Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hiking in Ozegahara

I honestly felt like I was "turning Japanese" when I started talking about the fall foliage in summer, planning weekend trips around where the fall colors are best and checking the on-line 'autumn leaf special' obsessively. Spring brings the cherry blossom season in Japan, which I think is the most anticipated and widely symbolic event in Japan, but hiking in the Fall colors is definitely Top 3 in Japan for me.
A couple weeks ago, I went hiking and camping in Oze-gahara. It's a quasi-national marshland park which is technically part of Gunma, Nikko, and Fukushima prefectures. It's famous across Japan for it's size, preservation, and altitude (1400 m). There are trails that you can hike year round within the park, but it is most famous for it's skunk cabbage flowers in the summer and autumn foliage.
I was planning on heading up with Alex and Laurel, but unfortunately Laurel just could not kick the sickies from soccer weekend. The weather was gorgeous, it was a three day weekend, and I knew the colors wouldn't last - so I went solo.
These were my hiking buddies for the first leg the first day. They (along with everyone else I passed) were very surprised I was alone (as concluded by their remarks of, 'eeeehhhhhhh!?!?!?!'). It's a marshland, so it's relatively flat. More exhausting than the hike is saying "Konnichiwa" to all of the 294,281 other tourists you pass. There are some fun ups and downs and more challenging hikes into the mountains if you have the time and energy and want to go up and down the same trail, but I hate hiking the same path twice, so I started at one bus drop point and ended at another, stopping about half way to camp overnight.

That's Mt. Fuji in the way far silhouetted background.

Getting a snap with my girls before parting ways. And yeah... I carried my tent and sleeping bag the entire 4 1/2 hours to camp, and 5 hours back. I figured out on the second day I could rig up the tent to my backpack... a learning experience for sure.

My tent (just for me) is the one on the right. The tent on the left slept two people.
The wooden planks line the majority of the huge national park. It's so incredibly well preserved and immaculately clean... US National Parks: take note!

Lake Oze at dusk.

I woke up the next morning with ice... yes, ICE on my tent. It was in the 70's for hiking the day before. I knew it would be cold at night, but I didn't think THAT cold. Taking down the tent without gloves was painful. I was up with the sunrise around 6am though, and hiking again long after sitting by the lodge heater to de-thaw.
Morning freeze drops

Day two hiking buddies! They live in my neighboring city.

Tourism in Japan... gotta love it.
It's over an hour drive back to the station from the trail head, but the drive is beautiful. It's located in the city of Numata, which is very touristy. There were tons of tourist shops and signs for hotels and onsen. Cool vibe, though. I was hoping there'd be goats on this roof, but no dice.


The Watson Family said...

The pictures are just beautiful. Will you return to us, or are you turning Japanese??
We're going to miss you over the holidays...not that we don't miss you at other times or anything.

Hope you are doing well.
Love & Hugs,
Nicole Watson & The Fam!

The Watson Family said...

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
~Melody Beattie~

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The Watson's