On Saturday, Jordan Powell, Austin Powell, Trey Harris and I drove a little over 2 hours to Nikko, Japan to hike and explore three peaks, which turned into four. Below I will describe some of it. Thanks to Trey Harris for the pictures, they tell the tale the best.
|every good adventure starts with a banana and coffee (not pictured)|
We left at about 4:30 in the morning and started hiking a little after 7. Austin had done the planned hike a few years ago but at the start we couldn't find our way to the trail. (He had also done the hike in August, when litte to no snow is on the ground). We started the steep incline off the trail, bush-wacking our way to the top of the ascent.
After about an hour and a half of blazing our own trail we made it to the actual trail. This picture was taken by one of just a few other hikers we saw all day.
The hike ended up taking about 11 hours. Due to the steepness climbing up and coming back down four mountains with only trail shoes (thanks Brooks Cascadias for being good enough), in the slick and heavy snow, it ended up being the most difficult hike I've ever done (somehow Uncle John wasn't there). The last two hours, coming down a steep mountain, on the slick snow, were incredibly difficult. The snow seemed to never stop, Step by careful step, pounding each step to create a small step-hold for those behind. I was just relieved none of us had a slide down the mountain leading to an injury.
The hike came to an end at about 6:30. All us were exhausted after the hike, so we went to an Nikko onsen, or public hot natural bath, to relax. As always, it worked.
One of my teachers at school asked what I did for spring break, when I mentioned this hike, he told me he had worked at Nikko in college and hiking Shirane was the most difficult hike in Nikko, especially this early in the hiking season. Nice to have some affirmation on the difficulty. Judging by the footprints, probably only a couple groups had hiked Shirane so far this year.
It fascinated me talking to my best friend here, Jordan; why hiking these mountains gives us so much joy and satisfaction. I liked his answer, because I hadn't thought about it the way he described it. He said (in summary), "The city is so linear, the city runs along designed straight lines, but the mountains have no linear, designed, methods. Nothing is the same in the mountains."
I think one of the reason I love the mountains is because they are so freeing. Things are so busy in Japan. The full time job, the attempt to learn Japanese, running, church activities, keeping up with friends in Japan and around the world and sleeping among other things, keep me way too busy. The beauty of the mountains somehow escapes all of this busyness and welcomes us to experience the beautiful freedom.
I've met the nicest people on the mountain. When meeting a local, you always get at least a "konichiwa", and usually a conversation. People are happier on mountains.
The mountains also break the barriers of routine and bid us on an adventure. The adventure is also amplified in a foreign, exotic country.
Hope to get more hiking in the mountains this summer.