Despite it being Sunday I set my alarm so I would wake up around 8AM. I couldn't shake the desire to reach Goshiki waterfall. I ate some maple cream cookies with the last bit of milk I had in the carton. The lip of the carton was still stained from the Oreo binge I undertook Thursday at lunch time. That milk was way past the expiration date but as long as it doesn't smell bad it's fair game. Fueled by old milk and addictive maple cookies I threw on my expedition jeans. The jeans are called that because they haven't been washed for awhile and continue to build up a layer of filth from my excursions. When I put those on it's serious business time. Out the door I went about 8:30AM. I made good time over to the Yodo as the sunshine beamed through scattered clouds. What wonderful weather I thought to myself. Yet, I couldn't have expected to see the gamut of weather that the heavens rolled in today.
From my surveying on Wednesday I knew that to reach Goshiki was going to be a grueling task. As I locked up the car the wind blew and pierced through my two synthetic layers and the cotton hooded sweatshirt I had on. The tops of mountains in those parts were dusted with light snow so I ditched the hooded sweatshirt and took my coat along. I would later be glad to have hauled that coat all the way up into the hills. I hurried down into the valley which by now is my third time. I still don't have a regular path. I just ambled down slippery soil hugging sugi trees at free will. I'm used to it though. It had rained pretty heavily all day on Friday so I was unsure of how the first stream crossing would be. Yes the water was a little higher some of the rocks wetter than last time. Jumping would be out of the question. I know too well the dangers of wet rocks. But I ended up jumping across at first anyway. My feet hit the rock and my backpack flew up toward my head. I then heard a clunking noise and saw something go sailing into the stream. I looked in terror.
My cell phone had popped out of my backpack and sank down about a foot into the water. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! I was horrified because I wouldn't want to replace a cell phone. I pushed up my coat sleeve and reached my arm down into the stream to retrieve the white plastic. I knew what to expect. A non working, water logged chunk of plastic. I accidentally brushed a button on the side and the time on the outer screen came up. Wait, what!? I flipped it open and saw that it was still on. As quickly as I could I cut the power and pulled the battery. I'll give it a few days to dry and chances are it will still work. How lucky I was. There was no way to tell if that was a good or bad omen.
The problem of more water in the valley today was readily apparent. The next major crossing left me dumb founded for a few minutes. Jumping was too risky but there was no other way. I ripped a tree off the nearby cliff. It was long and had a big root ball. I dropped this into a crevice and made sure it wouldn't move. I then leaped across with the tree supporting me. This kept me from sliding off the rock on the other side. I tried to save the support for when I came back but a log I had thrown in the stream earlier grabbed it and almost pulled me off. Oh well, I would find another way somehow. I slogged through the underbrush and trees to get farther up stream. I then did the first sugi slant climb to reach an old path. This path was my shortcut to having to traverse narrow canyon walls and rocks.
So we meet again. I was expecting it though. It looked strong enough but these types of things make me hesitant. Old logs can play nasty tricks. I inched my way onto the log and began to go across. This was the route I had to take so there was no other option. I stopped to gather myself and thought if the log were to collapse what would be the best way to avoid serious injury on the rocks below.
A brief moment later I planted my feet on the stones at the other side. What a relief. But I couldn't wait to walk back across again. From there I started the most grueling part of trek. I had to tackle the slopes of a sprawling sugi forest. The only thing I was sure of was that staying close to the stream would help guide me along. The elevation rapidly went up and brief drop offs kept pushing me higher up as I had to find safe routes to ascend. This is the slowest type of hiking I know. It feels lonely and hopeless in those forests. I always feel defeated before having accomplished my goals. True jungles must feel infinitely worse. By now it had turned very cloudy and overcast so the light was even more dimmer than earlier under the canopy. I saw the waterfall from Wednesday in the distance and knew I was right on track. After ascending for what seemed like hours I stumbled upon something that looked like a path that ran parallel to the slope. Any kind of path that takes the stress off my ankles being slanted is welcomed. A break in the trees appeared and I could see half of a tiny village in the distance. I knew I could see the fall from most of the village so I was on the right track. This brought me past some makeshift dwelling of some sort. The rocks had been stacked in a circle with an opening. It must have been a supply hut long ago when the forests were planted and being maintained more often. Maybe I should turn that into a little mountain hut of my own. I doubt anyone would care, until they find it though.
So where was at this point anyway? I thought I should be able to see Goshiki waterfall by now but the only sign was a stream cascading down an open slope that was obviously coming from the fall. It got steep and increasingly rocky. There was no option but to press forward into the unknown. I felt better for a brief moment when I saw a Pocari Sweat bottle wrapper lying on the top of the countless layers of dead sugi branches. I don't know how that wrapper got there but this human object in a place so far removed people warmed my spirit. The sound of water was growing louder too. I came upon a small waterfall and sat down to catch my breath.
The elevation change and the water acted as a super cooler. I had to put on my coat to keep the wind from chilling my sweaty body. I had come a long from the bottom of the river crossing where my day had started. It was clear that overnight the temperatures had dropped because of the ice clinging to the grassy plants tucked in the rock faces. It was growing colder the farther I went.
After passing the small waterfall my eyes were caught by long sheets of water pouring from high above. I was so close and didn't even realize it. Goshiki was finally within reach. It was still going to take every bit of effort to get closer.
The water draining off the cliff above coated everything around the south side of the fall in ice. There some light snow on the ground as well. It was cold wet and messy to work through those conditions. The ground was muddy. The trees were icy. My hands were freezing trying to climb toward the basin of the fall. Water was splattering from above and my camera isn't weather sealed so that is that.
I kept telling myself that I was crazy but I had come all this way so I had to get into better position to see the fall. It was necessary to work down a slope covered in icy plants and rocks. It wasn't that dangerous but I was careful not to do anything stupid. Isn't that what I'm always trying not to do though?
Goshiki. I made it to you.
I turned back and gazed out into the distance.
From the village it seemed so far away and it was. They told me the waterfall was only to be seen from afar but now I had the fall. It was the village that looked like it was only possible to view from a distance.
I sat down and ate an apple as the winds blew harder. My hands felt very cold. Snow began to float down from the gray skies. The mountain was telling me it was time to go. So here we had to say farewell.
Making way through my muddy tracks and trying to recall from where I came was just part of the game. Waterfalls and mountains don't allow you one way. All the way back to the bridge I went. Whether I was there or not the snow was just ambivalent.
As I crossed back over the river from the morning I stopped and lifted my hands in triumph. I had made it all the way to that far away fall. I couldn't help but smile and the sun shot me a ray just to show his praise.
I bid my last good bye. There might not be a next time. This could have been the only time I know Goshiki so close. Is it too much to think I might even be the last...?