kinds. Now I have to admit, love is a funny thing. You get to a point where you are just brutally honest with each other. This week’s form of honesty came across as “Babe, you have a boog hanging out.” She’s always honest with me…that’s how I know this relationship is going places. Sometimes you just have to cut through the shit and tell it like it is.

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Other than being brutally honest, one of the things I admire the most about Tara is her stubbornness. Now most people wouldn’t find it to be a redeeming quality. However, I’ve seen this woman put her mind to something and she will keep attacking it until the task is complete. She kept telling me she “was fine” however the sniffles and coughing and sneezing told me otherwise. It would have been easy for her to say that she didn’t feel well and we could hike another day, but she didn’t. She made a promise to me that we’d hike 52 times this year. Just like always, she pushed through it – sickness and all.

 

We walked in total about four miles through the bitter biting wind and cold. All the layers we had on were no match for the stinging daggers thrust toward us in the form of Ohio winter winds. It didn’t matter though. We carried on as if we were back on the beaches of Miami, hand in hand – talking and laughing right through the end of our journey.

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Hers – Virginia Key Beach Park

This weekend’s hike was a bit different than our usual. We traded our hiking shoes for sneakers, our hats and gloves for tank tops, our muddy trails for sandy shores, and our gray skies for hot sunshine. Yep…we were in MIAMI.

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I have a wonderful friend that did me the solid of planning her wedding in Miami for the end of February. Just when I needed some time away from Ohio the most. (I do love Ohio, but I’d be lying if I said the wintery gray skies didn’t weigh on me after awhile. And hello? Who wouldn’t want to celebrate in Miami?!)

Casey and I planned out the weekend around wedding festivities and found that we had a decent amount of time on Friday before the rehearsal dinner. We drove over the causeway to Virginia Key Beach Park. I wasn’t really sure what to expect other than I knew it’d be surrounded by water. We started walking along a sandy trail that led through dense palms and lush plants. And then another trail branched off to our left and we saw this:

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I know, right?! I love mountain views as much as the next person, but any mountain lover can still appreciate a beachfront. Of course, we headed down to the beach and enjoyed the view a little bit closer. This is where we also saw a beautiful woman sunbathing and her boyfriend working out on the rocks. We walked a little further and saw a small photo shoot with a bikini model. I started to feel really out place. One of my favorite things about walking and hiking is that I don’t have to try to look a certain way. I can throw on some clothes, put my hair in a pony tail and walk out the door to enjoy nature in its plain beauty and my plain face.

Luckily I had Casey walking alongside me who was quick to make jokes about both of those scenes. He also started talking about encountering an alligator, making me laugh and feel at ease with myself again. He was on pretty high alert throughout the hike, jumping at any ruffle of leaves while I laughed at him (like any supportive significant other would do). It was interesting to me that while he’s usually the laid back one, it seems our personalities get a little reversed when traveling outside our comfort zones.

We walked around the park for probably about two miles when the sun started really beating down. We’re both still pasty from the winter and not used to warm sunshine lately, so we decided it was time for lunch. For once, I was probably just as excited for this as Casey. We went to Puerto Sagua in South Beach and stuffed our face with potato balls and Cuban sandwiches. (I might be able to look like the bikini model if it wasn’t for potato balls, but I’m completely ok with that. Life isn’t worth living without carbs.) Since we were so stuffed, we decided to take another walk along the beach, hand in hand with our toes in the water. The weather was gorgeous, the water was turquoise, and the company was good. There were people from all walks of life with all types of bodies rocking all kinds of swimwear (or lack thereof). And you know what? More power to every single one of those people. It was another reminder that nature doesn’t give a damn what you look like.

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His – Virginia Key Beach Park – 02/24/2017

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Sometimes you get unique opportunities in life and you can’t let them pass by. When Tara asked me to go with her to a wedding in Miami, Florida, in February, I jumped at the chance. I’m a thirty-year-old man and have never vacationed in Florida. For reasons unbeknownst to me, my family never went to Florida when I was growing up. As I have progressed through adulthood, I’ve never really had the opportunity to go either. The overall experience was surreal and almost felt like stepping into another country.

 

On one of our few free days we struck out to a nearby park called Virginia Key Beach. For obvious reasons, our outfits were completely different than any other hike this year. With temperatures in the high seventies or low eighties, I applied my SPF 60. (Yes, I’m whiter than any friendly ghost you may come across.) I threw on some shorts, a T-shirt, sunglasses, rocked those sweet blue Salomon’s too.

 

For those of you not familiar, Virginia Key is an 863-acre barrier island in Miami. We covered about 2 to 3 miles of trail that combed a dense tropical forest and beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. There weren’t too many hikers out, but a strong population of bikers that quickly pedaled along the roadsides. The trail was mostly comprised of a combination of dirt and white sand. As we walked down to the trail, I quickly realized I was out of my element. The plants were very unfamiliar. The trees and shrubbery were dense and seemed to be ancient. There were sounds and signs of wildlife at every turn.

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The thing that pops out to you the most about Miami is the overabundance of good looking people. It seems like it’s a requirement of every resident to be tan with six pack abs and flawless looks. When we dumped onto the first beach, we saw a couple on one of the break walls. The girl sunning herself, the guy putting himself through a rigorous abdominal workout. We continued on the path and saw a ton of bags piled onto a picnic table. I assumed a homeless person setup camp there… I was wrong. We quickly heard two guys speaking Spanish and coaching a young lady as their cameras clicked and flashed. We stumbled on a photoshoot with a bikini clad woman in a shaded grove.

 

We turned around and had decided that we needed to get deeper into nature. Model shoots and ab workouts aren’t my ideal subjects while hiking. I did learn that a new environment puts me on high alert. I quickly remembered that we were in Florida and alligators are a thing. There was a very strong population of small lizards on the island as well. They sounded thunderous as they crashed through the leaves and vegetation. And finally we stumbled on this sign:

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Are you kidding me?! Killer raccoons?! I was ALREADY trying to save Tara from any movement in the forest. Whether it was moving leaves, a weird breeze, or a lizard… in my mind, they were all thirteen foot alligators looking for lunch. Now I’m looking around for rabid raccoons? The weather was sweltering at this point. We continued down the trail until we dumped into a public beach where they were shooting a TV commercial.  Tara wouldn’t let me be a part of the commercial, so we turned around.

 

We did address a VERY important aspect of our hiking… LUNCH! We drove to South Beach to eat at Puerto Sagua, a small mom and pop diner that was packed.  We had the most delicious potato balls with hot sauce and hot homemade Cuban sandwiches. Let me tell you, the Cubans know how to cook. SOOOO good! After we filled our bellies, we ventured out to the ocean. We kicked off our shoes and walked hand in hand in the Atlantic Ocean. I will admit, I’ve never seen so many butt cheeks in my life… guys and girls all trying to minimize their respective tan lines. The ocean was crystal clear with vibrant shades of green and light blue. It was a perfect way to cap off our hike.

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Overall, Miami exceeded my expectations. It was great to get out of my comfort zone, out of our state, and enjoy a new terrain in a new state. I look forward to more out of state and hopefully out of country adventures with Tara, tanned butt cheeks, thunderous mini lizards, and alligators be damned!

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