5 am is a nice hour. Everything is quiet, the sun is slowly rising, you’re in your nice warm bed . . . except when you’re not. Today this lovely hour was the start of my and okaa-san’s 8-hour group trekking adventure in Nagano-ken, a magical place that can top most postcard scenes in my opinion. After peacing out from the house at 9:30 last night we hopped on our tour bus at 10:30 pm, where we proceeded to (not) sleep for the next 6 or so hours.
Around 5:30 we actually started our long trek after some grouping up and stretching. We probably spend 1 1/2 hours just in the woods, then another 1 1/2 going up the mountain in all of its rocky grassy glory. I have soooo many pictures that I’m splitting them up a bit; this first batch is our walk through the woody area.
After this stretch, which was pretty easy, we made it above the tree-line and started our way up rocky dirt. This was also a nicely doable stretch, and when we first broke into it we had a gorgeous view of the smoking volcano – a volcano! I didn’t know that we were on an active volcano until that very moment, so hearing right then and there was wild! Of course, okaa-san’s mockingly worried comments only helped, for example, “What’ll we do if it explodes? Probably all die”. So helpful, dear lord. Luckily this just added to my excitement factor, yay volcanoes! This is my second volcano in less than 3 months, pretty good record in my opinion. I’ll have to follow up next year in New Zealand before my streak has to break because of location limitations. Anyways, I digress. Here are pre-peak pics!
Then came the pre-peak, because there’s almost always more to climb. But we paused here, on the second-highest point. There was a huge valley created by an eruption years ago, which has now filled in with a beautiful lake and some greenery. Here we also saw the source of steam in the slideshow above, which was a magical yet stinky sulfur hotspot spewing out smokey goodness. Gorgeous!
We then hug-climbed our way across the mountain side to a pretty pause spot before the real view, and at this spot you could see a famous river running through the area (forgot its name, whoops!). We also saw a fancy hotel that was on a tv program about a nearby mountain, where the yama boi stopped at a festival there then kicked ass mountain climbing. Super cool when you go to the tv places! This is a mix of pre-peak and at-peak pics. Me & okaa-san get our own solo pic below it.
Alas, the peak! An astounding 2,442 meters, or approximately 8,020 feet! I kept converting in my head (m > ft) as we walked, but seeing and experiencing the final reality of being 8,000 feet high by your own two feet? Absolutely astounding and breath-taking.
Afterwards we started the descent, which was where things got off to a rocky start. Literally, we were on this horrendous mix of crazy loose dirt and rocks likely to rakuseki (rockslide, although the romaji may be wrong? can’t find it anywhere) at any moment. Challenges are great. Heh, sure. It was a terrifying 1 1/2 hours down the crazy rocky part, but it was actually pretty exciting when I wasn’t fearing death.
After the stony slope down we hit a nice grassy hill, which was pretty up and down but less rocky, so I was overjoyed. This part onwards felt very Vermont/New England-y to me, so it was super gorgeous and homey, in as much as a mountain hike can be. Some of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever seen, so here are loads of pictures because I couldn’t resist. Despite hellish ladders and bridges, roots galore and me embarrassingly falling stepping off a rock just after we’d stopped for the group to catch up and with me at the head, all ended well. I swear though, my ankle was trying to break itself, every big step was like an ‘aha, gotcha!’ moment where it would roll a bit but be fine. Nerve-wracking, people. It did sadly end though, right as we reached the stream I’d been hearing and dying to see. That was an awesome end to the path though. Our tour guide even stopped to high-five everyone as we made it off the path, which I loved.
Ok but side highlight for the challenges from hell, because they were their own heart-stopping form of terror for me besides the natural obstacles. First, a 50+ foot ladder that was hundreds of feet up and that I ran off away from as soon as I was done climbing. Secondly, a slippery-ass bridge that could only hold one person at a time and had a loose rope kind-of close to it as a mock-railing. Third/beyond, more but less-terrifying ladders down the rest of the path. Jesus why.
The rest of the walk was fine, since it was simply getting to the tour bus. Or was it? There were some more fantastic views there, which were so lovely I could’ve probably gone just for those. Amazing mountains, river and foliage, god I love Nagano-ken.
Also, this place is a national park?! And it has wild monkeys, mother of god yessss! Also bear-sightings, which is exciting but we have bears in America, so less cool.
After that was our visit to the onsen, where I got to sit in an outdoor bath and have a relaxed look at the mountains we’d just climbed. Ahh, steamy and beautiful. Then we kicked back on the bus and rode our way home, where Chiro-chan greeted us with frantic jumping, Miao-chan showered me with kisses and we promptly passed out.