Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hohuanshan: check

As our time here winds down it seems to be picking up speed. The list of to-do's, the stack of empty moving boxes, the myriad details that I have managed to avoid confronting full-on are now getting too big to ignore. I tend to work best under pressure, so I say bring it on and let's get this thing going.

My mountain weekend was fabulous -- just what I needed, in fact, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Like most popular hikes in Taiwan the terrain was not particularly challenging: clear paths, stairs carved or built into the hillside, and a fair number of other people on the trail. What made Hohuanshan different was the altitude. Three of the four peaks we bagged were over 3,400 m (11,000 ft); coming from sea level I found catching my breath to be much harder than I'd expected. Setting up camp at 2 a.m., I got winded unrolling my sleeping bag and wondered how on earth I was going to climb higher when the sun rose in four short hours.

Thankfully I didn't need to keep up with the others in my group -- I was the lone female, and certainly the least athletic -- and kept my own pace up to the peaks. The point of the trip for me was to make good on a promise (Cole goaded me into making a New Year's resolution this year) and to check something off my dusty old "Do Before Leaving Taiwan" list. It was also a way to tackle something physical when most of the year I have been grappling with intangibles. As one friend said, the great thing about a mountain is that you can kick it. I did not, in fact, kick it, but getting to the top of those peaks brought a great sense of satisfaction every time.

The mountains were socked in almost constantly; there were some moments where the clouds would thin to a wispy mist and part just enough to give you a hint of the vistas beyond, and then they'd roll back in again, thicker than ever. I have seen the views from Cing Jing, have crossed the mountains by car, have taken some lovely pictures of the heights of this island. It would've been nice to capture some pictures from the heights, but I learned some lessons while I was climbing in the fog (see "grappling with intangibles," above) so I will not complain.

I really appreciate how Mark at Blue Skies Adventures organized all the details and took care of us so well. The whiskey was a nice touch. If we were staying longer I'd happily join him on other outings -- I haven't ever been to the outlying islands, and do regret never visiting Penghu (the Pescadores). I have learned over the years, though, that I have no idea what lies in store, so I will wait for another opportunity to come back and see more of this lovely country. For now, though, it's time to move on.

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