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!

A Zushi – Kamakura stroll about

Okay I have been back from Japan for nearly a month now and I am just starting to get caught up of some of my goings on while in land of the rising sun.    On one of my weekends there I set off to do a ride that I would involve a bit of this and a bit of that as far as riding goes.  I know quite a few trails over here and while I wanted to get in some dirt time I was also interested in taking in some of the sights and sounds of Japan life as well.   So I set off on my ride with a bit of eye for looking for new things along an old route.

I started out in Yokosuka  on the eastern shore of the Muira peninsula (about an hour and change south of   Tokyo) and pedaled the streets over to the city of Zushi.    The route itself is always interesting with lots of  Mom and Pop stores, stairways to temples and narrow streets and sidewalks.   There is this school that I pass by along this route and while I Have seen kids at play on it a few times in the past for the most part it was empty during my passings.    Today was quite different.  There was some kind of the school function that involved both the parents, kids and facility.   There were lots of chants, shouts, cheering and laughing on the playground.   I was already well down the street before I decided I needed to check this out with more than a pedal by so I hit the brakes and went back.

There was a hilarious race being held that had me laugh my arse off.   It looks like four groups of parents and children were split up into four teams. They were in lines at one end of the field and some guy/official was sitting in chair at the other end of the field.  At the man’s feet were two burlap sack filled with something.  One sack was small and the other was large.    Once the whistle went off, the person at the front of each line ran across the field to their corresponding guy in the chair at the far end.  As they approached the guy that had to play the guy in a single hand of “rock paper scissors”.   If the runner won, they got the small sack, if they lost they got the big sack.   Either way you the runners had to take their sack back across the field as fast as they could and hand it off to the next person in the line.   For the subsequent runners, winning the rock-paper-scissors bout meant you got to keep or get the small sack.  The entire race we exceptionally funny to watch.

After getting in my fill of giggles I soon veered off the narrow streets and onto trails on and around Mount Sengen.   Most of the locals refer to this area as “Duck Pond” as the most common route has you starting at a small pond.    It has rained quite a bit over the past week and the trails had a lot more moisture than I had expected.

The soil here is clay based and while it does not cake up on your tires at all , it is some exceptionally tricky stuff to ride on where power and balance but be carefully finessed to keep yourself from becoming an amateur geologist taking unplanned soil samples.

Now sprinkle in some leaves and wet roots over this clay and you have some exceptionally interesting bit of trail to content with.   You can find more information about this kind of stuff on Slickopedia.

One of my favorite little curves along the route, the ferns in this area almost popping.  Like many of the hiking trails in this area they have a long history of use to connect between the numerous temples throughout the peninsula.  This particular trail dates back to around the mid 1300s.   After dropping this trail off of west of Mount Sengen, I did a bit of residential street riding before hitting up another series of trails.   Shortly after this I found myself at several trail junctions enjoying the scenery while I sorted through the scribbled on maps and disjointed GPS files floating around in my brain.   Eventually I channeled “The Schwartz”  and figured out my way (The other ways, are now officially on my to-do list).

The series of trails I was on at this point where leading me to Kamakura on the western side of peninsula on Segami Bay.  These trails were created sometime between 1185 – 1333AD.      It is really kind of cool knowing that you are riding a trail nearly four times as old as my home country.

The drop into Kamakura proper is not a gentle one,   there is some seriously steep and slippery steps to contend with as most of your elevation is cashed out rather quickly.

The final bit of the trail before hitting tiny concrete pathways and alleyways that led down into the streets of Kamakura.

With its numerous temples and cultural shops and restaurants one could spend weeks enjoying Kamakura before they would feel as if they have done more than scratched the surface.     For me it was a quick stroll along the streets.

The “scramble” crosswalk.   All traffic briefly stops and pedestrian pandemonium ensues.    Very cool to watch.

This was what  I was really looking for on this day, some of the tasty street vendor offerings.   This stuff is some form of grilled chicken skin/bits will tasty sauce and shredded veggies.

So what if is bad for me, but yeah there were a bunch of skinny Japanese folks eating this stuff so how bad can it be.    After  mowing this thing down and a bit of Japanese fashion watching I made my way back over to Zushi along the streets.   I had big plans to hit of up the trails of Fugato-yama on my way back but by the time I reach the turnoff street my legs were wanking so I continued along the streets back to Yokosuka.   Turns out I did just a few yards under 27 miles so I did not feel bad about bailing on the last riding area.     Another good day to be on a bike and a great day to be out stroll around in Japan.