Tuesday, February 2, 2010

big snow mountain hike

last weekend we made the 90 minute drive from taichung up to big snow mountain forest recreational area, also known as dasyueshan (see more info at luca's taiwan travel guide).  we picked up our friend (who speaks chinese) and then headed up around 7:30.  it should be noted that i told allison the hike would take "roughly five and a half hours round trip," but in reality, our friend had told me five and a half hours one way, which means i made up the round trip part.  after passing quite a few birdwatchers (i mean, hardcore birdwatchers with huge telescopes out and multiple cameras around their necks), we made it to the information center/trail head around 9:00, got ready, and started out on our hike.  we'd heard how great the views were going to be from our friend, but as we started hiking, we noticed it was going to be a pretty foggy day.

fortunately for us, this hiking path wasn't made of lincoln logs like our other hike closer to us.  we enjoyed walking on real dirt, steps, through grass fields, lots of forests, and in the end, up a small paved road.  the entire hike up the the mountain was just over 9 km (about 6 mi for most of our readers) and i think our elevation peaked at around 2,600 meters (8,500 ft).  although the name seemed to promise a mountain that was big and covered in snow, most of our views consisted of the peaks of smaller mountains poking their peaks through the clouds.

although we were snacking on nuts and berries the whole way up (gatherers, no hunters over here), we were pretty hungry once we reached the top around 1:30pm.  our friend busted out his portable little tea making contraption and we feasted on peanut butter sandwiches and jasmine green tea.  after about an hour of resting and picture taking, we decided to go try and find some to give us a ride down.  this is where the trip gets fun.  as we're walking down, we notice there are no more than three cars in the parking lot and they belong to large groups of people.  by now, allison has realized it isn't a five and a half hour hike up/down, but more of an 11 hour hike up/down and we had a 15 km walk down the road back to our car if we didn't get a ride.  it's about 3:15pm when we decide to start walking down the road, hoping to grab a lift.  fortunately, we saw a car coming after about a half hour.  unfortunately, their car was full.  after another half hour, saw a van coming down, so we stopped them, told them our story, and then smiled and said (in chinese), "sorry, we have our bed down in the back and don't want to put it up."  that made allison happy.  i thought she was just going to dive in and make them drive us down.  our third strike came when a police jeep went flying by us, not even stopping to check if we were alright, which is surprising because we were waving at him as if one of us was having a heart attack.

after 7 km, we ended up at the hotel area and hoped that we'd be able to get a ride down the rest of the way.  no luck.  eek.  it's pretty dark now, the nice views are gone, it's getting colder, and we're starting to realize we might not make it down for the indian food feast that i'd been thinking about the whole time.  as we're walking away from the deserted hotel, policeman comes flying back up the hill and allison and i start waving our hands again.  he stops, and the reoccurring  "ni hao no chinese" conversation ensues as he continues to talk 40 words a second at us and he takes off.  our chinese speaking friend comes running up (he was at the hotel looking for help) and we apologize for being ignorant americans and for not being able to make the police officer wait thirty more seconds.  so... we decide we'll keep on truckin' down the hill, but fortunately the policeman came back down the hill and our friend was able to ask him for a ride, which he reluctantly agreed to.  now, i've never been in a race car, but i always imagined that when/if i did drive in one, it'd be on a race track, not a winding road heading down a mountain, in the dark, with cliffs, and the ever present threat of death around every turn.  i'm pretty sure the policeman thought we had to make it down in a hurry because i thought we were going to plummet to our death a few times (though he was thoughtful enough to say that we should let him know if we felt like we were going to throw up so he could pull over).  we probably topped out at 90 mph (ok, maybe 60.  alright, i'm lying.  closer to 30), but it definitely was fast.  i think i closed my eyes a few times, so i'm not sure if allison passed out or not.  we made it safe and sound, hoped in our car and i sped off (and by sped off, i mean about 5 mph) through the denses fog i've ever been in with two passengers making sure i noticed the turns on the way down.

and in case you're wondering.  we did make it down for our indian food feast.  and it was glorious.


  1. Cool pictures! Looks like an awesome view from the top.
    I seriously laughed out loud when you said "I'm pretty sure the policeman thought we had to make it down in a hurry because i thought we were going to plummet to our death a few times" ;-)

  2. Wow great story and aweseme pix. I love those "cloud seas."

    I'm surprised you guys didn't get a lift sooner. I've never had to wait more than 15 minutes and I've hitched at least ten times in Taiwan.

    That high mountain fog can get so thick. It is not fun to drive in that stuff (especially at night!)

    So glad to hear that your Indian food feast was there in the end. Nothing like a delicious meal to help the whole day come together.

  3. Great pictures of a very memorable experience. Loved reading about your adventure! xxoo