Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back To 足谷


On Sunday I went to Ashitani to investigate the whereabouts of a waterfall. Based on the vague information, it was supposedly off to the lower left of a trail that to went to the top of mount Hirakataira. But this was all from memory and I didn't check the information again before leaving the house. About half way into my drive I was wishing I had checked once more. I zoomed up the road toward Nagasawa. This is always a fun road to drive as it ascends into the mountains. The scenery of reservoirs, cedar forests, and cliffs are enjoyable no matter how many times I've seen them. I remember the first time being on this road last year and how much I liked the views. I thought it might become commonplace for me but I find myself smiling as I look out into the valleys. It's always more of the same, "Do I live here?" Yes, in some random bureaucratic and government blessing I exist here.

Anyway, I was talking about lambasting myself about not checking the information on the waterfall location. I figured I would just keep an eye out for signs pointing me the way to the mountain. This worked rather well until I got to a fork high up in the hills. There was a sign here but both ways were rocky uneven forest roads. I took the left path that gave me familiar memories of when Nate, Danny, and I went up Fountain Bluff one early spring afternoon. I've referenced this numerous times in this blog because I think about it whenever I'm on bad roads. At least I didn't break the axle on the Camry that day or get stuck driving through a landslide. The conditions on Sunday weren't quite as bad but as soon as I got to a wet patch I turned the car around and parked it back at the fork. I wasn't going to risk getting stuck just because I was too lazy to walk. The reality is that I could have driven through the wet area. It's not so much mud as it is crushed up rock and sand. You wouldn't sink into that mixture. I'm just slightly paranoid half the time because of my prior experiences. I don't think I ever got my car stuck when I went places during my college years. It was the landmark time when Nate got his car stuck in a river bed that infests my paranoia glands. As I'm usually by myself these days when I'm out exploring, I have to be extra careful.

I threw the car alongside the road, grabbed my bag, and hoped I came to the mountain trail soon. I was quite pleased to find the trail entrance a few minutes later after a short stroll. But I was a bit confused because I had ascended pretty far up the mountain already to get to this point. How could there be a waterfall so high up? My instincts would later prove me right. In the vague information I read, I thought it said the waterfall was about 20 minutes in along the hiking trail. I also later found out that there was no 20 minutes written anywhere I got my information. I wonder how I conjured that one up? I decided I would at least hike the trail up for awhile and see what would happen. The worst that could come from it was not finding a waterfall but best would be getting to the top of a mountain. About 15 minutes in I was already thinking of going back. I almost stepped on a venomous snake a few moments later. I pressed on anyway hoping there would be something good.

I came out of the dull and steep switch back part of the trail in the trees to a more open ridge line. It looked down into a valley below and had views of the surrounding mountains. However, this is about as far as I would go. The trail become thickly overgrown with grass and weeds. After that close encounter with a snake I didn't see the point in trying to push through it with the possibility of nasty creatures hiding out. Plus I was only wearing shorts. No secondary protection from attacking snakes. I'm sure their fangs would go right through my jeans though. At least it would make me mentally feel more safe, right? There was a small metal bridge that I stopped at for awhile and listened to the sounds around me. I could hear roaring water and see another forest road meandering down below but there wasn't any indication of where exactly the sound was coming from or where the road was going. I thought maybe the trail would lead closer somehow. Yet, I just turned around and went back to the hiking trail entrance.

Maybe I needed to continue on the forest road and had just read the information about the location wrong or at least remembered it wrong. I didn't want to waste the opportunity despite feeling like I didn't have the slightest idea where the waterfall was. The road slowly started to descend and I began to hear the sounds of water. Well surely this was a good sign as I had heard sounds earlier when I was higher up on the mountain. I hate going down to get somewhere though. I hate the thought of having to walk back up. All for the sake of uncharted territory I guess. Suddenly through the trees I caught a glimpse of water cascading down some rocks and a big grin came over my face. This had to be it! All my walking had paid off. Now I just had to get over to where it was which required a decent walk along the road. About 10 minutes later I came to the spot and could hardly see anything through the trees into the valley below. There was definitely water crashing down but this wasn't the waterfall and sure didn't look like it from the pictures. Curses! I thought about trying to walk through the dense undergrowth but it was thorny. I headed back to the car wondering if I was close or still far off. In all it wasn't a very successful turn of events Sunday.


I managed to get in contact with the person who had posted the information about the waterfall on Monday and he had made a mistake about the location. He informed me of the correct location which was still a little vague. He said it was about 3km up some road (which I had gone past on Sunday) and then to the lower left obscured by trees. Armed with this new knowledge and a beautiful Wednesday afternoon I made it to the new coordinates in no time. The road was a fairly standard for the countryside but soon became the infamous forest road which usually amounts to a uneven gravel road that is made of up large rocks and stones. There is usually a continuous rut being washed out from water that flows down the roads in rainy weather. It wasn't too bad and I felt pretty comfortable. Then it got a bit more uneven, rocky, and precarious. It was time to stash the car and walk. Sometimes walking is better anyway because you can hear and see so much more. You can really use your senses and that is indispensable for unmarked waterfalls.

It wasn't more than a couple minutes that I had left the car that I heard roaring water. This can be misleading because a small rock shelf with water cascading over it can create a ruckus. This might make you think it is a grand waterfall when in reality it is nothing more than a couple meter drop of water. That qualifies as a waterfall but nothing that I'm entirely interested in. The situation was made more difficult because it was nearly impossible to see down into the valley below. From the places I could see it just didn't look like the video of the waterfall I had seen. I thought about descending the steep rocky walls and hiking up the valley but that would have been high risk and a lot of work. More than likely it would be impossible to directly walk up the valley at the bottom because it would be too steep anyway. I continued following the windy forest road along the valley until I came to a open clearing that happened to have a small trail off to the side of the road. It lead to a concrete shrine with broken whiskey bottles and tarnished coins. It was so loud in this area so the waterfall had to be near. I slid through some branches and down to a ledge and finally saw the falls. This view was terrible because there were so many trees and branches in the way. I had to find the view where the video I watched was taken.

After a bit of scrambling through another thicket I found the ideal spot to view the fall. It is no wonder this fall isn't listed and has no official name. It is remote and fairly well hidden from sight unless you are willing to do a bit of bushwhacking (not really so bad). I think this makes it all the more satisfying in the end. Places that are easy to get to for waterfall viewing don't always feel as personal and special.

It drops down the two tiers and thunders into the basin below. I imagine it's probably very deep down there but there is not telling. The frothy bubbles obscure any view into the dark water. 


To go from teaching to waterfalls in the afternoon, I love my Shikoku more and more.


This nature is shared by all but in these moments it's just mine...


Mom said...

The wonder of God's amazing, how divine! Loved every word except SNAKE. :)

yoko said...

seems like you are having wonderful time in shikoku...

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