August 20th, 2011

The following is a sequence of events that took me to paradise.

On August 1st I pedaled my bike up old highway 406 looking for some singletrack I had once found while driving. I could not find it but ended up in a town called Kinasa. I picked up a free tourist map and headed back up the hill and over the pass back home.

On August 2nd I pedaled my bike up Hakuba 47 mountain bike park. I was scolded for my efforts as it was 'private property', not a big deal, I knew I was 'intruding' and said sorry and rode home. On the way home a view caught my eye, one I pass often but had never noticed. I took a picture with my phone.

On August 3rd I again pedaled my bike up a hill, this time with Nick and we were hoping to find a new trail. We did - it was stunning and steep.

On August 4th I was still excited about the previous days discovery so I went for a pedal up a road I had poked around before. It was there I found the entrance to what I would consider the hottest singletrack in town. One problem though it was after work and I ran out of light on the way up.

On August 5th I looked at the map I picked up in Kinasa and realized that the mountains I took a photo of on August 2nd after H47 was actually the trail I hiked up and rode down the day before. My map also showed it might be possible to cross from Hakuba to Kinasa and end up where I picked up my map. Now I was determined to find the end of the trail so I started another push up the hill, but again I ran out light as it was after work. I made it much higher and enjoyed the my second ride down even more than the day before but still a little hungry.

On August 6th I decided that I would ride from Hakuba up and down the 406 to Kinasa and find the trail head and loop the whole thing instead of the hike a bike. It was a hot day and I ended up at 3 dead ends after 3 random mountain road climbs. It felt like I was in the right place though, the dead ends were either overgrown, landslides or collapsed bridges. That day was sloggy and I logged about 55km and on 2 pieces of toast.

On August 11th after a break from the hunt and keeping my riding more local I dragged a friend Andrew out to help aid in the search for the lost track. We left early and had most of the day to play. Andrew showed up on a BMX- not the most ideal tool for the ride but it wasn't going to be that bad as the trail is buff and the corners whip around each other similar to a pumptrack.

What was a problem was Andrew ran out of water, and while we made it pretty far we were also a long way from hydration. I have been dehydrating my whole life and was comfortable with my lacks of liquids and I would have been happy to keep venturing. Regardless the results of quitting was another rip down my favorite track.

On August 13th I went and spoke with the local mountain wizard "Matsumoto" and asked him for guidance in regards to my travels - he told me of the Ojisan in the woods, and if I found the Ojisan, I would find my way.

On August 15th I wanted to gain another perspective before heading back in, I took in a view from the other new trail. The view supported Matsumoto's suggestions and soon I would return in search of the missing trail.

On August 20th the weather called for a day of rain but held off in the morning long enough to make a stab at finally looping the trail I was hoping would gain 'epic' status. I met nick at 6am and started pedaling my way to the 2.5 hour hike-a-bike. By the time that initial hike was done, so was Nick- he backtracked home- I kept going.

I made one wrong decision and ended up wandering down a trail that led to somewhere but felt all wrong. It was steep and I huffed it back up with my bike and chose another direction. After 30 minutes of ups and downs I saw a small wooden roof. A feeling came over me and I knew it was the shelter of the Ojisan. As I rounded the front of the shelter there he stood, I was surprised to see he had company. They both seemed content and welcomed my foolish adventure as if they had been waiting.

As they 'spiritually' glanced towards my right, I also looked and saw a trail slowly fading away. I knew then- that all my previous days of searching would be coming to an end. But I also knew that I was dropping into something that I was convinced didn't have a 'good' exit and would result in some creative mountain travel.

After my short visit with the Oji and friend, I quickly sped off. Within the first 40 feet I slipped out on a wet off camber root and drove my body into the trail. It was a quick reminder that i was far away and alone (except for the silent echo of the two laughing oji's).

The trail wandered with variety for what seemed like forever, until it finally started a steep descent to a creek. I was certain this is where the troubles would start, the trail grew over quick and as soon as I got there the trail was gone. A quick look in all directions showed waist high brush. A few more steps towards the creek would expose a hiding moss covered bridge over the creek. This would be the first of 4 crossings.

The trail was elevated just above the creeks edge and provided dreamy views wrapped in singletrack around every corner. Massive water falls, giant moss covered rocks and pristine ankle deep creek crossings- all had my mobile phone camera struggling for a clear image under a thick Japanese canopy(sadly I forgot my cf card for the proper camera in my pack).

I continued along the trail laughing and pleasured by my own efforts. Soon enough an abrupt hike-a-bike presented itself and one more short downhill followed. I popped out through some grave stones and on to a random back woods farm. As I got closer to the farm house the scene became more familiar and I quickly realized that I was only a short distance downhill from the collapsed bridge I had turned around at just a week or so ago.

I bombed down the moss loose road to the highway where I knew a 20 plus KM road ride over the 406 pass to Hakuba waited. I stopped at my now frequented Kinasa Onsen vending machine and saved a few yen for the corn stand I knew was another 10 minutes ahead.

^ After only eating a SOYJOY for breakfast, this was the best piece of corn EVER.

The last leg of the ride is 15 minute downhill road ride, sadly before that is an equal distance climb.

Since the start of August linking this loop has been on my mind daily and today, finally, the curiosity was finally answered- and in epic proportion.

Arigato Ojisan.