Well I’m back on the right side of the International Date Line and I must say I had a really cool time in Japan but I’m glad to be back at home where I have more “normal” things to fill up my day like leaky facets, broken sprinklers, kid’s hockey games and other family goodness.
The last two weeks in Japan were pretty busy so not much time to play online, but I did get in some riding. Specifically I went out to the largest chunk of forest on the pennisula. Most of my friends refer to this area as Fugatoyama, but it is actually a sizable chunk of the Kanagawa Wildlife Protection Area that has several names. Topology-wise there are a series of ridges lines that form a reverse C shaped bowl with a river that forms and flows from east to west of out the outlet of “the bowl” and onward to Segami Bay. Most of the riding occurs and the northern leg of the “C” and down the northeastern flanks of the ridgelines down to the Tokyo Bay side of the pennisula.
In 2004, I had done quite a bit of exploring on the southern leg of the reverse C. There are nice sections of trail in that area interspresed with hike-a-bike and aggressive sections. If you have ever ridden Bell Ridge or Los Pinos in Orange County it is sorta like that but forested and the trail is often criss-crossed with roots. I had snooped around for connections between the North and South legs but had mostly found brutal steep hikes that were “Advanced/Expert Hike-A-Bikes”.
I really wanted to find a connector that only included some “Upper Intermediate Hike-A-Bikeage” After a good bit of research I had some proposed routes that inlcluded going into “The Bowl”. There is an awesome chunk of trail going into the bowl. It is wonderful sweeping flowing singletrack that gracefully looses its elevation into the bowl. I was hoping to find such another trail leading out of the bowl to the south. Hope…..Hope on it’s own is for idiots who are too stupid to come up with a plan. The plan was to be mentally prepared for a brutal hike-a-bike up to the south or bailout on a proposed trail along the river to the west.
“The Bowl” is an amazing wooded area that rivals some of the best forested scenery I have ever been in. I found myself not making much headway and I was enjoying every minute of it.
I learned a really interesting bit of information from some of the locals about the snakes of Japan. All of the venonmous snakes have slited eyes while all of the non-venonmous ones have round eyes. The drawback to practically applying the information is that you have to get close enough to them to figure it out.
After exploring most of the options in the west end of the bowl I was soon started picking trails that would take me towards the southern ridges. The bowl is not as much of a bowl as I had expected as there were some smaller ridges inside of the bowl that proved to be beaters. This was by far not the first I had failed to fully appreciate the thin topo lines spaced closely together. My payment to the mountain gods would come in the form of burning calves and triceps as I carried, lunged, and pushed my bike up the trails less traveled.
Once I had gotten up onto these intermediate ridges, I was presented with some trail options that left me scratching my head. It was one of those things were I was pretty sure were the splits would take me but knowing and confirming are two different things. I took a couple of these options as out and back to confirm were they were coing before continuing along my intended route.
The next series of trail options shed off yet some more elevation and took me further down into the bowl. When I reached a point where there was supposed to be a four-way intersection, I only found a T-intersection with my intended direction being the missing leg. From pouring over my Japanese maps I figured out that I would have to take a long uphill climb that would most likely be hike-a-bike way to the west to catch the southern leg of the “C”. I already knew the southern leg would also have a bit of hike-a-bike between the riding sections. I was feeling fatigue creeping in but more importantly I was mentally growing tired of the hike-a-bike exploring. I opted to take the trail option that followed the stream/creek downstream.
Boy was I glad I went that way. After a good bit of technical riding, the trail started mellowing out and the riding got real flowing and just awesome. I now started encountering some hikers here and there. The further west and downstream I went the more mellow things got. This was one hell of a great “bailout”. Eventually the “trail” ended at and old road that has been turned back over to mother nature when the wildlife protection area was established. Mother Nature is doing a mighty fine job with this road.
Over the next few miles the trail/road turned to a dirt road, then a paved road and before long I was back in rural civilization. I ended up taking a series of streets and trails back to the apartment. While cruising back I got to thinking that if this was back in the states, it would surely be designated wilderness area or some kind of sensitive area that would be off-limits to bike. Hats off to the Japan and thier outdoor culture. Trails are trails over there. You can ride your bike anywhere you dare too including national parks and thier wilderness equivalent. From what I understand there are only a few trails in the entire country that are off-limits to bikes. One of them is Mount Fuji and that is closed only during the busy hiking season. After dinner that night I broke down and packed up the bike and got all packed up to finish that last bits of work and fly home the following evening.