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2015-04-06

2015年4月3日 慢集團@陽明山系三芝古道 Hiking through five ancient trails of Sanzhi

A group picture at Houdian, starting point
昨年夏に歩いた陽明山山系の東側、三芝のいくつかの古道を再び訪れた。今回は、先週に引き続きになったが、慢集団の案内である。もともと、これら古道はそれほど知られたところでもなく、どちらかと言うとマイナーなルートなので参加者も少ないとくくっていたら、何と100人弱の参加者があった。休むところもあまりなく、道もそれほどよいわけではないので、これだけの人数だとそれだけで大変だ。出発もバスの時間による制限で、それほど早くない。日暮れまでに全員歩けるか心配であったが、無事に全ルートを夕刻までに歩き終わり下山できた。ルートそのものは昨年と全く同じなので、今回もより多くの読者に対してという意味で、英語で記述する。

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Start from the north side of Houdian and end at Xinbeizhuang on the west side
Elevation profile of the hiking
Mt. Zhuzishan ridge is visible under sunny sky
Yangming Mountain Region, overlapped mostly in the area of current Yangmingshan National Park, is very close to metropolitan Taipei, yet keeps its natural beauty and is full of history of the past residents and local industries. The east side of the region at foot of the peaks of Mt. Xiaoguanyinshan (小觀音山) and Mt. Zhuzishan (竹子山) has many attractive ancient trails. The area once hosted production of natural blue dye, charcoal production and even gold mining in 1930s. Trails were opened and served as transportation routes of the products. The relatively remote location from the center of Taipei and traffic condition has made the trails less accessible and less known.

Neiganzhai old trail
In my pursuit of covering new trails, I hiked five old trails one after another in the area with a few friends last year. I walked again this time with nearly a hundred hikers as an activity of Manjituang (慢集團) hiking club. It was a surprise to me that so many hikers would be interested in such obscure trails because I had expected that thirty or so would show up at most. I was a bit worried for such a large number to hike this route and wondered whether we could complete all the course before dark. It turned out be just my concern and all members completed the planed course. Some sections of the route are not so good, like pretty steep uphills in the bamboo bushes, very narrow footpaths wit one side falling off deep, etc.

People crossing the creek

The #866 bus we took from MRT Danshui station (淡水站) has only one round service a day. It is usually a small bus with a maximum capacity of twenty passengers. The organizer of the club had contacted the bus company in advance and had them arrange a large bus otherwise many of us could not have ridden a single bus of the day. It must be a very special view of so many people in a long queue for such a bus of small ridership, which according to the bus company is only a few passengers at most. The bus did not show up on time. We waited for anther twenty minutes and finally a large bus came. We got aboard the bus at 9:05 and arrived at Houdian (後店) bus stop of Sanzhi (三芝) at 9:52. After we got off, the bus of course became almost empty.

The first junction of a path going up to
Zhuzishan highway
Some of the members are already there waiting for us. They have come by taxi or their own cars. We have some warm-up exercise and I make a brief explanation of the route. The weather is wonderful and it is a little too hot. We start a little after 10:00 for the entrance of our first old trail, Neiganzhai trail (內柑宅古道). There seems to be some activity is going on today on Qingxi Road (青溪路) as traffic policemen are standing at some points.View of the mountains come in our sight as we walk. We have no worry about the weather today. In about twenty minutes we come to a junction where a big stone showing Yueyuanyuan cottage (月圓園山莊) stands. We take right first and immediately take left to a steeply ascending narrow road. We go up a steep uphill and walk by Balianxi farming garden (八連溪農園). At the junction with Qingshan Road (青山路) we turn right and in a few more minutes come to the entrance of our first old trail. Some more people are waiting for us and join here. They also have come by their own cars.

A ruin of dye making pools
Hongyegu water fall
At 10:50 all of ninety-some members start old dirt trail hiking. The Neiganzhai trail is in good condition. This trail must have been first opened for production of natural dye. Natural blue dye made from Assam Indigo (大菁) was a very important product in the 19th century Taiwan and counted as one of most prosperous export products of the time. Until synthetic chemical dye finally took over the natural dye in the late 19th to early 20th century, many dye making sites were built and produced this precious products. Farmers planted Assam Indigo in mountain valleys and built dye processing pools by clear creeks. The current Yangmingshan area was a primary region to produce natural dye and later it spread out to more places in northern Taiwan. The valley along this stream that we go by is one of these early dye making places. Farmers used to carry dye on their back down to dye merchants in the old days.

Path going above the water fall, a rope is visible at the rock
In about ten minutes a water stream shows up. The water volume is not small but a rope is fixed over the stream and you can use it for crossing the water. There used be a steel bridge but it has long be washed out and lays by the stream. People help each other to cross the stream. We continue our walk on the right side (viewing from the up stream) of the creek and gradually go up. A foot path diverges to left at two points. Both paths will eventually marge at a point to go further up to Zhuzishan (竹子山) highway, which is only for military use and restricted for passage. At 11:38 we come to the ruin of dye processing pools (菁礐), where they used to produce dye. Four pools can be identified, though some of them are filled with dirt and only a circle edge stones are just visible. We have a break here for some time to wait for the rest of the troop to catch up.

Crossing a stream of Shanyao old trail
We go on the old trail further for another few minutes and a water fall comes in view. Hongyegu water fall (紅葉谷瀑布) has apparently more water than my last visit and looks great. This is the end of the trail. The head part of the troop turn around and starts going down while the rest is coming up for view of the water fall. There is a junction just down from the water fall. The path from here is to go up to connect our second old trail, Shangyao trail (山腰古道). As we go up the steep path on the hillside, we can hear people chatting at the bottom by the water fall. Our troop is indeed very long. After climbing a steep rock section with an aiding rope, we come to a junction at 12:06. The one going further up on the small branch ridge leads to the Zhuzishan highwway. We take right here to go along the Shanyao trail. This one was cleared by Lantiantai volunteer group (藍天隊) only last summer and is still new.

A ruin of charcoal kiln
As the name indicates, the path goes along the mountain side. We cross a small creek at two points. The path is narrow and even still soft to step on at some points, giving insecure feeling. We go up a steep grade and come to a ruin of charcoal kiln just above a small stream. People used to come over here and make charcoal. They carried down charcoal on their back by this old trail. The troop is really long and I can see the last section of the troop is struggling to go up on the opposite side of the valley. The front section of us has to stop sometime for the rest to catch up. While waiting, insects fly around our face and are really bugging. Almost all people get insect bites. I get one on my right ear, which swells for a couple of days.

On the Shanyao old trail
Climbing in arrow bamboo bushes
At 13:22 we come to a new junction, which was obviously made after my last visit. The left new path leads directly to Jingkongping (金孔平). We take the right original path and start a very steep climb in arrow bamboo bushes. When it hits the top and levels out, it is not far from our third old trail, Wujiaosong trail (五腳松古道). At 13:35 we reach the junction and turn left. We are still in the tall arrow bamboo bushes. We keep on a moderate incline and come out to the top of a small peak. The bamboo here is low and we can have a good view. The main ridge from Mt. Zhuzishan to Mt. Caitoulun (菜頭崙) is just over there. We can make out a bus running on the Zhuzishan highway. The view is much clearer than my last visit, which we encountered fog here then. Red azalea flowers are here and there in full bloom.

The ridge of Mt. Zhuzishan is vibible
Start descent to Jinkongping, Mt. Caitoulun is in front
Abandoned mining hole, a dog is at bottom
We start downhill to Jinkongping. When we come to a big hole of old abandoned gold mine and incidentally look down inside, we are surprised to find a black dog is just at the bottom of this several-meter deep hole. She must have slipped off to fall in. The hole wall is vertical and it is impossible to climb back. She look up at us with sorrow black eyes. We are really sorry that we cannot do anything as we have no ropes or other equipment to rescue her. We further go down and reach Jinkongping flat area at 14:07. This place is big enough to hold so many people to rest at once. I call a lunch break. This used to be a mining camp and there are a few mining holes here and there in the area. I assume that there used to be a working hut or something and workers stationed here. The gold fever of 1930s made this happen. They dug holes vertically here while other people dug mine shafts horizontally down at the valley of Jiadongkeng creek (茄苳坑溪). The old trail of Wujiasong served traffic of the gold mining activity at that time.

At Jinkongping, people having rest
Going through tall arrow bamboo
This is a halfway point in terms of route distance. We start at 14:40, after about a half hour of rest. The path still goes up a little to the highest point of today's hike. Most part of it is still in tall arrow bamboo bushes. We then start going down and soon come to a junction to connect our forth old trail, Yuanliu trail (圓柳古道) at 14:50. The steep downhill continues for a few minutes. We keep on the trail and pass by Jinkong (金孔), gold mine #5 at a 15:02.  In five minutes we see another old trail Jiadongkeng trail (茄苳坑古道) diverging down to right. Our trail keeps on the mountain side and goes down gradually.

#5 Jinkong, gold mine





The trail is generally in good condition. After we go on the side of mountain, the trail descents on a broad ridge for some time. It then turns to left and goes on a shallow valley for a while. At 15:52 we come to another ruin of charcoal kiln. This is a big one. Old PVC pipes show up and go along the trail. We take left at the next junction and go down to a creek, which we reach at 16:30. We have a short break here. I am now very relaxed as I know the end of the hike is not far and I am sure that we can complete it much earlier than dark.

At ruin of charcoal liln of Yuanliu trail
We go up a steep uphill just for a few minutes and connect our fifth old trail, Ganweilun trail (竿尾崙古道). Taking right and further going down with a happy ending in sight. We popped out from the dirt trail onto a paved driveway at 16:52. The end of the old trails reached and everybody is happy. Some members have car parked here and they leave by car. I wait for the end of the troop to come down while other members keep on their way to the final destination Beixinzhuang (北新莊). The rest of the hike is an easy walk on a drive way of two kilometers. The last members show up and I accompany them all the way to Beixinzhuang, which we reach at 17:50. We have participants from Tainan (台南) on this hike and have some chat each other while we wait for a bus. They are kind enough to give me a special cake of their town, which a few of us later have bites at dinner.

At the end of old trail walk
We walked for nearly eight hours. We have very little rest during the walk on old trails. I am glad that everybody walked all the way through without any problem. The distance we covered is 12.7km. The black dog that we had discovered in the mining hole was later rescued. One of the hiking members, Ms. Judy Wang, contacted an animal protection group and they formed a rescue team on the second day after the hike. They spent five hours to go there, rescue the dog and come down with it. The dog, female, was reported to have suffered a little dehydration but healthy otherwise. A picture in the report shows that she looks fine. This good news made many of us happy!!

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