“Ok hikers. Those open to doing a hike this Sunday? I know Diem, Chelsea, and Alex are out.
I’ll take a look at the mountains when I get home. But I think we’ll keep it under 1,000m. I’ll look for something 3-6 hours.”
I get this message from my friend Keith on my phone around 8 p.m., right when I am doing my little workout video, alone, on a Saturday night. I immediately send a quick reply.
“I’m free!” (TRANSLATION: I HAVE ZERO WEEKEND PLANS. I spent the day Skyping with friends from home and stayed in my pajamas until 4 p.m. And I was essentially a hermit all week, wiped out from the overnight buses last weekend. I wonder, have I talked to anyone all week in the prefecture? Like, had a real in-person conversation? I didn’t think so.)
It ends up just being me and Keith who can go.
He promptly follows up with a text, sending me hiking details, meeting point, and lunch plans. I especially appreciate that he included lunch plans because I turn into a grizzly bear if I am hiking and hungry.
The next morning, after my 30-minute YouTube yoga class (trying to make yoga a daily habit, which according to the Internet takes 30 days), I leave the house at 10 a.m. to meet Keith for our Sunday hike. I take the train 50 minutes to a tiny town called Kamiichi.
The weather could not be more amazing. After rain all day on Saturday, it is sunny and cloud-free and perfect. The train passes through rice frield after rice field, which I realize have the most beautiful reflective surfaces. It’s pretty stunning.
Keith lives about an hour away in a different town along the coast, but Kamiichi is our meeting point. He has a CAR, and is actually parked and waiting for me. I love his promptness. I have only been to Kamiichi once, back in August for a teacher training, but I forget most of that month. It’s an adorable little mountain town.
We drive around and get totally lost due to my incredibly poor – nonexistent? – navigation skills on mountain roads. I have hiking books that I borrowed from another teacher in the prefecture. I know our hike is #36 in the book, but that’s about all I could figure out. The roads were tiny, so Keith couldn’t look at the book and drive. Anyway. We drive around for, like, hours. But he doesn’t get annoyed, and I don’t get (that) frustrated. We are on an adventure.
We stop at waterfalls. We see walls made out of verdant green ferns. We see rock slides. We do U-turns on small scary roads without guardrails. At one point, a large log gets stuck under the car. Keith needs to stop in the middle of the road and pull it out from under the car. And finally, two hours later, we arrive at our trailhead. I completely miss it, but Keith spots it.
By this time we – or maybe just me since I wanted to eat lunch back at the waterfall? – are starving. So before hiking we make lunch on the side of the road. Keith loves to bake bread, and he brings a fresh loaf for lunch. Right? It is also whole-wheat. Please, I am impressed, and now I think that all men should learn to bake homemade bread and be able to cut clean slices on the hood of their cars with badass Japanese knives.
I brought two fried eggs topped with Colby Jack cheese, carrot sticks, green beans, and grapefruit. I had also brought chocolate cookies, but I ate them all during the long journey to find the trailhead. Keith doesn’t like chocolate.
We make egg sandwiches and sit on the road and enjoy our pre-hiking picnic. It’s 2 p.m.
The hike is short but steep. We plow up it quickly. (Well, Keith does. I sort of follow a pace or two behind, panting from the steepest incline I’ve seen since Mt. Fuji last August.)
There are some cool plants that I have never seen, but unfortunately neither Keith nor I know their names. We point and guess.
“Morning glory?” he says, shrugging.
“Isn’t that a vine? Could it be….” I trail off.
“Looks cool whatever it is,” he finishes for me.
On we go.
We make it to the summit by 3 p.m. We lounge at the summit for a longer time than we actually hiked, chatting and just enjoying the sunshine and the view. I kiss the summit marker. WE MADE IT! I had doubts earlier in the day.
We go down quickly because this is steep stuff and there are no switchbacks. We find a MUCH SHORTER WAY back to the station. Keith is nice and stops at a wisteria tree because I cannot stop ooohing and ahhhing from the passenger seat. I pick a few branches to take back home. They smell like fruit and honey. WHO KNEW?
Keith also gives me the rest of the bread. My bag breaks at the train station, so I am carrying wisteria branches, bread, and hiking gear. I get a few strange looks, but I don’t care. Because I just had a really cool, spontaneous adventure on a sunny day in Japan. HELLS YEAH, or as they say in Japanese すごい!
P.S. Happy Mother’s Day Mom! And Happy soon-to-be Mother’s Day Kim!