Trust me, you should feel happy you did not join the little exploratory hike today. I knew this wouldn’t be for everyone so I invited just a select few who turned out to be me and Omni. Destination: the cherry tree valley in Shenkeng.
I had tried to find this valley last year but did not succeed as I did not have river tracing boots and the trail is, according to Taipei Day Trips, a walk up a river. Well, this year I was prepared with my NT500 Canadian kayaking shoes. Omni had his felt-soled Taiwanese walkers (which as fate would have it turned out to be the superior boot).
Now a river tracing expedition requires only only thing to complete it: a river. Sadly, this hike ran out of river in the first hundred metres. Omni then found a wall and we climbed it and found a strangled looking trail heading in the right direction. After 10 minutes or so we arrived at another stream (or maybe it was the first one, who knows, as that went underground). We crossed it and promptly lost the trail. Now, instead of heading back we decided, on my bad advice, to head up the slopes. My map showed that the road should be just at the top on the ridge.
Up we went. At first there was something that might generously be described as trampled underbrush. But it served out purposes. Then the trample straightened itself and became high, proud, solid brush. Thorn bushes appeared everywhere to block the trail. Omni speculated that someone had planted these to prevent us discovering their betelnut plantation. But I think god was just trying to piss us off.
Up and and up we went, at times strangled by vines and grasses. Good thing it’s still winter and the snakes haven’t woken up yet, we comforted ourselves with on this 28 degree day.
We made it to the top of the ridge in about 20 minutes. there was no road. Just a thin wooded ridge heading south. It was too late to go back so we headed along it. The going wasn’t too hard and at one point we started to hear voices in the distance. Sirens? Ghosts?
Another 10 minutes past and we hit a trail. We followed it east still hoping to meet up with a road. After a few minutes the path seemed to peter out. I suggested we continue even though the trail was not so distinct. It was the right call this time and we spotted the road a few minutes later.
As we climbed up onto the cement track we saw a large wooden map and sighposts. Do not go this way, it said of the way we had just come (just kidding). Instead, it pointed the way to several small mountains. The cherry tree valley was on the map but the map was one of those backward, impossible to read or get your bearings, or find your way, Taiwanese maps.
Directly ahead of us was a nice log staircase.
We decided the cherry tree valley was not ours to discover and headed up the log trail (which was very excellent considering we were in Taipei “We Love to pave Paradise” County). The sign said 5 minutes to the top of a mountain. Fifteen minutes later we hit a clearing. We lunched and then decided to head back.
Despite the mishaps we arrived back in Muzha at exactly 3pm, the original scheduled return time. Seeker4 would have been proud.
All in all it was a good adventure. I tip my hat to Omni who was a good sport throughout it all.
Oh, we did spot two cherry trees off in the distance at one point. Next year, I thought. Next year.