Golden Peaks by MTB
Fall colors in the Kyushu Central Mountains
At the end of October, we made a one-day foray into the Kyushu Central Mountains once more. The fall colors were at their height, with typical settled fall weather: a light northwest breeze and a comfortable temperature.
Overview of the excursion. Red trails were run by bike (at least one way) and green trails were walked (mostly an exploration of various logging and forestry-related trails). Nihonsugi-touge is a high pass taken by the (mostly one-lane) national hwy 445; from here it is only 200 vertical meters to reach the level 5km, nearly level section of the ridge.
Our goal was a survey of a long, nearly level ridge linking two peaks: Daikinpou and Shoukinpou – the Big and Little Golden Peaks. This is one of the easiest hikes in the Central Mountains, owing to its very modest elevation gain – that due to the topography of the hills’ northern section. The high plateau from which this landscape was hewn by erosion must have been originally slightly inclined to the south, because its north extremity now forms a solid barrier: an enormous steep slope rising about a kilometer in height from the Midori River to the surprisingly flat northern summits. The several roads that climb this barrier cross it at a few ill defined passes after lengthy, sinuous climbs, but no river has broken through. A little to the south the topography changes abruptly from the steeps into a rolling highland; however, the streams that begin their invariably southerly flows from here soon form deep, dissected valleys many kilometers long. The Golden Peak ridge forms a rib between two such valleys, its northern end more or less blending into the highland, its southern terminus precipitous. Thus the trail from the north hardly rises to gain the ridge, then continues nearly level for a total of 5.8km. Anticipating this, we chose the mountain bike as possibly the easiest way to explore this trail.
One of numerous delightful sections of the trail; bamboo-grass forms the undergrowth in the deciduous woods.
We made a good choice: after heaving the bikes up the initial hill, we were able to ride at least 80% of the rest of the trail, including the final descent of the initial hill. The trail was varied and interesting, as if made for mountain biking. It weaved in and out of natural and planted forests, and the summits themselves were accessed by short spur trails. Here and there a view opened up onto the mountainous landscapes surrounding us. In all we enjoyed a fun morning of exploring.
Although comparatively level, the trail often traversed steep slopes and good balance and skill with a modicum of cojones was required to avoid a headlong topple downhill. This section is in planted forest with a noticeable lack of undergrowth.
Careening down a hill, the world is a blur. Rather atypically, neither of us took a single spill on this trip.
Mountain biking heaven.
This planted forest had been adequately thinned and a healthy undergrowth is fluorishing under healthy and sizeable cryptomeria trees.