Monthly Archives: July 2015

These bones

150725_fuji_from_below_yanbushi_600 These bones iz mighty tard. Some days I have an urge to say that.

We were on the Oyarei Landslide Slope just five days ago (a national holiday), but bigger mountains and longer hikes are looming on the horizon (Nagano, August), so we thought it was good to try to get in a bit of a long hike now, so we came again, but taking a longer route, starting on the far side of Yanbushi, and coming down on the Oyarei side.

Somehow, the kinks in the joints and muscles got worked out. After twenty inutes or so, we hit a rhythm and all was well.

Actually we made pretty good time.

So for those wondering how long it might take you, here’s what it took us: the parking lot {7:52}, Nishi Hikage Zawa (West Shady Creek) trailhead  {7:56}, Ooiwa (The Big Rock) {8:27}, Yomogi Pass {9:06 ~ 9:10}, Yanbushi Summit (a cup of tea) {10:26 ~ 10:40} , Shinkubo (two-thirds of the way to the Oyarei Peak, with a small (intentional) detour on the way, and at Shinkubo itself, 17 minutes worth of swatting {12:17 ~ 12:47}, the Oyarei Kuzure Parking lot (via the kuzure–the landslide slope) {13:55}. Back along the road to the West Shady Creek trailhead parking lot ( a bit of dallying in a cool creek for good measure) {15:20}.

Here we are crossing the river near Ooiwa, the big rock. 150725_tamami_creek_crossing_450That’s not the big rock in the picture. That’s the little “big rock.” The big “big rock” is another thirty seconds along the trail. It’s hard to get all of the the big “big rock”  in one aesthetically-pleasing picture.

Here’s the view from the Yomogi Pass.


I think that just before we got there we were talking about “when ‘a life’ starts.” We concluded (I think) “that it doesn’t.”

It’s nice when you’re walking along with someone with the same intui-logi reading as you. You can both say whatever you want “logically”—a little of this, a little of that—then kind of fall into an “intuitive” silent agreement—and those silences become some of the most wonderful moments of your life.

And when you’re walking with someone with the exact same intui-logic reading as you,  you can talk about anything and everything–and I do mean anything and everything–without ever having to worry about coming up on a thorny issue. You may come to a thorny plant or two (a thistle bristle might sneak up on your shin, for example,  or a thorny leaf may thrust itself up, upon a strong green stem, from a dead tree stump, right in the middle of the trail, daring you, it seems, not to go around) . . .


. . . but a thorny issue you and your intui–logic-balanced hearty hiking comrade will never encounter.

A scientific note: If the grade of the mountain and the mutual pace of two hearty hikers allows each of their heart rates to increase to its OLPFHH (Optimal Level for Pleasant Feeling during a Hearty Hike), then they can overcome significant (but not too wide, mind you) gaps in their intui-logic readings.

A further scientific note (proved conclusively on this hike): If two hearty hikers both settle perfectly into their OLPFHH and have intui-logic readings that match exactly, their souls will dance together and music will be heard.

Here’s what we saw about halfway between Yomogi Pass and the top of Yambushi.


Mr. Fuji.

I think we were talking about the etymology of philanderer and philanthropy just then. Biophilia, too, for what it’s worth.

Of course, we came upon several sitting trees during the course of the hike. We always do.


You may have had enough of the scientific talk already, so I’ll leave discussion of the evolution of sitting trees for another time. Maybe I’ll deal with it when I explain my often-felt and  easy-to-explain-with-hard-science urge to climb trees and beckon for the rest of the hearty hikers to join me—an urge that comes to me despite being of an age at which my “bones” can get “mighty tard.”


And how lucky we’ve been, twice now in July, to meet with such glorious skies up here on top of Yanbushi!

Last week the sky had been been painted by Van Gogh. This week it had been painted by somebody else.150725_fuji_atop_yanbushi_600

Mr. Fuji again. Or Fuji-kun as we outrageous hearty hikers sometimes call him. That guy just hangs and hangs around.

The peak of Yanbushi is famous, this time of the year, for its yanagiran meadow. Here’s a yanagiran.


We saw three or four plants in bloom. Last year, we got up here a couple of weeks too late for the “festival.” This year we were perhaps a week early.  But we were happy enough with the few blooms we did see–and there’s always next year.

Between the peak of Yanbushi and Shinkubo (the point from which the descent down the Landslide Slope begins), we came to the Valley of Life and Death and Life. We didn’t know that we would. It hadn’t been described in any guidebooks or on anyone’s blog.


We took a right-turn detour into the Valley, and what do you know, there were all my “mighty tard” bones lying right there on the ground!


And there was the dead hip bone of the stump-elephant tree . . . with a baby cedar growing right out of the top of it!


And low and behold, there was another tree—never mind what kind—that had died . . . then decided it didn’t want to be dead! At that moment, it had a bit of a dialogue with its roots, sussing out whether they had the strength to carry on, and when they shouted out, Yes! we’d be delighted to!—the tree decided it wasn’t dead anymore . . . and just like that, it wasn’t!

You have to stop and feel amazed.

                                                                 (Totally unknown Shizuoka folk duo)

From the edge of this Valley of Life and Death and Life, we noticed a deer trail up to the ridge (not on most folks’ beaten path. We took it. Having passed through the Valley of Life and Death and Life to get back up on the ridge, how do you think we felt when we saw Mr. Fuji looking like this?


A little bit farther along, we spotted a cluster of yashio trees—my favorite, as you know. What an unexpected joy!


I really, really love these guys.


And we discovered a “redwood” tree that had gotten itself all twisted up trying to find California. But he seemed pretty happy with where he’d ended up.


We stopped to eat at Shinkubo but cut the meal short. For some reason a zip-zippity-zip black creature (like a fly when airborne,  like an acrobatic leech when on land) zeroed in on my exposed flesh, along with 332 of his buddies, but not the flesh of my fellow hearty hiker. (Later, I researched this and confirmed that a zip-zippity-zip black creature’s taste in flesh is totally unrelated to the intui-logi reading of the flesh’s possesser. )

So immediate escape was deemed necessary, and into the strong sun and down the Landslide Slope we plunged.

Here’s what we saw when we began the plunge.


And here’s what we saw when we looked back. (Compare to last week’s picture of the same place if you like.)


And here’s what we looked at to confirm the grade we were slip-slip-sliding down through the loose rock.


Not much shade was to be had, unless you could fit under the shade of the leaf of a berry bush.


And of course, there is always at least one flower you’ve never seen before.


And then the walk along the road, and the hour soaking the bones in the hot spring, and then the road back. The mimosas were in bloom all up and down the river.


Looked lovely from the car.


Rainbow rocks


Because the sky is blue . . . it makes me cry.

Because the sky is blue — aaaaaaaahhh.


I was pretty much doomed the moment we stepped out from the woods and got our first big view of those white clouds in the blue, blue sky. The clouds were just breaking up, “splitting,” and it was not hard to see an embryo taking shape.

This was Oyarei Kuzure, or the Oyarei “Landslide” Slope. In 1707, an earthquake caused the side of Mt. Oyarei to crumble, and the result is a steep, rocky, gravelly climb  up to the ridge that leads to the top of the mountain.


Steeper than any climb in the Umegashima area—I think.  Or at least it felt that way to some of us.

The camera in my hand made everything worse.

You know, because you see those clouds splitting up and you’re amazed. You’re amazed and have to take a picture. But every moment is different. Every moment fascinates. And it’s the only moment you’re in right then. You take another picture, and another and another—and then your eyes are zooming into that high focus that makes something in your feet buzz—and you are looking at everything and wondering how everything got to be so goshdarned beautiful.

Then one of your fellow hearty hikers really, severely, messes you up. She shouts out, “A rainbow rock!”  And she shows it to you. Puts it right there in front of your revved-up eyes.

Yes, now you truly and absolutely are doomed. Now you’ve got to find your own rainbow rock.

Okay, so now you’ve got sky above you and rainbows below you. This is sensory overload if ever there was sensory overload.


When you do find your very own rainbow rock, you naturally start thinking that you might want to hang it on your wall. Actually, you tell everyone that.

I think I’ll hang this on my wall, you say.

Hey, you’re with good people. There’s nothing to worry about. None of them think you’re crazy. After all, you’ve brought them here.

Or maybe they do think you’re crazy—but even so you’ve got nothing to fear. They’re feeling a bit “out of the normal” themselves.


Ah, but don’t forget that sky. Yeah, look back up  toward the ridge—at that unbelievable blue.


And don’t forget to stop and admire the view back toward the ocean. That view is needing your attention, too.


Has there ever been a day better than this?

So the magic’s begun—and it won’t stop for a long time. How lucky you are!

Creatures begin to appear.


And up up you go.


Sunlight on flowers wow-wow-wows you.


 And up, up, up you go.


Whether you’re knees are hurting or not, the buzz prevails. You’re hovering in the blue.


And then you’ve passed over the ridge (Shinkubo), and slipped into the woods. Just below the ridge, on the shaded side, you work your way up to the top of Oyarei. The sun tries to find you.


The iwagami (“rock mirror” plants) are not blooming now, but the sun has decided they are glorious just the same. It somehow finds a path through the trees and alights upon them.


Ah, so, so much to see!

And you will not be content until you can see, really see, everything.




And some things just look so nice together.


Don’t you think?


I do.


By the way, these pinkish little guys are called shimotsukeso. Just in case you wanted to know.


Then you’re atop Oyarei, among the birches, having lunch, verifying for yourself that nature can indeed be quite the intriguing painter.

Ah, yes, eventually the mist is going to roll in. It does nearly every afternoon.


But it’s been damn hot and you’re grateful for the cover, and now you’re back in the land of rainbow rocks, so your descent is quite the pleasant one. (Slip and slide a bit in the loose rock and your knees will thank you.)

And it won’t matter that you don’t find a better rainbow rock than the one you’ve already pocketed, because you’ll be discovering how interesting it can be to look at any rock—at least, at any rock that has flown from the innards of a mountain during an earthquake . . .


. . . and it will tickle you to death that you can just walk along and look and look and look at a bunch of rocks and be so happy . . . and yes, crazy or not, you might start to consider . . .


. . . hanging more of them on your walls.


Hey, you might even use them to make your walls!

Almost down, back into the woods, everything is so distinct.


And you wonder why you didn’t notice that rough old cowboy on the way up.

150720_green_berry_b_450Well, I can tell you why: You weren’t buzzing quite enough way back then. Your eyes had not yet shifted into their mega-gear focus. Go ahead, wave at him. Tip your cap. Tell him he needs a shave.

And if (if, mind you)—if you thought you had found your very own personal Rosetta Stone, who, I ask, who could possibly tell you that you had not?


Don’t worry. You’re not ever going to forget the blue.


Or at least, you’re not going to forget the buzz it got going.

And no, no, this is not all some opium-induced lunacy. I’m a boringly sober guy. (And anyway, lunacy is something that comes from the moon. I was out in the sun.)

The simple fact is I did climb the mountain with my hearty hiking buddies and I did see the things I’ve talked about above. All four of the other hearty hikers can testisfy to my presence on the Landslide Slope and to the glimmer in my eyes.


Really, no joke, I was there. See.

150720_oyarei_sky_with rock_600

The lotus bee


It’s amazing that . . .


. . . even on an overcast day . . .


. . . the lotus flowers are full of light.


Still . . . rain yesterday . . .


. . . rain later today . . .


rain tomorrow . . .


best to get to the heart of things . . .


. . . now.