This past Saturday, Sintty and I went hiking without the dogs to the Dakeng Mountains. The Dakeng Mountain Range is located just on the eastern outskirts of Taichung. There are 10 hiking trails along this mountain range park and each one is rated based on their degree of difficulty.
Trail #2 is one of the more difficult trails. And the entrance to trail#2 is actually one of our regular Sunday morning organized biking treks that we have been to a couple of times. At the entrance to trail #2 is a rest area for hikers and a popular area where local people sell their freshly grown vegetable and fruits. There is also an outside food stand that serves a popular Taiwanese breakfast staple called lo bat go. Lo bat go is a combination rice and radish pancake that can be eaten steamed or pan fried.
We left our apartment about 7:30 am Saturday by scooter and we got to the entrance to trail #2 by 8 am. The trail begins behind the outdoor food stand. It begins with a slow incline along a narrow paved path then across a wooden pedestrian foot bridge. Across the foot bridge the path continues to the left and then the trail turns into another gradual incline of stairs made with pebble stone between a couple of foot landings. At the last foot landing the excitement begins as the trail now turns into a railroad style tree log path with tree branched lined handrails on both sides. The path then begins into a close to 75-80 degree short vertical climb up the mountain to a short ridge. There were spots on this climb that I was intermittently using the handrails and then bending down and grabbing the tree log stairs to keep my balance and also to prevent myself from
looking astray. These set of stairs probably went about 25 yards. Once you get to the top of the small ridge there is a small rest area with a couple of wooden tables and chairs for people to rest and also to take in the first real view down and around the mountainside.
After resting briefly to absorb the adrenaline that had just taken over your body from the vertical climb, we continued on the tree logged path as it hugs the ridge of the mountain as it winds down and up and sometimes splits around trees. Some of the path is suspended slightly in some areas so it is easy to misstep and touch the mountain ridge below. The condition of the path looked rickety but when you looked closely at where the steps and handrails are secured you could really notice the engineering that went into it. The steps and handrails were strongly secured by railroad tie-like pins. I did notice just a few tree logs steps that were either beginning to rot or were shaken. Luckily they were not in the critical areas of the path that required full support for balance.
While you are concentrating walking to avoid misstepping, and there is also no one behind you to rush you, there are plenty of chances to stop to see through the trees and see the views of adjoining mountain ridges and to catch glimpses of Taichung city. The tree log stair trail is just wide enough for 2 way traffic but one has to stop and turn slightly to either let faster hikers overtake you, or let approaching hikers pass you on their return trip down the mountain.
Hiking I believe has to be the number one form of exercise in Taiwan. Because the island country is made up of
mountains, the major cities are surrounded by mountains so getting to the mountains are very accessible. Hikers start early at the crack of dawn as trails get more crowded as the morning goes on. There is no age discrimination too. Old and the young alike, solo hikers, couples, groups and families and even unleashed dogs. Some are regulars or newbies equipped with knapsacks and personal speakers to listen to music as they hike. Some are wearing hiking shoes, some are wearing sandals, some are even bare-footed, and some even hike backwards down paved trails. On trail #2 with the railroad style tree logged paths it was easy to tell who was the more experienced hikers by the ones that were walking without holding onto the handrails. And as you pass an approaching hiker on the trail it is automatic that everyone says “Zao or Zao an” to each other, which is ‘good morning” in Mandarin Chinese.
About an hour into hiking up the ridge we encountered a hiker who was making her way down the ridge and approaching us with her small grey dark poodle slowly following her down the path steps. We were totally caught off guard because of how careful one has to walk on these tree logged railroad style paths, and here we saw a poodle negotiating the log steps slowly but with ease. As she reached us we all stopped to talk to her and about her dog. Sintty immediately befriended her as we introduced our selves and eventually found out that Judy lived in our neighborhood in Taichung a couple of streets down from our apartment. After talking to Judy for a while we asked her how much further does the trail go and she said that we were probably at the halfway point on the trail now. We decided we had enough excitement for the morning and that we would do this trail again in its entirely for another day. So we turned around and followed Judy back down the trail with her and her poodle Lulu. Door to door the trip was 3 hours.
Trail #2 was truly exhilarating and breathtaking negotiating the rail road style tree logged path. There was adrenaline rushing through the veins as you grasp at how high you quickly ascended up the mountain . That morning there was a lot of fog but the view was still breathtaking never the less. The adrenaline from climbing the free logged path was matched to like riding the old Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island. We look forward to hiking path #2 again and completing it. This Saturday we are joining our new friend Judy and her poodle Lulu on Dakeng Mountain trail #4, which is also slightly difficult, but this trail has monkeys that inhibit this particular mountain area.