#35 – CHORO-GA-TAKE
There’s a road that runs from the bottom of Mt Choro to the top. It’s a walker. They’ve locked the gate, you see. Probably to stop the drunk ojisans or young punk drifters sailing off a sharp bend into the scenery. There’s an antenna or two up top. The road’s for the workers who maintain them. Them and the loggers who hit the cedar plantations on the mountain’s lower slopes.
A party of five this time, we were, on this sojourn into the hills of northern Kyoto. Wes had joined us along with an acquaintance of his: a Bloke Called Ed. The Kid was there too and The Missus and I. Wes isn’t so keen on road hikes, and well, none of us really appreciate antennae dotted summits but, when you’re off climbing a hundred and thirty-two mountains in one of the most densely populated nations on the planet you’re bound to run into a few mountaintop antennae here and there and their accompanying service roads.
Nevertheless, it was a spectacular day to be out in the hills. The sky was a cloudless blue and the forests, as we climbed had begun to sport their autumnal hues. Wes had his GPS at hand and began pointing out the virtues of an old mountain trail that departed the blacktop further up. From there we could head off into the virgin forests draped over Choro’s long ridges. The Bloke Called Ed was keen. Actually, he appeared the sort that could be up and down the mountain twice before we even had our packs strapped to our backs in the carpark. The Missus was concerned about her knee holding up after the Sen/Nyudo ordeal but we were happy to give it a go and told Wes to lead the way.
Wes and Ed were off up the mountain at a cracking pace. The Kid was taking some time to warm up. A bit of coaxing and cajoling were required that morning. The cool temps had him as sluggish as the snakes we came across that day. Pretty early on the Missus and I stepped over a gorgeous golden eyed yamakagashi sporting its resplendent red and black scales. It slunk into the grasses at the roadside as I chased it with the camera. Not venomous in their own right, they’ll gorge themselves on the local toad population and sequester their poison from there.
We caught up with Wes and Ed at a hairpin bend in the road up Choro where a dribbling stream emerged out of the woods. Wes had located his trail and so, into the woods we ventured. Our endeavour soon turned into a bushwhacking affair. The trail and any guiding pink tapes tied to trees quickly were no more. Hikers before us had long ignored this route, no doubt preferring to stick to the road. We scrambled uphill, away from the stream and through a scratchy patch of felled cedar. Soon we were grabbing for handholds as we traversed some steeply rising ground.
At one point we were stopped in our tracks as we came across an enormous beech tree, its roots clung to the soft soil as it steadfastly defied the pull of gravity on that near vertical patch of Earth. Wes was soon back scouring his GPS. The Bloke Called Ed went on for a scout ahead. The Missus and I watched The Kid’s every step. We arrived above a gully with a wide, flat base and delicately lowered ourselves down to its floor then attacked the spur leading upwards on the other side. From what we could ascertain, this spur would spit us out onto Choro’s western ridge somewhere through the trees overhead. One thing about the wild Northern Kyoto forests is that undergrowth is barely encountered, and wandering the woods is a rather pleasant experience, at least when the ground is relatively level, anyway.
Up the spur we went. Wes was first to meet a listless brown snake, curled up in the sunlight on our makeshift path. It had no intention of moving from its place in the sun and allowed us to stomp right past and push on up to the ridge. Once there and with our breaths caught, we followed Choro’s spine, the autumn sunlight gilding the woodland in a melancholy light. Soon enough, the wintry winds would be whistling through those parts turning the world a shimmering white.
We feasted in the forest, then took to some more rising ground, met the road again and emerged on the open top of Choro-ga-take, where blue mountain vistas swept away to the horizons in all directions. We dilly-dallied up there, taking in the views. Wes was on his own Kansai hundred mountain venture and Choro-ga-take marked the last of the peaks on his list north of Osaka. Unlike ours, his mountain schedule was dwindling, and with a youngster on the way he was already anticipating the challenge of juggling the remaining distant peaks on his hit list with nappy changing duties at home.
On the descent, Wes and The Bloke Called Ed hit another mountain trail leading down another ridge. Agreeing with The Missus that we’d put in a respectable effort for the day, we decided a stroll down the road back to the car would be the preferred option in order to save both The Kid and her still delicate knee from any unnecessary trauma.
Thirty five mountains were in the books.
With winter on the horizon and a busy work schedule over the weeks leading into Christmas, we wondered how many more times we’d be getting out into the hills that year…