Map number 33, description number 64
I may have over estimated my Honda Stream’s ability to drive on Japanese forest roads. It’s been my experience that most forest roads in the US are OK for 2 wheel drive vehicles, but the road to Minoto sansou quickly became real sketchy for a low clearance car. Really, I could live with only having 2 wheel drive, it was the ground clearance that almost got me, but by the time I reached the tough spots, there wasn’t anywhere to turn around and I wasn’t reversing on this tiny road for 2 miles. I got to Minoto sansou with no apparent damage to my car. I would later find out during my yearly inspection that I had a damaged left tie rod, which is only a $7 part, which may or may not be attributed to this trip. I would certainly recommend either using a vehicle with higher clearance or approaching Yatsugatake from another trail head.
The hike started clear of snow, but after about a kilometer in, it was all snow. Mostly compact, but not icy, and plenty of hiker’s tracks to follow. It wasn’t until I reached the Gyoja hut that I had to make a decision. The hike up to the peak looked very steep compared to the preceeding trail. I noticed a hiker resting at a picnic table at the hut with crampons next to him. With the limited Japanese I knew and the limited English he knew, I was able to determine that it was impossible to attempt this hike without crampons, which I didn’t have with me, I left them in the car.
I decided to just make a loop out of the hike without reaching the peak, I’ll have to try again later in the season. I headed toward Akadake kosen because I read on Wes Lang’s site that there could be a hot spring there. It took about 30 or 40 minutes to get to the hut, hiking almost entirely through snow. When I got there, the hut manager said that the hot spring is cold water this time of year. I continued on this trail for another hour back to Minoto, which was actually mostly a pleasant hike except for the part where it turns into a forest road, but I did see a couple Sika deer wandering around.
When I got back to the car, I changed my clothes and braced myself for the return route on forest road. I slowly made my way through, using the center crown of the road and the shoulder to avoid driving in the tire ruts in order to maintain my ground clearance. I Had gravity working in my favor for a downhill wash-out area, which made it a little easier. The nice kid at the hut in Minoto told me of a public bath not far away. I haven’t had any problems with tattoos in public bath’s so far. The place is called Momi Hot Spring and was only 500 yen to wash the stank off of me and change into clean clothes.
The second time I did this it was August and I went with Joe. We took his car, which is a high-clearance 4wd. Problem was it was an older car that he just bought and hadn’t had a chance to take it on the toll roads yet. We quickly learned that the rear bushings were shot, so the tail swerved and swayed at speeds above 80 kmh. So we kept the speed down, it still swayed from time to time, but it felt less like being in a boat. The good thing is that the issue wasn’t noticeable at low speeds, and could take the rough forest road a lot better than my Stream.
This time of year, there’s no snow so the area felt completely different. There are a couple stream crossings, and the first part of the hike trends uphill. Past the Gyoja hut though, it’s steep, but not dangerously. By the time we got to the top, the clouds rolled in, so we didn’t have any view at all. But at least it wasn’t raining.
In the woods where the trees shade the sun, I leave my sunglasses hanging off my pack’s sternum strap. Most of the time that’s ok, but when we crossed a stream I decided to use my water filter and grab a drink. I didn’t notice that my sunglasses fell off until about a quarter mile down the trail. I had a history of dropping my sunglasses while attached like that (refer to Kobushi), but I guess I didn’t learn my lesson. I retraced my steps, having a feeling that the stream is where they fell off. When I got back to the stream, I found them sitting completely underwater, which was surprising because the water was moving quickly and I would’ve expected that they’d be washed downstream.