Last Call at Takatori

My final outing on the mountain bike for this trip to Japan was to head back out to the Takatori area east of Zushi. I passed through here on my lasting outing but it was mostly a transit through it. This time I wanted to futz around a bit.

Coming in from the south
Coming in from the south

I did some street riding from Yokosuka to make may way over to the entrance of the trail system. Like most of the trails in the area, you have to do so grunting immediately after the leaving the streets.

Trail Goodness

I entered the trail system were I had exited on the last outing and I was planning on retracing my way back up to top of Takatoriyama.   I was however going to investigate all of the various spurs that split off of the main trail I was on.

There were a few spurs of particular interest to me as I remembered them as being really cool during my last time on them more than a few moons ago.

I just love these kind of locals helping folks signs.

So much steeper and slick than it looks

I was armed with my GPS loaded up with my personal archive of adventures in this area.    The goal was to jog my memory and avoid a few of the spurs that will quickly dump you off the mountain resulting in pain and/or hike-a-bike to get back up to the prime riding stuff.

Trails old enough to have worn notches through the peaks of the hills.

On my way up to the summit, I did find the junctions that I wanted to hit on the return half of the route.   I even came across about five other mountain bikers out on trail.    One interesting thing I noted about this group was that while most of them while had rather high-end new bikes (Within 2-3 years), none of them were running  single chain rings up front.   Actually most them were running triples up front.    My theory is that most them ride their bikes to the trailhead which according to where you live on the peninsula you can easily end up being 7-10+ miles on the streets/roads.    While my rental rig is pretty much old and has seen better days I find the big rig to be a really welcome feature on it.

Once up to the summit, I hooked up with one of the trails that I used as part of the Takatori to Sengen-yama (Duckpond) connector.   I was not going to take it all the way out to the duckpond trails today but it took me more a couple of minutes to reorient myself at a couple of the trail junctions.    That section was just a good as I remembered.   This was also my first time on the trail during winter so I was able to see a more things than in the past as most of the foliage was dormant.    There were a couple of spots were I had never noticed that I was riding along a ridgeline that was less than 10 feet wide with extremely steep slopes on both sides with homes 100 plus feet below.   Other times of the year the trail is just in a tunnel of green.

More cool Nippon signs

The particularly trail that I chose to peel off on led me to the top of a long series of stairs back down to a street.    Riding these are just part of the mainstream skillset for riding here on the peninsula.   The rental hardtail added some additional fun to this descent.

Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da…

After knocking out the stairs, I did a bit of street riding to make my way back over to the north side of the Takatoriyama area where I then made my way back up to the summit.

Climbing is what this spot is really known for in the area

From the summit I retraced my way (the trail was really fun in this direction) back the spur I had scoped out earlier in the ride.   This trail worked it is way towards the east along a series of ridgelines between two communities/towns.    There are several exit trails off of these ridgelines and according to my archives there was at least one I had not done before.

It is my understanding that most of this section of trail has a history of being a primary pedestrian route between several of the local communities.  (I suspect trains/buses my have lessened that usage in modern times).   One interesting bit is that there are long sections of this trail which have about an 18″ wide section of concrete walkway poured down the middle of it.   Pretty weird to have a “singletrack sidewalk” through the middle of the woods.    The trail/sidewalk in the woods eventually took me off the ridgeline and in an area of the peninsula I had not been before.     It was a bit of an adventure to find my route back to familiar streets which included traversing more topology than planned but it was all good stuff.

My final week of work in Japan end up being more work than I thought it was going to be so I did not get back out onto trails again.   Well one thing is for certain, my fondness for riding a bike in Japan has not diminished after this visit.

Zushi Double Shot!

After a week full of nasty rainy weather the sun was out! I headed to a trail system in Zushi colloquially known as “Duck Pond”. I have been there numerous time before but it has been about eight years since my last time here. I have a GPS track on how to get there, but I intentionally did not have my GPS turned nor did I look at a map to refresh my memory. Instead I opted to use the Swartz on this adventure. I enjoyed aspect of the retracing my steps. On this day I knew I had a right to make somewhere after getting on the backside of the Zushi train station. In this case a barbershop pole jogged my memory and it was smooth sailing from there to the trailhead. I find spinning through the small streets of Japan and route finding to be just as fun as the trails sometimes.

Using the Swartz

The cheery blossoms were going off of the trees at trailhead entrance.

Chery Blossoms thinking about spring

Ye Ole Duck Pond

Duck Pond

To get up on the ridgeline where the trails are require some work from Duck Pond. Nothing like some hike-a-bike get you going.

So much steeper than it looks!

Once up on the top the rolling sometimes contouring singletrack started.

Got Roots?

I was thoroughly enjoying myself getting reconnected with this “old friend” of a trail system. You get to see more stuff during the winter months when the foliage is sparser. In addition to seeing some of the exposure which is otherwise hidden you have more opportunities for distant scenery. On this particular day Mt Fuji could be seen.

Mt Fuji making an appearance along the trail

I did take one trail that started dropping elevation off in a hurry. By the time I realized this was really not the way I wanted to go down, I really did not want to go back up. So I took the trail down to the bottom and would get back up another way. I got back up onto the ridgelines by climbing the Asaina-kirodoshi. It is one of the seven greater notches through the mountains leading to and from Kamakura. Kamakura is surrounded on three sides by steep mountain and the notches served as defensive passages and passes through the mountains back in “the day”. “The day” in this particular case one was 1241. I climbed up from the west and I was quite satisfied with my performance through the technical sections of this climb. The picture below is from the saddle.

From here I did some more exploring/reconnecting with the trails up on the ridge that included passing by the back side of the Kumano Shrine.

Backside of the Kumano Shrine

When done on the trails up top I would come back by this shrine again and connect up with another trail that would drop me down into Asahina. The bottom of this trail rolls right through a community farm space which always makes me feel like I’m sneaking through someone’s backyard.

The trail going through a community farm

From here this was have been a good time just cruise back along the streets. There was however plenty of daylight left so I decided to go through one of my other trail systems I am fond of Takatoriyama.

The road route to get over there was not particularly straight forward. I decided to give Google Maps a shot at getting me over there. After selecting the walking route I was on my way. Well the walking route was the most direct route but it did include a bountiful amount of stairs. Once the route become clearer to me, I turned off the guiding voice of pain in my pocket and worked my way along the streets.

Off the beaten path treasures at Takatoriyama

As I climbed up the street on the north side of the mountain, I pulled off on a side trail I recognized to check out some of the shaded relief carved to the walks of this old stone quarry.

Off the beaten path treasures at Takatoriyama

My legs where getting pretty well cooked at his point so I opted to settle for a long distance view of the budda vice committing to the work to get over to it. Below is a closeup from my 2009 visit here.

The Takatoriyama Budda as seen on a 2009 ride through here.

Once at the quarry/peak it took me a minute or two to get my bearings straight for the connector I wanted. Twenty seconds down the trail I knew I was on the right trail as I recognized the spot where I had one hell of an endo in 2004 which left me with a cracked sternum. The Ghost of Biker Injuries Past has a long memory.

A section of trail on Takatoriyama

I had worked my way south along what seemed like half a dozen plus trail junctions. I ended up resorting to loading up my old GPS files as my legs were doing some serious wanking at this point and I was not up for more bonus mileage. Turns out I was less the 100 yards for popping out where I was expecting too.

It’s not a train!

The final bit was descending some steep little residential streets and then going through one of the largest pedestrian/cyclist tunnels I have ever been through. It is wider than the street I was on. After that it was about 6 or 7 miles of street riding back to the hotel.

What a great day to be out and about!

Ogusuyama Wanderings

For my second outing on the trails near Yokosuka,  I paid a return visit to Ogusuyama.  When I lived here in Japan for most of 2004 this was my twice a week lunch time loop.   On this trip I was loosely going to follow that same route.   That was the plan anyway.   Things went a little off kilter right from the beginning.    I am staying at a different hotel than I have in the past.   Instead of riding from my hotel back to the my well known starting reference point I decided to just cut through some side streets and connect up to my known route “mid-stream”.    So off I went cutting this way and that, cross checking with my phone.  (More on the phone in a future post).   After working through some unfamiliar side streets, I came out to a junction where the memory banks fired off and I knew where I was at and which way to go.    I stopped looking at my phone at this point.     As I am rolling along, visual cue, visual cue, bang, bang, bang, I have been here before kept clicking in my head.   I was rolling.    A fair ways down the road I noticed that the route had not turned uphill yet.   I should have been climbing by now.   I checked on my phone and realized I had been going off a tangent for over three miles.   Looking at my phone I realized there was no corner to cut to get back on track.  Three miles and change back the way I had came was the quickest way.  WTF happened came to mind.  How did my eyes fail me?    A bit of further reflection and it dawned on me.    I was following the visual cues from memory towards the wrong trail system.    I had clued in on the streets I taken in the past to head over towards the Takeyama Trail System.     That is what I get for being too cocky about my recollection of the streets and roads of this area.

So after backtracking and getting onto the route for the trail I wanted to ride on things started clicking properly.   There was climbing to be done and the good news was I was warmed up.

Visual Cues
Bamboo along the side of the street

One thing about riding on the residential street here in Japan as you start getting up in the hills they often will be single lane.   I kind of did a snicker while shaking my head at the thought that many of our San Diego County multiuse “Trails” are nearly twice as wide as these residential streets in Japan.

Ogusuyama looking to the west towards Segami Bay

Once onto the dirt I made my way over to the summit that included some hike-a-bike up some stairs.  Once on top I was surprised to be treated to some signs of spring.   This was quite a contrast to the beginning of the week where it had snowed.

Cherry Blossums
Signs of Spring

After getting my fill of the sights on the summit I backtracked a bit and got on what was supposed to be my main trail to shed off some elevation in nice single track fashion.

I was quite bummed to see the trail I was looking to take was well blocked off.    None of the other options I knew were appealing as they would put me on the other side of the peninsula, involve hundreds of steep steps carrying a bike or go back the way I came.

Ain’t No Engrish here!

There was a map nearby that clearly laid out in Japanese what to do with the situation.  It was a real bummer to see how much of the trail was closed.   I was hoping that the reroute would not be some hike a bike down BS.   Just when I was about to roll out a hiker came up and was looking bewildered into her phone.     She clearly asked me for directional help but my Japanese has atrophied down from his highpoint of bad some number of years ago.   After a couple of  rounds of international charades and collective pointing at her phone I figured out where she wanted to go.    The trail down the mountain she needed to take was no shown on her phone.    It was not much of a back track for me so I rode back with her following and got her on the right trail.    I remembered the trail as it is a calf burning hike-a-bike on the way up that is not easily forgotten.

My reroute goes through here

My good deed for the day done, I started off on my reroute.   The trail it took me on started out quite flowing but soon turned quite steep.   Luckily it was not also slick so some technical roots and crotch riding the rear wheel took me down to a street.   The reroute then took me through what looked like somebody’s backyard farm before I was back on a micro-sized residential street.   After a bit on the street I was off onto a single track and then back to gravel road.  Shortly thereafter I popped out at the bottom of the closure and familiar ground.   While I was bummed about the section of trail I could not ride, the forced route finding and new bits of trail I went on was a nice bit of unplanned adventure.

Such a nice bit of trail

The next section of trail was just as nice as I remembered it and it popped me out near the entrance to a couple of shrines and temples.    Checking these out were not on the agenda today (I have toured them before) so I continued along the remainder of my old lunchtime loop route.

Here is the spot on Google Maps.  There are four pins in area for the shrines and temples that include photos as well.

The remainder of the ride was street riding back to my hotel.   There were not further navigational misdeeds on my part.       It was great day to be wandering around on Nippon dirt!

Return to Yoko!

It has been quite a few moons since I was last in Japan, and even more since being in Yokosuka. Work has brought me back for a few weeks and I am pretty stoked about. In addition to catching up with a couple old friends and reacquainting myself with the culture I was excited about revisiting some the trails I have fond memories of.

The rent-a-wreak

All of the mountain bikes at my local rental place were out when I first arrived.    I really did not have much to ride anyway as there was plenty to do with getting the work project rolling.   The second weekend a couple came in and grabbed one.

A mighty fine looking tree

The Fugatoyama trail system I hit up is near Zushi and the route would take me up to Fugatoyama.   I had uploaded some of my old track into my GPS.   Well so I thought.   Turns out I gooned something up and while I had plenty of tracks for the other trails in the area, I did not have the trails I planned on riding.

I love this section

I have ridden the trails numerous times so while not having my “safety blanket” of old bread crumbs I felt confident about being able to find my way around.

Shrine/marker along the trail.

I went to the trails system near the Arden Hills are of Zushi and was soon it old stomping grounds.   I had no issues with the figuring and the six trails junctions need to get my way up to the peak of Fugatoyama.

The trail has been around long enough cut a notch through the ridgeline.

After getting to the peak I retraced my steps back to the main junction that was going to take me down to the east side of the peninsula.    There are a handful of opinions to get down from where I was at.    The downhill was pretty awesome just as I remembered.    I got to one trail junction I had real tough time figuring out which way to go.  Either way would work but one of them was better than the other and extended your time on the dirt.

I pondered at the junction for quite sometime before picking and I picked…WRONG!     The route I took dropped me out of the woods way too quickly.     You also shed off so much elevation that I was not about to hike a bike back up to the junction.   I guess I’m just going to have to go back!

After some snack Nippon style it was time to cruise back to Yokosuka and my hotel.

Above the clouds in Cuyamaca

Last weekend, I took a freind of mine (Jim) out to the Cuyamaca Mountains to show him around. The weather was overcast around rhe county and as we headed up into the mountains it started to get a little foggy. At the trailhead we were pretty much socked in.

What a bunch of turkeys!

We started up the west side single track.   After crossing over highway 79 we came upon some wild turkeys which are plentiful in this area.  We made our way north along the Green Valley fire road until we got to the bottom of Soapstone Grade.

Climbing above the clouds on the Upper Green Valley single track.

From there we continued north on the Upper Green Valley single track and climbed our way up to the junction with La Cima track right by Sunrise highway.    During this climb the clouds/fog cleared up as we got up above it. Things were pretty beautiful at this point and the La Cima trail over to the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) was a great as ever.

On the CRHT

While riding along the CRHT it was pretty cool to look over towards Lake Cuyamaca and see all of the clouds to the west being pressed again the mountains.   It was like the mountains were playing giant linebackers protecting our pocket of sunshine.

Heading back down into the clouds

We connected up to the Cold Springs trails for some super fun descending down to the south.  Down near the bottom we once again rode back down into the clouds.

Not a shabby day to spending a weekend morning!

Bernardo Mountain – Rant

So I have not been up Bernardo Mountain located on the north side of Lake Hodges in a quite some time. While it is not a terribly long climb, it has always been a solid climb with some pretty technical bits up near the top. For many years it has been one of those benchmark trails to judge where I stand against my former self. I decided to go out and run “the test” again.

The guy was making plenty of noise.

Before I really got started I had to take a short pause to yield the right of way to one of the locals. I have only see a few rattlesnakes this year so I was pretty bummed that I was not lugging a round my DSLR rig on this ride. After some interaction time with Mr Nope Rope I was onto the climb proper.

The view of most of the southside trails.

There is a distinctive spot on the trail where the “test” really starts. Its probably a little more than halfway up and the trail switchbacks to the right and gets rocky, ledgy and steeper all at once. It is not like this all the way up but there are plenty of sections like this to negotiate. From this point on I had a series of disappointments. (Just for the record I did not clean the climb to the summit from here) The amount of sanitation that has occurred in this trail has very much changed the character of the trail. For the most part there are no longer any loose rock sections to climb. The loose rocks have for the most part have been kicked off the trail and piled up along the sides. People have even pulled out rocks to make some sections smooth. Smooth sections that are now going to be more prone to erosion now that the soil “armor” is gone. I realize that some people think they are improving the trail, but really? There are also those other types you feel the need to modify the trail in order to say they rode it or to get that personal best. Those folks are some other special flavor of narcissistic asshole.

Looking west from the summit

Maybe I’m just a grumpy old bastard. Maybe I’m the narcissist asshole yelling the equivalent of “back in my day we had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways!”. Either way I did much better on that climb than I should have. It was not because I was in any kind of better shape or more skilled than my last outting here. The climb is just not as hard as it used to be and I’m pretty aggravated about. Its not easy by a long shot, it is just not as hard as it used to be. I realize this happens to most trails as I have seen it happen in numerous places but it does not mean I have to like it! Alright Bitch Sesson complete.

Cuyamaca Cruise

Today I went out for a quick spin in the Cuyamaca Mountains which rarely falls into the “This Sucks!” category.

An oak at the bottom of the Green Valley singletrack
An oak at the bottom of the Green Valley singletrack

I started from the East Mesa parking lot and took the East Mesa singletrack up to the visitor center where I connected to the Green Valley fire road.   I took this up to the Green Valley single track and work my way to the La Cima trail.

CRHT
I love this spot along the California Riding and Hiking Trail

The La Cima trail took me to the California Riding and Hiking trail, which I took south where I hooked up with the Stonewall fireroad and then over to the Cold Springs trail.

Great views in the Cuyamaca Mountains
Great views in the Cuyamaca Mountains

At the bottom of the Cold Springs trail I crossed HWY 79 and hooked up with the West Side singletrack and took it south back to the East Mesa staging area.    It was definitely a fun day on the bike!

An old friend gone

It is with a bit of sadness that I must pass on that this beautiful old oak tree has finally moved on from Daley Ranch.

From a year or so ago

On my Sunday morning ride, I found this tree toppled over completely blocking the eastern half of the Jack Meadow loop. Half of this oak had come down a year or so ago, but the other half finally we over as well. Considering that Daley Ranch has a staff to handle this kind of stuff I imagine the tree came down on Saturday. Good bye old friend you were a most welcome shade spot.

McKenzie River Trail

Another trail from “The List” checked off today. The Mckenzie River Trail was simply amazing with pretty much everything I think a singletrack connoisseur would want in a trail. This excursion is in the discussion of the best 25 miles of trail I have ever been on. Props to Nichol for shuttling me to the trail and showing up at end with beer!

The north end of Clear Lake
The south end of Clear Lake
Superb lake-side section of trail
Sahalie Falls is just….WOW!
Koosah Falls is also amazing!
So much of this killer forest stuff!
You get plent of this cool log crossing stuff along the way.

Tomorrow it time to head home but we are most definitely going to be back to Bend!