“Feeling” my way around — A Nippon Navigation Weekend

The weather Gods showed favor on us last weekend as we had a couple of days of no rain and it looked like it was going to hold through most of the weekend.  Friday afternoon, Dan and I headed out for some riding in an area near Zushi.

We were enjoying the afternoon as we had plenty of daylight ahead of us.  We had time to stop and smell the flowers (so to say)

Over the course of ride through the  area we came to one of those spots were either going to be at the apex of your loop or you are going to jump ship and head for another area near Kamakura and extend your loop.   The fork in the road at this junction was at the top of a pass know as the Asaina-kirodoshi.  Kamakura sets on the ocean, but is also surrounded on three sides by mountains. They are not tremendously tall, but really steep.  For defensive purposes notches, passages and passes call kirodoshi were cut through some of these mountains. The Asaina-kiridoshi is one of the seven greater kiridoshi leading in and out of Kamakura.  It was built in 1241 and is rumored to have been built in a single night.   We opted to descend the eight century old road down towards Kamakura and see if I could figure out a route I followed a local on five years ago.

After quite a bit snooping around I had to resort to “Umm, it feels this way” tactics.   My “it feels this way” tactic has gotten me and the poor saps with me in trouble on more than a few occasions.   We were starting to watch our daylight as things can get dark really quick under the foliage of the forest.  Just when I was really starting to doubt if I was on the right track, I recognized a trail feature and had a “full navigational recall” occur.  The feature is a trail junction know as the Okirigishi juncture, in the Nagoe Kirtoshi pass.  (It was too dark in this area to get a photo) This pass was used primarily from 1185 to 1333 to connect the Kamakura and Miura areas.  It was just a narrow path back then just wide enough for a single horse to pass through.  Today it is still narrow and quite a bit on the burly side with some natural stone steeps that require your due diligence to navigate.

There are a few spots along the trail were some trees were and underbrush are strategically cutout to provide scenic viewpoints.   It was amazing to see home much light was actually being obscured when under all the foliage.  Below us and in the distance were could see where we were going to be dropping out at.

From here to there took a little longer than expected and there were a couple of trail junctions were some thinking had to be done before choosing a direction.  We ended popping out right where I expected (okay hoped is a better word 🙂  ) to and we still had just a bit of daylight to play with.  From here we did some street cruising back to where we started from.   We did make a pit stop along the way at a small mom and pop restaurant that my friend Ken turned me onto during a visit last year.  The food here is just awesome with the kind of yumminess that “grandma used to make”.  The husband and wife who run the place are in fact grandparents and she kindly treats us like one of her grandkids.  She sees enough of the local mountain bikers that she keeps a newspaper around so that we can cover up the chairs so we do not funk up their chairs.  She even helps me out when I screw up my Japanese and notices when I use a new phrase.   It is always more than a meal when eat here.    I slept good that night.

The following day still looked good and by lunch time I had polished off all of the work than needed to be tended to so Dan and I headed out for some more exploration.  This would be another area that I had ridden a few times five years ago and but I was always just tagging along.   We did quite a bit of street exploration before finding a route up into the trail system.  I had never been this way before to get up into the trail system and we went for quite sometime before we came to a trail junction that “felt” like I had been here before.   Riding around over here would be a whole lot easier if I was just learn kangi, hirokana and kitokana.

A few trail junctions later and I knew where I was at and where we were going.  Takatori has some really cool technical features strewn about on the trails.  The section below is gnarly little root fest and it is also the spot where five years ago I cracked by sternum and bruised up a few ribs pretty good.

The summit of Mt Takatori is the site of an old stone quarry that has become a favorite spot for area climbers.  There are at the least a dozen such faces where folks can come and get thier climb on.

The quarry area also has some cool rock features to play on so we did.  Here is Dan giving his front tire and fork a workout.  Take note that Dan is riding with flat pedals and no shin pads.  Dan told this was the first time and months he had gone for a ride without them on.

I have a feeling that Dan is going is not going to forget those next ride.

After playtime on the summit, we set off on another trail that included a bunch of steps to descend, but the cultural payoff is really awesome.   You are literally just riding along and pop out into a clearing with this in front of you.

This carved relief statue is around 30-40 feet high and is simply impressive.  If you do not say something along the lines of a awesome, wow, or holy crap when you first see this then something is wrong with you.  Dan was pretty stoked to see this.  After this point we continued  along the trail that included lots of steep descents and natural log steps that dumps us out at the bottom of Takatori off the north slope.

From here we worked our way back up the mountain on a easily climbable road.  Once back at the peak were retraced our way back to where we started.  I have a new to-do list item to go back and explore the numerous trail juctions in the Takatori area.  By the time we got back I was pretty much done and spent the rest of the evening relaxing.  A couple of days well spent.

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