Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sarah vs. the mountain

I've never really considered myself an avid outdoorswoman. Sure I've had my share of camp outs and mini-hikes, but nothing truly substantial. And not because I haven't wanted to. I enjoy being outside, and Nathan has always loved camping and hiking since he was a boy.

We had an opportunity to join some friends who were going to hike Mt. Yotei in Niseko this weekend. I was excited, but also a little nervous. All of them were seasoned hikers, and I had never hiked an entire mountain, yet alone one as big as Mt. Yotei. I doubted I would even be able get halfway before I gave up - I mean, I'm not really in that great of shape, and the extent of my exercise is biking to the subway station and climbing the stairs to my apartment.

Mt. Yotei on Saturday morning. I was at the top of this!!

We drove to Niseko on Friday night and woke up early on Saturday morning to prepare for our 8-hour hike: 4 hours up and 4 hours down. The incline wasn't too bad, and I was feeling pretty confidant in myself. In fact, the hike up was pretty enjoyable - it was tough, but I was keeping up and before I knew it, 2 hours had gone by and we were half way up.

Entrance to the trail

The last few kilometers were tough, mainly because it was a lot of loose rock, and we were all anxious to be at the top. When were finally made it, it was an amazing feeling. I had just hiked 4 hours and was at the top of an active volcano (don't worry mom, it hasn't erupted in almost 3,000 years).

The view from the top

The caldera at the top of Mt. Yotei

We ate lunch at the top and enjoyed the view. Our friends decided to hike around the caldera, but we didn't have enough water for that and the return, so Nate and I decided to go ahead and make the hike down. Which was difficult. Really difficult. You use completely different muscles for the descent than you do for the climb, and I'd be lying if I said it was easy. But we eventually made it, and I've never been so happy to not have to walk on an incline. We laid in the grass next to our tents and waited for our friends to descend. When they did, we broke out the celebratory sake and wine, had a few drinks, and then set out to onsen. For my American friends, onsen is like a Japanese public bath, usually separated male and female. This was my first onsen experience, and I was a little nervous, but my body was tired and achey and the water was so warm and wonderful. The bath was outside, and we were able to see Mt. Yotei in the distance as we soaked. It was the perfect ending to the day.

Some observations from the hike:
  • Hiking a mountain is completely different from hiking Palo Duro Canyon
  • Loose rock and mud are not fun.
  • Japanese like to wear bear bells while hiking, and it sounds like sleigh bells. I kept wanting to sing Christmas songs.
  • Japanese hikers are the most polite people on earth.
  • I still remember some of my geo science (look, Nathan, igneous rocks!!)

So here I am. Sarah Robinson, moutain hiker. Never thought I had it in me!

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