Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's January. Yeah Okay.

Yes I've messed around with my layout a lot recently. The template that I personally modified was riddled with bullet holes from my constant editing practice. Therefore, I just used a pre-made one and adjusted the settings from the browser. This will make my life easier in the long run as I'm not going to take the time to write a blog layout from scratch anytime soon.

It was nice today. It was hard to tell in the morning how nice it would be when I looked out the window. It just looked bright and gray. If I can pull back the curtain and see blue skies I know that I shouldn't waste away under my blanket with the hot carpet radiating me to death underneath. Well by the later morning it was looking like that might happen but I finally got myself in gear. I even managed to make buttermilk pancakes (too many) for brunch. I halved the recipe but used one too many eggs so the hotcakes were a tad eggy. No problem. Still good. By the time I really decided to get myself outside it was already about 1:30PM. That is late for this time of year as the light dwindles much faster with the mountains obstructing the horizon.

I motored over to the west to check out an area I've had on my mind a year or so. The last time I tried to go there I didn't write down any map information and thought things would be clear when I arrived. That was not the case and I couldn't explore much on that day. This time I remembered to make a crude map and write down names of things so I had points of reference. Sometimes that isn't good enough when you get up on some roads that split off and aren't clearly marked where they go to. I came to a fork and wasn't sure where to go until I spotted a faded old sign made of wood. The lettering was near gone but enough to see that it read 登山入口 which means mountain trail entrance. That was some great luck. The road winded up past old farm houses and decaying fields of winter lettuce. It suddenly dead ended and had to get out of the car to check the signage. Sure enough the mountain trail was marked in decrepit old signs almost impossible to read. I doubt anyone hardly goes to that spot so it doesn't matter.

It was a bit troublesome, though, because it looked like the path was just some local farmer's foot trail that lead up to some orchards. But hey the sign pointed this way so I couldn't do anything else. The real reason of my trip was to scout out some potential waterfalls I had read about online. It rained a lot on Saturday so I thought it might be half decent to check out some falls today. I wasn't expecting it to be too great however. What I didn't want to do was climb all the way up a mountain. Especially after inhaling all those pancakes a few hours earlier. Yet, I told myself I better use that glucose or else. Not too far into the hike I headed off the main trail along a decently worn path toward the sound of water. From the road I had spotted part of this fall and seemed to be the one I read about online.

Too Typical

I couldn't say it was so great compared to others that I've seen but boy oh boy was this nice. Not the waterfall. It was nice because it had been a long time since I had been to a waterfall. It was great to visit the first one of the year. The sound of the splashing water. Rocks being hit with rushing currents. This was just the inspiration I needed.

Off The Wall

The short walk up to this point had already got me sweating. I had to take off my fleece and go with just a t-shirt. I brought my winter coat in the car. How foolish I am to think I would ever need that on a warm January day hiking. Shame on being prepared! It was warm standing around the fall despite the water which acts as a natural air conditioner usually.

Flood Table

It really wasn't this part of the fall that intrigued me though. It actually was a much larger fall that had a few different levels much higher up. As I left the bottom of the fall back toward the main mountain trail I considered bushwhacking up along the fall to get to where I wanted. My greedy side was telling me to do it but my rationale side chimed in and told me, "You don't want to waste precious time trying paths you don't know. Better stick to the main trail and hope for a view point." I took the latter advice hoping the trail would come near the upper part of the fall.

If you are hiking mountain trails that start lower at, let's say 500 meters or so, you usually have to work your way through the Sugi (Japanese cypress) labyrinths. This aren't labyrinths so much as they are rows and rows of tall thin trees that look identical. Mentally sticking it out through the sugi labyrinths is challenging. That scenery can really make you want to turn back and give up. If you can make it out of the sugi doldrums there is usually better scenery ahead. But you might just get a mountain that sucks and you spent the day walking through scenery you could see off the side of any road. At about 600 meters I was having a mental battle of my own because I felt incredibly lazy. But I still wanted to see if I could get to that upper part of the fall. I pressed on.

Somewhere around the 900 meter mark, with a completely sweat soaked shirt, I heard the faint roar of water coming from a path that shot off the main trail. I stopped. I had another discussion with myself. I decided I would make a short jaunt off the main trail just to see what was out of my view. There was some sort of lightly worn path or so it seemed. The locals or someone for that matter go up in the mountains and usually cut down the sugi trees to thin them out. There are lots of little paths that go nowhere. In fact, sometimes it can be a little confusing where the main trail goes. It's necessary in these places to rely on the pieces of pink tape attached to trees and plants along the way. It would be easy to find yourself going the wrong way. Do you see where this is headed yet?

I didn't go that far along the path but enough that I couldn't see where I had entered it. I saw a stream that was running down to the left of me. I figured that was the stream where the waterfall was coming from. I was half tempted to climb down the slope and follow the stream. The effort seemed like it would greatly outweigh the reward of whatever I might find. I took a breath and turned around to go back to the main trail. At least I thought I was going back to the main trail. I noticed a blue band around a tree from when I had come the opposite direction as well as another metal stake with a red cap on top. I thought it was odd I hadn't noticed that before. A few seconds later the path headed downwards and I couldn't for the life of me remember I had come up hill. I had walked parallel along a slope. Had I taken a wrong turn? Everything looked familiar. That was until the path ended and I wasn't back at the main trail.

Uh oh.

For a moment my mind froze. Now that you are good and scared. I wasn't really THAT lost. I wasn't aimlessly walking around in the forest so it wasn't going to be too hard to find my way back somehow. That is precisely why earlier I didn't stray from the path. Things just looked too similar to remember the way back well enough. Granted I could have just worked my way down along that stream. It would have taken much longer and I was already feeling less than thrilled to continue up the mountain. So I turned around and headed back along the path I had just come down. Sure enough I spotted the tree with the blue band around it and stopped to get my bearings. In my distraction of looking at the metal stake with the red cap on top, I had carelessly gone down the wrong path. The return path was just next to it and ran parallel along the slope. Feeling a bit more relieved I quickly went back to the main mountain trail and continued upwards.

The scenery failed to improve. The clouds were blotting out the sun. By the time I would have reached the top the sun would be making its way closer to the mountain line. I wasn't even sure how tall the mountain was. I thought it was around 1000 meters. I felt childish to give up and head back down. I was so close. A wasted trip all the way up the mountain. Getting back home before light had escaped the valleys seemed much better than anything else. The sugi labyrinths are dark and murky when the sun is dwindling. It feels opressive. Plus, the paths were covered in fallen branches with waxy wet sugi needles. I would need to be careful coming back down.

I made it back down in good time and back home well before it got dark outside. Didn't I say I had intended to find waterfalls anyway? I didn't mean to really climb up a mountain. I rationalized and felt better for giving up. I'll be back though because that fall needs to be explored up close and personal. I'll have to forge my own trail for that. But rest assured I'll start earlier in the day.

I leave you with this.

Flood Table Spout

PS Don't worry mom. I'm a writer so I have to make things sound more adventurous than they really are. But I wasn't really exaggerating anything either, haha.


Mom said...

you know me well! :) as i was reading, i was thinking, "did he take his cell phone? did he have cell phone service? i don't like him being out like this by himself. it's way too dangerous. but i can't control what he does so i guess i'll just keep praying for his safety every day." so what's the truth? was it dangerous or not? seriously.

Thunder Heart said...

I sure enjoyed reading about your journey up the mountain. Your words and what you described continued to pull me along through the story until I reached the end. I was able to relive the trip with you via your words. I have been in the same situations before on lakes, rivers and in the woods or Illinois. Those are good times to look back on once one is safe at home. At times I would wonder why I was ever concerned, but I guess that is the nature of man. Good job.

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