I can’t say why wild places draw me. The call originates somewhere out there where four walls end and the horizon catches the last light of the sun. It is something old and frightening, sets my heart drumming, and comes upon me when I am least guarded. I seek it again and again, as if expecting an answer to a question that was asked before I was born.
All spring I had been anticipating the ten-day break of August this year, for a chance to escape Tokyo and spend a nice long period walking up along the ridges of the North Alps. My pack was loaded, all the food prepared, and the route mapped out. I even went to bed early the night before to make sure that I was fresh for the exertion.
Returning from the mountains this last weekend was like descending from a great height. For three days I walked along fern festooned paths, my head literally in the clouds, all the while counting raindrops that seemed to have taken over the whole world. Originally the walk was meant to start along the higher, steeper crags of the South Alps, but with all the rain this summer landslides took out the one road that leads up to the riverine valley of Hirogawara. A whole mountain range that in normal years is overrun with hikers, this year sits in relative silence as most walkers avoid the astronomical Â¥25,000 ($220) taxi fare for the long detour.
On my first day of my six day walk down the length of the Yatsugatake range last summer, I camped by this lake. With evening the temperature plummeted and few campers were out and about. For two hours I sat at the end of the pier with my eyes closed, listening. I heard the lapping of the waves, the moan of the wind on the ridge above, a lone nightjar whose eerie laughter echoed across the water, and, almost a murmur, the quiet voices of campers huddled in their sleeping bags.
Down here in Tokyo a summer storm might cause people to grumble about sopping pants hems and forgotten umbrellas, but rarely does it make for more than passing banter. Up in the alpine regions of the mountains, though, a storm … Continued
I told myself that I would never return to Oze Marsh after my 1994 let down. It is a beautiful place, but the hordes of people and the train track-like wooden walkways make it impossible to enjoy the place as … Continued