At long last the hiking club completed the old hunting route that stretches from the Red River Valley (紅河谷) in Wulai to Xiongkong (Bear Hollow) near Manyueyuan Forest Reserve in Sanxia.
We're very familiar with the first third of the trail, as two of our favorite swimming holes are found just off of it in the Jiajiuliao Stream (加九寮溪).
(The first pool on a summer's day)
(The second pool)
Saturday was a bit chilly for most of us to swim except Peter who met us at the trailhead after his morning swim. Peter lives to swim in the rivers of Taiwan and once swam every day for an entire year except when typhoons made it simple insane to attempt.
The entire trail is about 20-25km long, with only one steep climb of about 40 minutes. Otherwise it is an immensely enjoyable long hike through mostly replanted Japanese cedar forest. There are a few stream crossings, one longish one at the end, so river tracing shoes are useful, though not absolutely necessary.
There are several very fun rickety log bridges to cross at first. They wash away every typhoon but the aboriginal hunters who use the trail rebuild them quickly. They're fairly sturdy and only once have I seen someone fall through in crossing. Wasn't me.
The trail is wide and clear the entire way. As it follows the Jiajiuliao and later Dabao River (大豹溪) it is either level or gently rolling.
Except for one fairly long climb up to the pass at around 900m.
The trail on the back side of the pass looks like it was once used to haul timber down the slopes, likely on sleds as there is no sign of a railway track. What this area must have once looked like when it was covered in 2000 year old cedars is just hinted at little further on into Manyueyuan in a small patch of forest with a remaining stand of ancient cedars.
My favorite part of the trail was where the Dabao River is formed by a half dozen smaller streams joining in a dense forest of mountain banyans with giant birdnest ferns sprouting out of their branches and trunks. I wouldn't mind camping out here one day and exploring downstream for swimming holes.
By chance we saw a group of aboriginal hunters stride past us as we were crossing the last stream. They were a blast from the past with their handmade flicklock rifles and woven bags around their shoulders. Sadly none of us were quick enough to ask for a photo.
Aboriginals are mostly Christains in Taiwan, which is evidended by the shrine Chris and Paul are looking at in this pic:
Notice the Virgin Mary and Jesus on the cross:
The presence of hunters explains why the area had so little wildlife compared to neighboring Manyueyuan ( a protected area). We always see monkeys and squirrels and even Reeves Muntjac (the barking deer) when we hike there.
But this trail was silent though we did encounter one sluggish Habu, a rather poisonous snake with an impressive arrowhead and thin tapered tail. My shots are not the clearest but I didn't want to get much closer if that's alright.
The trails ends at a place called Xiongkong (Bear Hollow).
From here you take the road down to Lele Gu (Happy Happy Valley; 樂樂谷) where you can catch a bus back to Sanxia. A nice way to round out the day is to stop about 8km down the road at Great Root Spa, a hot spring resort. There are two levels, one nicely just for adults, with about 10 different pools, including some jets and a foot massager.
You can check out their website:
All in all everyone had a great time, though we had one new member, Paul, who may have found walking 30km on his first hike a bit much. Kate though was thrilled to break her old record of 18km.
As for me, I am so happy to have another long hiking option so close to home. This one is safe enough to do alone (though be prepared to be out all day) and there are many side routes up to nearby peaks that would make great day trips on their own. (Note: Jah mentions one in the comments.)
I wish I had Beauty, my sisters dog, with me. She would have a blast on this trail.
To get to the trailhead take the MRT to Xindian station. Exit and turn left and walk up the main road to the 7-Eleven. Bus for Wulai (marked in English) come by often. Catch one to just past the 11.5km mark at the village of Chenggong. Get off her and walk down a side road to the right all the way down the hill to the red bridge.
Cross the bridge and follow the road up and around to the second bridge. The trail starts to the left just before the bridge.
Always stay on the main trail (it's obvious). There are a few stream crossings. The last one (about 5 hours into the hike) is long. You won't be able to see the trail on the other side of the stream as it restarts about 50m downstream. Make sure you take the trail on the other side as there is also one of the same side.
Follow the last bit of trail to the road and turn left. Follow road down to where it splits and wait for the bus. Last bus is around 6pm. You can grab a beer and snacks at a little shop at the split. The bus takes you back to Sanxia. From there grab a taxi to Yongning MRT or the regular train station in nearby Yingge.
You could also continue down the road from the split to where it joins the main road to Manyueyuan park. A walk through the park to Fuxing on the North Cross Island Hwy would be another 8-10 hours. I'd like to do it one weekend as an overnight trip with a stay at the campground in Lele Gu.