Over the weekend I had the chance to spend the day hiking in the Hakkoda Mountains of northern Japan. I was really excited for this trip because I know the fall colors would be amazing. What I didn't expect was the phone call the day before to let me know I better dress extra warm. It had started snowing on the mountain! Well, I didn't let that deter me. I just bundled up and went for it.
The day started pretty early for a Saturday. I went with Outdoor Recreation, which is a service/store offered on base that takes care of all your outdoor and adventure needs. Needless to say this trip required me to be there at 6:30 am so we could get an early start on the day, which included about 5 hours of hiking. The bonus for me was the hot spring resort at the end!
In order to start our actual hike we took the ropeway out across to another base or place to start from, instead of starting all the way at the beginning. The ropeway, which many of you probably know as a cable car, was actually much longer than I expected. Apparently it runs in the winter too.
Here you can see the cables starting at this end and then ending all the way off in the distance.
As we took of we got our first glance of Aomori City in the distance with Mutsu Bay just beyond that. You can also see the colors just changing on the tops of the trees below.
We were a lot closer to the tops of the trees than I had anticipated.
Then another peak came into view.
I love this picture because you can see the shadow of the cable car down there.
At the very top where the ropeway ends you can see much better off to the city in the distance.
Here I am, freezing because of the wind, but ready to get the hike started.
We were going to do a trail that took us to a different ending spot than where we started, but others hike a loop and then come back here to take the ropeway back down.
I stopped along the way often to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. Although it is now fall, you can still see a lot of green.
Another fun picture of me with the sun rays coming through.
Gaining in altitude.
With the altitude comes the snow!
I was amazed to see it, even though the guide told us it had been snowing, so I have no idea why I was surprised.
Here is a really great view to Aomori City and Mutsu Bay.
I did it! I reached the summit of this peak, although there are a few more in this area. This is actually not the highest, but the second highest. We did not have time for the highest of these three, so we did the two smaller ones.
This one is known as Akakura-Dake and is 1,548 meters. It was formed by a volcanic eruption many years ago.
Here I am again, with the sign, totally freezing because it is not only cold but extra windy at the top. But I was happy that it was a clear day.
More snow! After we reached the top we followed the trail along and went down a little and then back up to reach another peak.
At the top of the second peak there was a little temple.
This is Ido-dake and it is just a little shorter at 1,550 meters.
Another beautiful shot.
Then we took at a look at the crater that was formed here with the volcanic eruption.
One last stop to pose with the scenery before heading down to that cabin below and enjoying some lunch.
If you look closely you can see the cabin down below.
If you couldn't see it before, I am sure you can see it now. I was so excited to finally be at the bathroom!
After lunch there was no more uphill, just flat and down hill sections.
It was super muddy so many areas had these wooden planks to walk on.
Then, before I knew it, the resort was in view, just below.
I took a deep breath and realized I was about to enjoy my first onsen experience.
This was at the very bottom before heading to the resort area. We were all the way up there and made our way down through some very muddy conditions. But it was all worth it for the views and the natural hot springs.
This particular onsen is co-ed. I was NOT up for that, so the guide kindly showed me to the private women's onsen. Why would co-ed bother me? Well, if you are not familiar with an onsen, let me fill you in. This is a tradition in Japan. They have many natural hot springs all over. An onsen is like a public bath. The bathing is done in the nude. There is a whole process for this. You need to shower first, sitting on a little stool, and making sure you are clean. Then you go and soak in the natural hot spring water. It is very relaxing, but you can only stay in for so long because it is really hot. I was a little hesitant because in our group I was the only female and I have never done this before. I did get a lesson once on what to do but it was about a year ago, so I really just had no idea. I am glad that I decided to just go for it and enjoy the experience. I don't think I did anything wrong and I don't think I offended anyone, so that is a good start! It was definitely a much needed treat after the hike.
QUESTIONS: Have you gone hiking this fall? Are the leaves changing where you live? Have you ever been to an onsen? Any other public bathing experiences?