Even though it seems to have been raining every weekend for forever, I managed to find a brief lapse in which to go hiking last weekend. The mountain? Iizuna. With a height of 1,917m, it is higher than the last mountain I hiked (Madarao, which I found very difficult, and is meant for middle schoolers…) but is more of an actual… hike. Madarao was essentially trudging up steep ski slopes. It sucked. Mt. Iizuna on the other hand has trees, rocks, tree roots, and leaves. You feel like you’re walking up a mountain.
The other ALT in my town and I began our adventure around 8:30 in the morning. It was pretty slow going, both because I am horribly out of shape and because the trail was crowded with other hikers (mostly old men and women. We saw some of them picking wild mushrooms as they hiked!). After a while, the trail opened up and we were no longer under trees. We could see Nagano City in the distance, hazy and fuzzy because of the clouds moving in. It was pretty interesting to see how the clouds acted around the mountain; I’ve never seen anything like it. The clouds would stream up the mountain, almost like they were being pulled by something. I always assumed that when a cloud met a mountain, it just sort of stopped. Stupid, I know, but I’d never given it much thought.
At one point, I turned around to look at the view opening up behind us and gasped. In the distance was a huge range of mountains, all of which were covered in snow. I’ve never seen such a long range of mountains before. I’ve seen the Smokey Mountains in South and North Carolina, but they were always a confusing mass of earth to my eyes, not a distinct line. I may have also been biased because they were covered in snow and looked super awesome. My co-worker informed me that those were the Japanese Alps, and he was surprised they already had so much snow on them. He is predicting an early, very snowy, winter!
Eventually we came to the first summit, marked by a shrine. We stopped for a lunch break before continuing a few minutes to the second, higher summit. This high up, and with an approaching typhoon (I know, I know. I’m really great at planning adventures, right?), the wind was a steady gust with occasional, fierce outbursts. I was extremely thankful that I had, on a whim, bought an ear-warmer thing at the 711 we stopped at before starting the hike; otherwise my ears probably would’ve fallen off. We didn’t spend too much time at the actual summit. The clouds were too thick most of the time to see anything, and the wind was freezing both of us!
Time taken to reach the summit: ~2 1/2 hours
The way back down was a little frightening. My coworker was concerned that it would start raining while we were still on the mountain, and he wanted to avoid that possibility. So, we half ran our way back down the mountain. Now, usually, I’m fine with mountain running. I’m confident in my ability to pick out secure footing in a hurry. But Mt. Iizuna was much steeper than the mountains I’m used to running down. I had a feeling that an accident was bound to happen; I was going much too fast for my comfort.
And happen it did. Luckily, nothing serious, but once we got back under the trees, the thick blanket of leaves covering the trail made it nearly impossible to guess what was under them. We both had a couple of close calls; stepping in hidden holes, on rocks we thought were safe. I stepped on one such rock, and it slipped right, taking my left foot with it. I landed awkwardly with my left food under me, but luckily I caught myself with my hands before I fell completely on top of it. Still hurt like crazy, but nothing serious. I walked the rest of the way down.
Time taken to get down the mountain: a little over 1 hour
So, all in all, despite some cloudy weather and going too fast down the mountain, a successful hike. I will definitely do this one again, but I was probably have to wait for next year when the snow has finally melted. Will also have to get proper hiking boots and better gloves as well.