I've deleted wallet related things from .bitcoin folder including:

.bitcoin/wallets and .bitcoin/chainstate and run bitcoin using bitcoind -reindex.

This takes longer than just starting over from scratch and deleting the entire .bitcoin folder. The reindex seems to finish quickly, but for a long time afterwards rpc calls always result in:

error code: -28
error message:
Loading wallet...

I'm not sure what this error means, if it is recoverable, or how it gets in this state, as there is nothing happening in verbose debug output, and the cpu is not being hit at all.

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