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Sometimes I get high

Mt Fuji

Sometimes I get high. When I am alone, I wish everyone I know could be there with me to feel the same thing I feel. When I am with someone who is not high, the experience is tainted only by my wish that they could feel what I am feeling. This time it happened on day two.

The first day was less than spectacular and left us wondering if we should just go home the next day. We arrived at Futamatao station at 8am and the sky was already sunny and clear - a "perfect" day. Winter was no where to be found. It was uncharacteristically warm, there was no wind, no rain, no struggle, no drama.

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The first three hours took us past a few shrines and other ancient looking monuments to 902m (2,959ft) in elevation to Mt. Hinode. The view from here explained the multitude of benches (seating for 100?) situated to watch the sunrise/set over metropolitan Tokyo's city-scape.

It takes about 30 minutes From Mt. Hinode to Mitake, a well-worn tourist destination. It is actually a small mountain village (inns and restaurants) centering around a famous shrine, but the only access is either on foot (2.5 hours hike) or a cable car. One can also catch a bus from the train station to the cable car station, ensuring that one need not break a sweat to enjoy nature.

The hike from Mitake to the 1,266m Ohdake (4,m155ft) was the highlight of day 1. A popular area for day hikes from Mitake, there are beautiful waterfalls and steep valleys to hike through, culminating in a beautiful view from Mt. Ohdake, our first siting of Mt. Fuji. While we were struck by its beauty here, the Ohdake view would be all but forgotten when compared to the views that awaited us on days two and three.

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From Ohdake we still had a 3+ hour hike up to the emergency shelter at Mt. Gozen. This leg of the trip was characterized by tiredness and waning interest in hiking. It was not until we reached the hut just before dawn, got ourselves situated, and got dinner started, that the joy of the hike began to return. Perhaps it was because of the large glass wall of the hut which allowed us to watch, from 1,405m (4,609ft) in the comfort and warmth of our own sleeping bags, the lights of Tokyo and Yokohama flicker to life as darkness descended . It felt special to be up there alone (save one other older couple that was sharing the hut that night) and realize just how few people - living their everyday life as one of millions - actually see this.

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While the glass walls provided a great view, they weren't very well insulated, making this a cold hut. I only own a "summer" sleeping bag,unable to justify buying a second winter bag (I have spent many a night sleeping on tiny wind-swept islands in the Baltic sea off the coast of Sweden with that sleeping bag without even a therma-rest between me and my cold stone bed). In an effort to use what existing resources I have, I brought along one of those thin silver sleeping pads to place inside my sleeping bag like a pocket. It was light-weight, it was free, and it worked well - I have never been so warm on sub-zero nights with that sleeping bag. Unfortunately it does not breathe well and I awoke to find myself in a puddle of my own condensation. Still, I was warm and thankful - specially when we awoke to find our water frozen. (The photo above shows Tomoe warming her hands on a nalgene full of fresh-brewed coffee).


Day two was supposed to be a short hike, ending at a hut nearby the 1527m (5,022ft) Mt. Mitoh. The short distance allowed us to linger in the hut and have a leisurely breakfast, watching the sunrise over Tokyo trough the picture window. We did not get on trail until past 9:00, and took our time hiking despite worries that the emergency hut we planned to stay at would be filled as today was the first day of the new-year vacation and most people have the day off. I wassurprised however to reach the hut just before sun-set and find it empty. How can it be that in a city the size of Tokyo, not even one other person would take advantage of their day off to watch the sun-set from a mountain hut - this time with a brilliant view of Mt. Fuji?

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Aside from various views of Fuji, each one closer and better than that before, the actual trail did not seem out of the ordinary. yet, for some reason, I was getting high. It is a feeling that I have had a few times before. Similar to a "runner's high", I suppose, in that I cease to feel any soreness and I feet like I can walk forever, but it is more than that. It also opens my eyes to everything around me. I begin to notice things in ways that I usually miss - sights, smells, the freezing wind on my face. I am struck with the urge to scream and whoop and holler (something that annoys Tomoe sometimes). I can't stop without literally feeling sick from the excitement and realization of where I am.

This feeling followed me for two days. Tomoe, though enjoying the hike, did not appear to have the enthusiasm that I did. It reminded me of an amazing six-day hike in the Pasayten wilderness of northern Washington where I had the same feeling, but one of my companions was having a terrible time. The only thing that kept her going, according to her, was knowing that she would never have to do it again. While she was suffering from 12 hour days with several thousand feet of elevation gain and loss, I was suffering from the knowledge that she, and others in thegroup, were not feeling the amazingness that I was. It sucks to be high alone.

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Anyway, day two ended at an empty hut with a perfect view of Mt. Fuji in the sunset. If only I had brought my heavy tri-pod... After making a water run to a nearby stream, we set up camp inside the hut. This time we set up the tent (which I carry "just in case" we can't make it to a hut) inside the hut to help trap ourbody heat. While we awoke to another frozen water bottle (kept outside the tent), inside the tent it was 7 degrees at 4am - a considerable difference. From now on we use the tent even in the huts.

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Day three was equally as awesome as day two, if not more. We set out in the dark hoping to make it to a nearby peak to watch the first rays of sun striking Fuji.Unfortunately , we arrived too early and the sun was too slow. We got tired (and cold) of waiting so decided to move on. Luckily, the ridge we were walking had fabulous views of Fuji for the entire morning. When the sun did finally peek over the horizon, we were conveniently located at one of many Fuji viewing areas - complete with bench.

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While we didn't make it to our planned end-point (opting to stop at Uenohara instead of Sugamiko), we were thankful for the opportunity to be dumbstruck by the beautiful and steep final section of trail from Mikoku Toge down to the temple and waterfall in the photo above.

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Comments

I know what you mean. However I've found that Werther's Original Butterscotch candies have a remarkable restorative power on flagging hiking partners :-)

Worthers do hit the spot. In Japan I like the brown sugar candies from Okinawa - althoough neither beats the sugar high from having fresh blueberries at every turn.

I have also found that an Excedrin with caffine does wonders as well.

I'm so jealous! That hiking looks really nice. I used to do a lot in Japan too - Okutama, Chichibu, Chiba-ken, Kanagawa-ken - following the trails in the little "Hiking Near Tokyo" book. But these pictures of yours are inspiring!
I look forward to seeing some more! (It is rare to see such content on a blog in Japan, hence my joy!)

Sorry for filling so much of your blog with comments today, but your stories and photos are awesome. Your very good at this and i'm surprised i haven't found out about this site sooner.

-Curtis

PS- would it be possible to e-mail me a Google Earth file with the place marks of the hut with the night Tokyo view and the one with a view of Mt. Fuji?

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