August 27th, 2011
One week had past since my last discovery. The map I spoke of actually had 3 little mountains drawn on it. When I first saw that map for some reason I felt it was proper to do all 3 as a link. But after my lack of success with the first leg I forgot about it. After completing the mission I started to think about it again. Friday morning I figured it was go time and Saturday at 5am I left the house pedaling to the start of my 2 hour hike a bike...
This would be my route today, the highway sign in front of my house says 39KM to Togekushi, I had a bit of a wandering route so I figured my total distance would be around 80.
This is a farm house in the village of Nodaira, moments before I saw a really small old lady struggling with a big pale of corn. It looked like she had big days work a head.
It took 2 hours from home to the top of the first leg... I guess its about 730am by this point, its all downhill from here. Later in the day I met an old feller from Tokyo with a weekend home in Kinasa, he said this pass/trail is the original route from Kinasa to Hakuba before the 2 highways were put in. He actually knew my route pretty well but in pieces and provided me with the correct names. His wife commented on dirty I looked but still invited me to their home. Some of the many nice people in these parts I met this day.
I enjoy a solo shred like this but when your in paradise it really sucks to not have some one to take pics off. I think I got pretty lucky with my timing on a few of these.
Some of the trail is taken over by this kind of plant life. There would be just random patches of it stealing the trail.
This is one of the nicer sections that you can actually access the river with out danger.
This is bad picture but that water fall below is huge and cascades down a bunch of shelves. I'd say 90 feet worth of tumbling. Within about 30 feet after this I was day dreaming and caught my front wheel on something and was bucked forward. Land slides have wiped out the trail here a few times and luckily there is ropes to assist you. When I put my foot down for balance the trails downside edge broke away. Lucky that rope was there so I grabbed it, said jesus fuck and went on with my day.
Not sure the name of this little town but this is the end of the first leg.
The next hurdle to climb was a bit bigger than the previous, it tops out around 1500m. Since I had yet to really pedal I was feeling pretty good and enjoying the ride. It reminded me of pretty typical remote wilderness. Just logging road wandering around the mountain. I was actually enjoying it until i realized it was never going to end. This climb took 2 hours before I could drop in to a descent.
Once I rolled down the mountain to the valley I realized I was not getting any singletrack. It was all mountain road, so I had time to spare as my descent was simple and fast. It was here across from the Suwa Shrine that I met an elderly farming couple (are all farmers old?). They were curious about me and like the good folks they were handed me an ice cold Aquarius. That was a nice surprise. They pointed me to my next little climb and off I went. On the way by I noticed there scarecrow was sleeping on the job so I threw my bottle at him.
This climb was to be the smaller of three hills I would need to climb for my mission. But it was apparent that the map I had used to visualize my fantasy was not so accurate. The climb turned out to be a farm road and was well paved for most it. With my last mountain road descent I began to accept that my ride just might be turning into a tour... and rolled with it.
So I was pretty close to Togekushi by this point. A few more KM and I would be eating world famous soba and stinking up some ones soba house on a Saturday when all the tourists come. The mental picture had me wondering just how I would walk in there like the dirt stained stink I was.
As I pedaled up this hill I again started to realize that this steep uphill road was never going to end. What I suspected to be a 10 minutes turned in to 1:40 minutes. The sun was cooking and I was broiling in my own gravy. I passed a shop and vending machine at the base but said screw that I'll be slurping soba in 10. That was a bad assumption. Lucky I found a pay by honor corn stand and munched on one there. But I still had a lot more climbing... and without a drink corn doesn't kill it like I would have liked.
Some things in life make you swear- even when no one is around to hear. Very few signs have distance on them here, but when I finally got to the top of this hill the sign said Togekushi 5KM. That is when I started swearing- it was supposed to be 2 from the bottom. If I pushed on I would be descending into another valley a 5KM downhill... then another 5 up to get home. I discussed the idea with myself that Togakushi deserved a clean me and I would bring my mother back next week when she visits. That seamed to work, so I descended down the long road I just came up and began my march home.
Needless to say, my legs were pedaling slow by this point. This road fall was a pleasant way to stall.
When your 60k deep and have just spent 20 minutes watching unicorns drink from a waterfall, and then just minutes later you see an ice cold vending machine with couches beside it... you appreciate life for what it is and take another break.
At times I struggled to keep my front wheel in a straight line, the last climb 'out' usually isnt so bad but at this point I was done and after about 40 minutes of "ah the last corner before the tunnel" I was ready for the end. The light at the end of tunnel literally represents the start of a 15 minute descent to home.
The rest is down. The end.