#52 – UTSUKUSHI-GA-HARA
5AM and the world was cloaked in a blanket of thick, mountain mist. I dressed in the cool air and breakfasted and broke camp in the half light. Back inside the fence line, I followed a cattle track that I assumed doubled as the path toward the summit. Dew soaked the earth. A startled stag deer skittled out of the fog and through loose fence wires toward the escarpment. I stepped onto a sealed roadway and I followed it. Sleepy eyed bovines cast uninterested glances at me as I appeared out of the misty realm before them. As the road gently rose, a low, humming drone filled the air. The hotel appeared first, the droning, I surmised was a gale force wind, howling through the metal latticework of the antennae. A grim faced cook popped out from a side entrance of the hotel and lit up a cigarette, freshly pressed white apron and matching hat standing tall. Down at ground level we were sheltered from the winds careening overhead. No acknowledgement passed between us and I wandered out behind the hotel and found the summit marker and a small shrine with some stone guardians with a peculiar look more akin to grandma’s garden gnomes than anything else. The large flat faced stone marking the summit crawled with hundreds of docile, orange centipedes of two or three inches in length.
With an unhealthy reputation rivalling that of Kiri-ga-mine I was glad to have experienced Utsukushi with the majority of her blemishes hidden from view. A seemingly rare glimpse into the past.
The trail leading to Matsumoto dropped off the highpoint and over the escarpment’s edge. By the time I’d made it down to the road at the bottom of the mountain, the mists had vanished and the day turned out to be an all too rare (as of late) blue skied beauty.
I snacked at an empty cattle yard and stared back up at the imposing crags overhead. It was soon time to turn tail, get into Matsumoto and back to Kiyosato for the remainder of my kit. Swallowed by the folds of Utsukushi’s foothills, another road walk ensued, this time a two hour march into the outskirts of Matsumoto. My thumb, as it had been since departing Kiyosato, proved uncannily useless when it came to hitching a ride, so I walked until I came to a City Bus stop and a vending machine amidst the straw brown of harvested rice fields. There I sat down, knocked back a Coke and waited for a ride into town.
Four mountains in four days. Things were looking good.