Mountain laurel in bloom

Mountain laurel in bloom
Mountain laurel is in bloom at West Rock, as seen on the Gold Trail.

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Web Links for Hiking, Bicycling, and Traveling

Hiking Books
     West Rock is ignored by several hiking books on Connecticut, so the first part of this entry focus on those books that include West Rock. I do not understand how books could omit a centrally-located state park (that happens to be the second largest in the state) bisected by one of the state's major highways with 23 miles of trails, providing a range of difficulty from easy to moderately challenging. For the hiking books that do describe West Rock, they focus on the Regicides Trail, recommending out and back hikes. The better approach is to use the Regicides Trail as part of a loop, using other trails in the park. I give suggestions on the Suggested Hikes and Walks page in this website.

     Some of these books have incorrect or outdated information, which I clarify here. Some say that the Regicides Trail is 6.3 miles long. When the trail officially started at Judges Cave, that was true, but since it currently starts at the South Overlook, the actual distance is 6.8 miles. One book states that the park charges a $1 fee to drive to the South Overlook and Judges Cave. While that was formerly true, there is currently no charge for access to any part of West Rock. Many books refer to parking at the West Rock Nature Center. To control illegal dumping, the city of New Haven placed jersey barriers along the parking lot edge, limiting parking to perhaps three to four spaces parallel to the barriers. The upper parking lot at the West Rock Nature Center is open only for special events conducted by the New Haven Parks Rangers. Also, most books refer to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with the associated abbreviation in the web address. With the name change to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), web addresses have also changed.

The entry shack at West Rock has not collected any entrance fees in many years.
     I recognize the challenge of writing books on a variety of areas, and the difficulty with getting every detail correct. Print faces the challenge that once someone has the title, that information is always incorrect. Updates may take years to get published, if the book is updated at all. For the sake of clarity, I include updates on these books, if needed. These titles should generally be available in Connecticut libraries and bookstores.
  • Connecticut Walk Book West, published in 2006 by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA), and the Connecticut Walk Book East, published in 2005 by CFPA. No online preview of the books are available. The West edition of the book discusses the Regicides, Sanford Feeder and Westville Feeder Trails at West Rock with maps, on pages 239-247.
These maps exclude the trails at the park that are not maintained by the CFPA, so look to the state park maps for that information. The CFPA has an online overview map of all its trails at http://www.ctwoodlands.org/blue-blazed-hiking-trails/blue-blazed-hiking-trails-interactive-map. Be sure to click on the boxes for "Parking" and "Trail Notices" in the upper right corner of the online map. This provides the latest information on the trails, as there have been numerous changes in the 10 years since the books were published. Planning has begun on the next edition, but that could take a couple of years to publish.
Updates to the Walk Book West for West Rock include the following: The park is just beyond 1,700 acres (1,722 acres as of this writing). Parking at the West Rock Nature Center is limited. Baldwin Drive is open to maintenance vehicles. (The book says the road is closed to motorized vehicles at all times.) The trail no longer descends on the woods road near the airplane beacon. It now crosses the woods road. The directions to the Amrhyn Field parking mentions a factory building. It is now the Early Childhood Learning Center. The Westville Feeder trailhead is no longer at the far northwest corner of the field. The trail starts at the bridge over the West River. The map does not reflect the four relocations to the trail completed since 2011. However, these relocations are so subtle that the map in the book works just fine.
One other change in the area is the fact that in September 2014, the CFPA abandoned the Quinnipiac Trail, east of Hartford Turnpike in Hamden/North Haven, shortening the trail to 20 miles from 24 miles. The trail had passed through Quinnipiac River State Park and it was an unpleasant, soggy mess of pricker bushes, poison ivy, and mosquitoes. Few people will lament its abandonment.
Ice melts on Konolds Pond, March 2015, in this view from the Regicides Trail.
The Ostertags write excellent, detailed books. Hiking Connecticut and Rhode Island, the successor book to Hiking Southern New Englandfeatures the Regicides Trail on pages 143-147. I already own Hiking Southern New England and purchased Hiking Connecticut and Rhode Island after previewing it online. If are looking for a comprehensive book about where to hike in Connecticut, Hiking Connecticut and Rhode Island would be my first choice for a book to recommend. Hiking Southern New England is older, so some of its details are more likely to be outdated. 
Regarding West Rock, the Ostertags' books require three minor updates, a correction, and a suggestion. One update is that parking area by the West Rock Nature Center was mostly blocked off with jersey barriers in 2014, and now has maybe 3 to 4 spaces parallel to the barriers. Another update is that the Regicides Trail no longer follows gravel road north of the tunnel, as I relocated the trail in 2014 to cross the gravel road. A third update is that their web link for the state park maps was rendered partially obsolete by the change from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Fortunately, the state included an automatic redirection from the old web address to the new one. 
The correction is that the pavilion at the South Overlook is not a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project, as people may assume (and I did too). Instead, it was constructed in the 1950s. My suggestion for the book is that the most direct way to access the Regicides Trail when the main entrance is closed is to park behind the Early Childhood Center, 495 Blake St., and walk up the Blue-Yellow Westville Feeder.
  • New England Hiking: The Complete Guide to More than 380 Hikes by Michael Lanza, published in 2005 by Avalon Travel Publishing. West Rock is mentioned on pages 458-459 with a hike that starts on the Sanford Feeder Trail and heads south four miles on the Regicides Trail before returning the same way.
Updates since this book was published: The Sanford Feeder has Blue Blazes with a Red Tail (not the Red Dot mentioned in the book). The trail entrance is blocked by a gate (not the chain mentioned in the book). There is a Sanford Feeder sign with the trail name. Baldwin Drive (called Baldwin Road in the book) is not open to traffic at any time (The book says the road is open in warmer months). The phone number for the park office at Sleeping Giant has been changed to 203-287-5658. The former DEP website listed in the book is very outdated. This book does not contain any maps.
As a hiking resource, it has a staggering number of good hikes with useful information, so this book is well worth having, provided you supply your own maps and you verify the information for a particular hike before you go.
  • Best Hikes Near New York City by Ben Keene, published in 2011 by Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, describes a hike at West Rock from the main entrance up to the South Overlook and Judges Cave on pages 242-246.  The book is a useful resource and well organized guide for hikes near New York City with a concentration of hikes in New York State.
Updates since the book was written: Parking at the lower parking lot of the West Rock Nature Center is mostly blocked off, if you cannot find spaces parallel to the jersey barriers, park on nearby Tierney Road. There are no animals at the West Rock Nature Center. The Quinnipiac Trail is now only 20 miles long. The web address is now www.ct.gov/deep (not /dep as it used to be). The book describes three other hikes in Connecticut, Sleeping Giant State Park, the Naugatuck State Forest in Beacon Falls, and Mianus River Park in Greenwich/Stamford.
Lake Watrous provides a scenic foreground to this picture of West Rock Ridge,
taken from Brooks Road, Bethany.

Mountain Biking, Bike Paths, and Websites

Even if you do not mountain bike, the following two books can give you ideas for excellent places to hike. If you do bike, these have good suggestions for rides in West Rock and beyond.
  • Mountain Biking Southern New England by Paul Angiolillo, published in 1999 by Falcon Publishing. Preview at https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1560444150. West Rock is mentioned on pages 158-161. Oddly, this book excludes the single-track portion of the Red Trail located between the two portions of Mountain Road, a section that is a favorite of many mountain bikers.
These are updates since the book was published. West Rock has grown from the 1,500 acres listed in the book. The West Rock park supervisor is no longer Alex Sokolow. Wilbur Cross is misspelled as "Wilber." Amity Bicycle is off Exit 59 of Rt. 15, not Exit 5 as listed in the book. The double track trail mentioned near Judges Cave is now blazed Green. The road to the lookout, as the book describes Regicide Drive to the South Overlook and Judges Cave is open daily from Memorial Day weekend to the end of October. The book describes the road as being open only on weekends.
  • Mountain Biking Connecticut by Stuart Johnstone, published in 2000 by Active Publications. No online preview is available. The Red, White, and Green Trails are featured in the West Rock entry, found on pages 72 to 77.
There have been a few changes since the book was published, including the fact that West Rock has grown from the 1,500 acres listed in the book. Also the DEP address in the book is very outdated, and three of the five bicycle shops no longer exist. See the bottom of this webpage for a current list of shops within 15 miles of West Rock.
  • Bike Paths of Connecticut and Rhode Island: A Guide to Rail-Trails and Other Car-Free Places by Stuart Johnstone, was published in 2012 by Active Publications, and is an excellent resource to the state's rail trails and bike paths. This book replaced the out of print book Bike Paths of Connecticut that Johnstone published in 2004. The earlier book focusing on Connecticut is now obsolete, due to the many improvements in Connecticut's rail trails and bike paths.
Both books have an excellent description of Baldwin Drive and Regicide Drive at West Rock, although they mistakenly refers to both roads as Baldwin Drive, an easy error to make since there are no signs and Regicide Drive has become somewhat of a forgotten name. Two other updates since these books were published: parking is limited at the West Rock Nature Center on Wintergreen Avenue, and the phone number for the park office (located at Sleeping Giant State Park) has changed to (203) 287-5658. On the other side of New Haven at East Rock Park, the book was written at a time when bicycle travel was restricted to the paved roads. Some dirt paths are now open to bicycles.

Rhododendron frame the entrance road at West Rock, March 2015.

 Climbing Book
  • Rock Climbing Connecticut by David Fasulo, published in 2002 by Globe Pequot Press. A preview is available at https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0762722142. The information that I read in the book at a bookstore seemed accurate to me, but I'm not a rock climber, so I cannot verify the details.

    Travel Books

    • The Insider's Guide to Connecticut by Eric Lehman, published in 2012 by Globe Pequot Press. A preview is available at https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0762783885. This book is a detailed travel guide to the state with a West Rock entry on page 143. Two corrections to the book: the view from the top by the South Overlook is at 375 feet of elevation; the ridge is 600 feet high further north. The web address listed in the book needs to be updated to www.ct.gov/deep
    • Hidden in Plain Sight: A Deep Traveler Explores Connecticut by David K. Leff, published in 2012 by Wesleyan University Press, has an entry on Baldwin Drive, as part of a chapter called "Ghost Streets and Routes Less Taken: Abandoned Roads." Book preview at https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0819572829
    • Fun with the Family ConnecticutHundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids by Doe Boyle, published in 2011 by Morris Book Publishing. Preview at https://books.google.com/books?isbn=076276879 This book has a couple of minor errors for the West Rock entry and updates. The Regicides Trail is 6.8 miles long, not the 6.3 miles listed in the book. Only Edward Whalley and William Goffe stayed at Judges Cave. Access to the top of the ridge is open to cars from Memorial Day to the end of October. The lower parking area at the West Rock Nature Center was blocked off with concrete barriers in 2014, limiting parking to perhaps 3 to 4 spaces parallel to the barriers. The West Rock Nature Center, http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/parks/parksinformation/westrockpark.asp, is used for special programs and no longer has any animals, but the grounds are available to hike from sunrise to sunset. Check the New Haven Parks calendar for events, such as ranger-led hikes: http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Calendars/ParksCalendar.asp
    • Guide to the Connecticut Shore by Doe Boyle, published in 2006 by Globe Pequot Press, suggests many attractions on and near the coast that are worth a visit. A preview is available at https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0762734883
    This book has a good overview of West Rock and the West Rock Nature Center on pages 108-110. This book has three errors and needs several updates. John Dixwell did not stay at Judges Cave, only Edward Whalley and William Goffe did. The Regicides Trail is 6.8 miles long, not the 6.3 miles listed in the book. There is no entry fee for cars. Parking at the West Rock Nature Center is limited to perhaps 3 to 4 spaces. The phone number for West Rock Ridge State Park has changed to (203) 287-5658. The address for the West Rock Nature Center is 1080 Wintergreen Ave. (not the 1020 indicated in the book) and the phone number is now (203) 946-6559.
        This book has several errors. West Rock Ridge State Park is 1,722 acres, not the 40 listed in the book (probably confusing the state park with the 43 acre nature center property.) The view from the top toward Yale University is 375 ft. of elevation, not the 627 feet listed in the book. The highest point on the ridge is 627 feet, but that point is miles further north. The Regicides Trail is 6.8 miles long, not the 6.3 listed in the book. Access to the top of the ridge is open to cars from Memorial Day to the end of October, not year round as the entry implies. While not mentioned in the book, the lower parking area at the West Rock Nature Center was blocked off with concrete barriers in 2014, limiting parking to 3 to 4 spaces. The West Rock Nature Center is used for special programs and no longer has any animals, but the grounds are available to hike from sunrise to sunset.
        • A Visitor's Guide to Colonial and Revolutionary New EnglandInteresting Sites to Visit, Lodging, Dining, Things to Do by Robert and Patricia Foulke, published in 2012 by Countryman Press. The book lists many interesting places to visit with good details and photographs. A preview is available at https://books.google.com/books?id=knbucC2iq1AC&. The book briefly mentions the West Rock Nature Center and West Rock Ridge State Park with a focus on Judges Cave. The book describes the nature center as being in the state park, but they are two separate properties. The nature center phone number is now (203) 946-6559.
        • Connecticut Icons: Symbols of the Nutmeg State by Charles Monagan, published in 2007 by Insiders Guide®, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press. Monagan was editor of Connecticut magazine for 24 years, retiring in 2013. This book is an interesting compilation of what he feels are 50 symbols of Connecticut. He presents them as a series of individual essays, most of which previously appeared in the magazine. The icons include natural features, such as the Sleeping Giant (p. 22-23), the Eastern Oyster, and the Thimble Islands. He also discusses creations by people, including the West Rock Tunnel (p. 84-85), the Dinosaur Mural at the Yale Peabody Museum (p. 6-7), Blue-Blazed Trails (p. 14-15), Yale Bowl (p. 60-61), stone walls (p. 64-65) and the Connecticut Guide (p. 68-69 and see below for more details). Finally, he discusses food, including the Hot Lobster Roll, Hot Dogs, the Steamed Cheeseburger, and White Clam Pizza. For those wishing to learn more about the state, this book provides a well-researched, readable two-page overview of each topic with photos. The photo for the West Rock Tunnel is a historic image of the tunnel being built. His discussion includes the reason why the tunnel was the best choice, as compared to choosing a route that swung around the ridge. An online preview of the book is available at https://books.google.com/books?id=x1nwnJach6kC&. This preview includes the essays on the dinosaur mural, Yale Bowl, and stone walls.
        This is one of two pull-offs along Regicide Drive along the way to the South Overlook
        that invites travelers to stop and enjoy the view.
        • The Connecticut Guide: What To See and Where to Find It, compiled by Edgar L. Heermance, was published in 1935 by the Emergency Relief Commission. On the title page it states the book was "A Project of the State Planning Board, Initiated under CWA and completed with FERA funds". The CWA was the Civil Works Administration of Connecticut, while FERA was the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Both were Depression-era programs, designed to put people to work. Heermance is called the "father" of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association's (CFPA) blue-blazed trails because he started the system in 1929 with the blazing of the Quinnipiac Trail at Sleeping Giant.
        • This book is a town-by-town driving guide with lots of interesting information, including how each town was founded and got its name, along with natural features and historic buildings in those towns. As I use this book, it will be interesting to see which historic buildings remain. A clickable online version may be found at https://archive.org/details/connecticutguide00connrich, while a PDF version may be downloaded from https://ia802706.us.archive.org/27/items/connecticutguide00connrich/connecticutguide00connrich_bw.pdf.
        • Within the New Haven section of The Connecticut Guide, there is this description of West Rock on pages 39 and 40: “Near the point in Westville where Fountain St. veers off from Whalley Ave.. Blake St. and Springside Ave. lead to the summit of West Rock, one of the two trap rock masses which flank the city, and now a public park. A fine panorama is obtained from the parking space at the summit. A short distance along the ridge is Judges Cave, a jumble of rocks split from a glacial erratic, where the Regicides Whalley and Goffe were concealed for a time in 1661. The tablet quotes the words: "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." The flora of the Park shows an interesting transition from the lichen and moss communities of exposed rocks, to inferior maple-beech-hemlock forests, and then to excellent stands of hickory and oak. The best way to study the tilting of the rock strata and the junction of the trap with the lower sandstone, is to climb West Rock by the footpath under the cliff. The lava forced its way from east to west between two sandstone layers, of which the upper layer has been worn off by erosion at the summit. The attractive Wintergreen Falls is reached by a drive turning north from the road up West Rock. The new Baldwin Drive, now under construction along the West Rock range, will be one of the most scenic in the country.”
        • Connecticut: A Guide to Its Roads, Lore and People is a 700-page book written in 1938 by authors of the Federal Writer's Project for the Works Progress Administration, as part of the American Guide Series. This book has many features, including acting as a tourist guide to sites in 1938. West Rock rates two paragraphs on pages 251-252 of the book (pages 347-348 of the PDF file), mostly writing about the regicides. The regicides also appear on page 229 (page 315 of the PDF) with information about the Dixwell Monument at Center Church on the New Haven Green. This link is to a free download for the book. The file is large, so be patient while it downloads. https://ia600306.us.archive.org/18/items/connecticut00federich/connecticut00federich.pdf. Google books charges to download this title.
        • From Connecticut: A Guide to Its Roads, Lore and People (pages 251-252):
          “West Rock Park, Blake St., an attractive public park, afifords an ex- tensive view from the summit. In it is Judges’ Cave, the hiding place of the regicides, Whalley and Goffe, who, after signing the death warrant of Charles I, were forced to flee from England. Landing in Boston on July 27, 1660, they remained there until the following year when, fearing apprehension, they fled to New Haven, arriving on March 7, 1661. They lived unmolested until news reached the city of the proclamation issued by Charles II, ordering their arrest and deportation to England. They fled to Milford, but returned on March 27, and were for a while concealed at the home of the Rev. John Davenport, whose sermon, 'Hide the outcast, betray not him that wandereth,' aroused sympathy for the condemned men. Whalley and Goffe, however, realizing they would involve Davenport with the British authorities if they continued to accept the safety of his home, were about to forfeit their liberty when West Rock was suggested as a shelter. A tablet there is inscribed: 'Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God.' Frightened from the sanctuary by wild animals, the regicides escaped to Milford, where they remained for two years, returning again to New Haven in 1664 before taking up permanent residence in Hadley, Mass.
          Near the beginning of the Summit Drive is the entrance to Baldwin Parkway which extends for more than six miles to Bethany Gap. The parkway winds to the north over the forested top of the West Rock ridge and affords superb views of New Haven and the surrounding country. When the Merritt Highway is completed, it is expected that this parkway will form a main approach to New Haven.”

          (page 229): "The Dixwell Monument, at the rear of Center Church, enclosed by an iron railing, marks the grave of John Dixwell, one of the regicides, who lived for many years in this city under the name of James Davids. The rectangular granite stone, engraved with the important events of Dixwell's career, was erected by his descendants in 1847. Two tablets on the rear wall of the church commemorate the other regicides — Edward Whalley, Cromwell's cousin, and General William Goffe who also found refuge in this city."
        Judges Cave is a historic attraction at West Rock
        in this view seen from the rear in March 2015.
        The following two books do not have information on West Rock, but are useful resources. Perhaps they could include West Rock in a future edition with these suggestions from me.
        • Best Hikes with Kids, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island by Cynthia Copeland, Thomas Lewis, and Emily Kerr, published in 2007 by the Mountaineers Books. For the next edition: Kid friendly suggestions at West Rock include hiking to the South Overlook, Judges Cave, and around Lake Wintergreen.
        • AMC Best Day Hikes in Connecticut by René Laubach and Charles W.G. Smith, published in 2013 by Appalachian Mountain Club books. For the next edition, I would suggest including loop hikes from the Lake Wintergreen parking area: one to Judges Cave and the South Overlook, and the other north to Farm Brook Reservoir.

        Links for Hiking Blogs and Other Websites


        •  RootsRated is a website with articles about outdoors experiences. This is the article about West Rock: https://rootsrated.com/new-haven-ct/hiking/west-rock-ridge-state-park

        • The blog is entitled, You Hike the Giant, Too!: Musing, Meanderings, & Maunderings on, mostly, Sleeping Giant, has a section with excellent photos of plants and other natural features at West Rock. Scroll down a bit to reach the West Rock section: http://hikeagiant2.wordpress.com/category/ct-hikes/west-rock/

          Mountain laurel lines the Green Trail, March 2015.

          Links for Travel Review Sites

               There are various trip view sites on which people can leave reviews of attractions. These are links to the West Rock reviews. I encourage people to leave their own reviews of West Rock. With any of these sites, you need to sign up to leave a review.

          My review of West Rock on the Yelp site fell into the "Not Recommended" category, so you have to click at the bottom on "Reviews not currently recommended" to see my review. According to Yelp, the site uses automated software to determine which reviews are approved. In my original posting, I mentioned that I volunteered at park, so I am guessing that such wording caused the computer to flag my review and not recommend it. Even when I removed the references to volunteering, it still did not make the cut. That's unfortunate because I am trying to provide useful information.
          The Lake Watrous dam and the lake itself provide a scenic foreground to West Rock Ridge in this view from Downs Road, March 2015.

          Links for Local Bicycle Shops


               There are five bicycle shops located near West Rock (5 to 10 miles away), which is good information to know if you need a part or repair to continue your ride, plus two others located 12 mile away. This list includes how many miles the shop is located from the Lake Wintergreen parking lot, the most likely location from which someone is riding.

          Be sure to patronize your local bicycle shop (and not just purchase items online); otherwise, they may not be there when you really need them! I have purchased new bicycles from two of these shops and clothing and supplies from all but two, shops I did not visit simply because they were not convenient to where I live. 


          • Amity Bicycles, 18 Selden St., Woodbridge, Conn. 06525. (203) 387-6734. Amity Bicycles is located just north of the Rt. 15 overpass in a shopping center off Rt. 63 by Lucy Street, 4.5 miles from Lake Wintergreen. Closed Sundays. Website: http://www.amitybicycles.com/
          • Cheshire Cycle, 3550 Whitney Ave. (Rt. 10), Hamden, Conn. 06518. (203) 891-5320. Cheshire Cycle started in Cheshire (hence its name) before moving closer to West Rock (not why they moved, of course) to Rt. 10, just north of West Woods Road, across from Sleeping Giant State Park, 7 miles from Lake Wintergreen. Closed Sundays (and Mondays from December to March). Website: http://www.cheshirecycle.com
          • College Street Cycles, 252 College St., New Haven, Conn. 06510. (203) 865-2724. College Street Cycles is located between Chapel and Crown Streets, 5 miles from Lake Wintergreen. Closed Sundays. Website: http://www.collegestreetcycles.com/
          • The Devil's Gear, 151 Orange St., New Haven, Conn. 06510. (203) 773-9288. Devil's Gear is located in a courtyard set back from Orange Street between Court Street and Chapel Street, 5 miles from Lake Wintergreen. Closed Mondays. Website: http://thedevilsgear.com/
          • North Haven Bicycle Shop, 510 Washington Ave. (Rt. 5), North Haven, Conn. 06473. (203) 239-7789. North Haven Bicycle Shop is located 2 miles north of Bradley Street, 2 miles north of I-91 Exit 12, and 9 miles from Lake Wintergreen. Closed Sundays. Website: http://www.northhavenbike.com/
          • Wallingford Bike Barn, 218 North Colony Road (Rt. 5), Wallingford, Conn. 06492. (203) 265-2998. The Bike Barn is located in the center of Wallingford, three blocks north of Center Street (Rt. 150), off Rt. 15 Exit 65, 12 miles from Lake Wintergreen. Closed Sundays (and by appointment only on Mondays in the winter) Website: http://www.wallingfordbike.com
          • Zane's Cycles, 330 East Main St., (Rt. 1), Branford, CT 06405. Zane's is located off I-95 Exit 55, 12 miles from Lake Wintergreen. Open every day. Website: http://zanes.com/

          Links for Bicycle Maps and Routes

            Wintergreen Brook provides a scenic backdrop to the Red Trail south of the Lake Wintergreen spillway in March 2015.

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