Today, I am in a good mood to climb a mountain for the first time in months. I got up early in the morning in the refreshing air. The sky is clear in autumn, it is the best season for backpacking. I took more breakfast than usual, preparing a lunch box consisting of a little bit of salty rice balls with pickled "Ume" in them, sweet omelet, and so on..., yes, I'll add peeled peas for dessert.
As all items are packed in my husband's backpack; I carry only a waist pouch with light clothes and the same sort of cap as my husband's. I put on light climbing shoes today, now let's go! I don't forget to include small bathing items; I can change clothes in the car.
passing through Yufuin town, we drive up steep zigzag curves. The streets of Yufuin gradually disappear. As far as the eye can see, silver ears of Japanese pampas grass are waving in the refreshing breeze. We have now arrived a view point called Sagiridai, which reminds us that Yufuin is a town in the valley. If we come up to here early in the morning, we can see the dreamy scene of the town fully enveloped in the morning haze.
Another few minutes driving up the road leads us to a pass where we find a small parking lot and a rest house. This is the gateway of the trail to the top of Mt. Yufu. The road then descends, heading to Beppu bay.
Now, I tie the laces of my boots, my husband takes up the backpack and calls me to go. I stretch my back straight up and start to walk. We cross the road and go over a fence which encircles cattle in the pasture. I proceed toward the mountain foot on the trail. Another iron gate appears in front of me. From here on, the trail becomes more and more steep. The natural forest grows so thick that the trail is kept dim and cool. There are many distinct small trails and foot prints which suggest that already many backpackers have headed to the top.
After a while, the landscape opens again. I stand on a shoulder called "Goya-goe", or "meeting point of two trails." Many backpackers rest here. We keep climbing, step by step, the zigzag trail on the mountain slope. In mid-winter, the path around here becomes very slippery due to ice-crusted snow. I get to an open slope passing through the forest zone in less than an hour. The earth sinks a little under my feet with each step through the Japanese pampas grass, and wild chrysanthemums swing in the autumn wind.
Unfortunately, I can't fully appreciate the lovely wild flowers, because of a cramp in my foot. It is growing; what shall I do? A lack of exercise recently may be causing the stiffness in my feet. I really hope that I have already made it two thirds of the way to the top.Looking down, I see miniature cars on the road we passed. Looking up, I see the summit of the mountain soaring high in the deep blue sky. I must go. I chew a piece of candy, encourage myself and then start to walk.
I continue climbing slowly the last pitch of the steep slope by comforting my cramped feet, occasionally even using both hands. Above my head, my husband encourages me by swinging both hands. At last I reach him and am relieved by his welcome words. We eat a lunch - a rice ball - and drink hot green tea. How delicious the rice ball with salted Ume is! Wow, I spot a white vapor trail dotted by a small airplane shining silver at the top.
I am recovering gradually. A refreshing breeze gently touches my cheek. I take out a sketchbook I always carry with me whenever I enjoy backpacking. As my feet recover, I stand up and go to the summit. From the dip in the saddle near the summit, the East peak is on the right and steeper West peak is on the left.
We decide to climb the West peak. The huge rock wall rises high in front of us, refusing climbers. We hesitate for a while but soon get interested in climbing the rock face, even using a fixed chain. The summit is now just a step away. Finally we make it. We are now at the summit of Mt. Yufu, 1584 meters, indeed! The summit has a small square where low thickets of azalea called "Miyama-Kirishima" grow. Wooden pillars indicating the mountain name and height on them stand as well. We ask a backpacker who was already there to take a souvenir picture for us.
I lie down on the grass for a while, fall into a daze, and start to day dream. How comfortable it is to enjoy such a time as long as I can. "Shall we go down?" My husband's voice awakens me.Now, we go down, down, and down without thinking anything. Finally, we find ourselves relaxing in a small but clean public hot spring at the foot of the mountain. It was really a pleasant autumn day, indeed.
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