So there you are, wedged in somewhere between a whole slew of distant peaks, deep in the woods, looking for a trail post. You see one up ahead. You quicken your step. Enlightenment is moments away. And then you’re standing in front of the post, and it says . . .
Absolutely nothing. Nada. With a sign like that . . . a cool, grey, empty slate, a smooth, glossless tabula rasa, how in the world are you supposed to know where in the world you are?
Yes, where in the world was I?
Actually, the answer came to me pretty quickly. Almost instantaneously, in fact. (Sorry, no stories of me wandering the woods, dying of thirst, no tales of me being chewed up by bears.) Where I was was a bit beyond that lovely corridor of rhododendron blossoms. How they’d grown coy as I’d climbed toward the sky and the air had cooled! Where I was was just beyond those tiny pink flowers, those little frilled bells, scattered here and there, almost like miniscule street lamps erected along winding village roads, roads of moss and leaves, rocks and root. Very cute. . . . Get down on the ground and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.
Anyway, that’s where I was. So now you know.
We’ve come out for tea.
Sit the breezy ridge with us?
Snuggle beneath our snow-white silk?
Frilled lamps, rock mirrors.
Cheek to leaves and moss . . . peer in,
Reflect the pink shine.
But where were you?
Okay, okay, I get it. Where I was was 42 minutes down from the peak of Hakkorei, which was 89 minutes and 97 pictures up from the parking lot . . . which itself was 14 minutes up the “beware-of-falling-rocks” road leading out from the hot-springs mecca, Umegashima, about three-quarters of the way to the Abe Pass. Sorry about that about.
Umegashima, 68 minutes (in my I-think-I-can hybrid) from my humble first-floor, cramped-kitchen apartment in Shizuoka City, itself nestled right there on the Pacific Ocean. I think we’ve all heard of that.
It’s a nice walk up Hakkorei.
You’ll walk through the trees, see some pretty things, come to a steep place or two. Might look a little hairy, but it isn’t really. I climbed, never taking my camera out of my right hand.
You’ll have some nice views.
And from the top of Hakkorei, it’s a nice walk over to Oyarei. If you’re going that far.
No serious obstacles.
When I got to the top of Oyarei, I took one look at the marker–that one was legible (sorry, no pic)–and jumped up into the air as high as I my weary legs would allow. Even thirty years ago, I’d been no Michael Jordan, but I gave it my very best. The effort felt good . . . and just maybe I made it.
What the marker said was this: Mt. Oyarei . . . 1999.7 meters.
Some trail markers are pretty clear. Here’s the one atop Hakkorei.
“You mean we all live along the same street? A street that goes down to the coast, up to Miyanichi City, over to Fukuoka, then on to Osaka, San Francisco, Chicago, Omaha?”
“That’s right. That’s it exactly.”