Thursday, February 21, 2008

2008-02-15 Xinghualin of Maokong in Muzha 至 杏花林,訪杏花不遇

Few days ago, I went to Xinghualin(杏花林) with my flatmate, Xiufen, to look for apricot blossoms. Xinghualin is located at Alley No. 45, Laoquan Li, Muzha (老泉里45巷) , where visitors can get to by taking bus at Maokong station. I aimed at going hiking in Muzha so I didn't take the bus to get there.

My flatmate and I started our hike at Zhinan elementary school (指南國小) that a path next to its front door is the trailhead of Sanxuan Temple Hiking Trail (三玄宮步道), part of the Zhinan Tea Pickers Hiking Trail (指南茶路親山步道) . Its length is about 1 km that leads to Maokong Gondola Sation.

Trailhead of Zhinan Tea Pikcers Hiking Trail

The trail is well-maintained stone-step trail, but the steps are slippery. Along the trail, hikers can see many tea farms.

Near the end of Sanxuan Temple Hiking Trail (三玄宮步道), we could see gondolas busily passing by.

After we arrived at Maokong station, we turned to Zhanghu Hiking Trail (樟湖步道) which is probably 200 meters away form the station. One the way to the trailhead of Zhanghu Hiking Trail, we saw a chicken farm which is pretty colse to Maokong station. It's kind of bizzard, a mix of modern and old-fashion facilities.

The trailhead of Zhanghu Hiking Trail

At the entry of Zhanghu Hiking Trail, there is a old mud-brick house, which is said the last mud-brick house in Taipei City. Unfortunately, this house isn't listed as a relic site and one one manages it so people dump their garbage. It became a storage of trash.

After we went forward and left the noise from vistors for Maokong gondolas, we could see more beautiful tea farms along the trail.

Xiufen noticed the tea worm on a tea tree. It had bright color, which is a strong contrast to the glommy color of the sky. And the tea worm reminded me of a movie that I had seen when I was a kind. The movie is Lubinghua (魯冰花), a story about a talented boy drawing a painting of colorful tea worms and gorgeous tea farms and won first price in interantion art competition; however, he died soon after he won the award. I still remeber I couldn't stop crying when I saw he was dying.

There are many branch trails along Zhanghu Hiking Trail, one of them leads Yinhedong (銀河洞). After we passed the branch road to Yinhedong, we saw a old farmer carrying many bamboo with a Y-shape rack and still in great balance. Very impressive.

The hiking trails in Muzha region form a complicated network. We sometimes turned to wrong branch trails. But the direction mark along trails are clear so that we keep ourself in the network. We finially got to Xinghualin and got to Xinghualin.

I had been to Xinghualin before the hike. It's was with reserping and artimes and my cat. It was a sunny spring day in Feburary and apricot blossoms turned the hill into a pink and white flower garden. However, we could only see very few blossom in this revisit. I think the blossoms have been delayed because of the cold weather in the past few weeks.

No Blossoms in Xinghualin Yet.

There were a lot of buds though.

Even though we didn't see apricot blossom this time, walking on the hike trail was good though. I think I would return to Xinghualin in the two weeks to enjoy the apricot blossoms.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Preparation for Cognitive Training

My new semester will start next Monday, however, my study schedule is still uncertain because the class time of one course: Cognition and Emotion hasn't been set yet. It's kind of annoying because it would influence whether I can take a P.E. class: Swimming, which I desparately want to learn, Advanced Qualitative Research, and Advanced English Writing. I know I am greedy that I take many courses in one semester so that I have to squeeze many courses in my limited schedule. And it makes one course's class hour will influence other courses. But I can't help, I just want to learn things as many as possible.

Anyway, except Cognitive Training, every course is not certain yet. I have been preparing for the only certain course since the winter vacation began. The objective of the course is to design some program to enhance or maintain people's cognitive abilities, majorly focus on working memory.

For the preparation for Cognitive Training, I've been trying every available media and learn games as possible as I could. I browsed several webpages of online games and played different games. And I learned Majiang during a get-together with classmates. I love to learn new things; however, I realized I have no talent for computer games and Majiang. I keep losing games against computer or friends. Well, I am really not good at those games. I think I might have some cognitive deficiency, like malfunction working memory or cognitive strategies for which I definiately need more practice and improvement. That means I have to play more online games and Majiang with friends.

Haha....what reason of playing games would be better than the need of taking course!

It sounds fun, doesn't it?

No, as long as people turn fun things into study, it always becomes painful in the process of studying.

So I would be in the pain of playing online games or Majiang in my upcoming semester.

Friday, February 15, 2008

2008-02-14 Neidong National Forest Recreation Area 內洞國家森林遊樂區(娃娃谷)

I got up this morning and found it wasn't raining, I had the idea of hiking in Muzha (木柵) to look for Apricot blossoms immediately. After breakfast, I asked my flatmate, Xiufen, whether she'd like to go to Xinghaulin (杏花林) in Muzha with me. She had interest in hiking with me, unfortunately; she had an appointment with her dentist. She wanted to look for Apricot blossoms with me, so I think I could change my plan. I can go to look for Badaoer Shan's (拔刀爾山)trailhead instead, and we can go to Xinghaulin together tomorrow.

I didn't plan to go to Badaoer Shan so I didn't study map in advance. There is only one road leading to Wulai, I thought it wouldn't be difficult to find Badaoer Shan's entry. Well....I rode to Wulai after packing a light backpack. While I was on Road No. 9 (甲) (新烏路), it started raining. Shoot! It was freezingly cold. I thought I must be crazy that I went out for hiking in this kind of lousy weather. Well....after today's trip, I realized, Yes, I am, kind of addicted to get into the woods.

After arriving at Wulai, I couldn't find Badaoer Shan's trailhead. According to some articles I read online, the trailhead is nearby Baoqing Temple (保慶宮). I needed direction of Baoqing Temple so I asked few locals of Wulai where Baoqing Temple was. Ah....History repeats itself. The situation turned out to be exactly as same as The Hiking Club encountered in Yilan, that locals don't know where those trailheads, or some famous landmarks, buildings are. No one could give me clear description of Baoqing Temple's location.

I couldn't find Baoquing Temple. I was lucky that I have high mobility. It's okay that I couldn't get go Badaoer Shan, I can go somewhere else instead. I was already in Wulai so I thought I could go to Xiaoyi (孝義) to find Tonghou Hiking Trail (桶后越嶺), or I could go to Fushan (福山) to hike Bafu Hiking Trail (巴福越嶺). However, it seems that The Hiking Club would revisit those trails soon or later. I thought I should visit somewhere that probably The Hiking Club wouldn't go in a short term.

When I am in Wulai, I always see Neidong's direction sign around. I thought Neidong would be a good place because it has clear direction sign. I made up my mind and turned to the road leading to Neidong National Forest Recreation Area. (I can't help wondering if it should be National Neidong Forest Recreation Area instead of Neidong National Forest Recreation Area which is listed on all direction signs.)

Neidong National Forest Recreation Area's old name is Wawagu (娃娃谷). I don't know when its name was changed into Neidong. I read articles online that say wawa is aboriginal's language to decribe the sound of frog's croaking. Wawagu is various tree frogs' habitat. So I was kind of in search of frogs.

I was on the Road No. 9(甲) and turned to the Road 北107, soon I saw direction sign of Neidong. I passed Wawa bridge and then the entry of Neidong National Forest Recreation Area emerged.

The entry of Neidong National Forest Recreation Area. (內洞國家森林遊樂區入口)

When I saw the entry, I was tremendously disappointed. It looked so shabby. I got to the ticket station and bought a ticket with discount because I am a citizen registered in Taipei County. WOW! That's great! It was the first I got benefit because of being a citizen of Taipei County. But the funny thing was I found Neidong is managed by Xinzhu forest department. It's strange. Why on earth the forest in Taipei County is managed by Xinzhu forest department! And I bet Xinzhu citizens don't get discount. A ticket for an adult is NT$80, I paid NT$65 for a discount titcket. Good deal!

After perchasing a ticket, I started my exploration in Neidong. The first 15 minutes was the most difficult time. I was cold because of riding a the way long to Wulai. I was kind of shivering and couldn't warm myself soon. I kept walking and found that Neidong was so gorgeous after the shabby gate. It was like passing through some sort of magic gate and entering different kingdom.

Wusha Creek Waterfall (烏紗溪瀑布)

Louhao Dam (羅好水壩)

The trail after the gate is built along Nashi Creek (南勢溪), it is a nice and wide gravel road. Along the trail, the scenery was great. I don't know why Taipower could build a dam along Nashi Creek. It's very ugly and I don't know what the influence on the environment brought by the dam would be. Sigh.......

A Ladybug
After the dam, every thing became lovely. Because of rain, every life form along the trail was sparking. I found a ladybug shing on a stone chair. I always read something about 5-star or 7-star ladybug which means they have 5 or 7 spots on their back. The one had more than 7 stars on its back. It seems what I read is wrong.

Shining Wild Gingers, Vegetation has been cleaned by rainfall. They were so lovely and had nice fragrance.

Water Duck Feet Begonia (水鴨腳秋海棠)
Water Duck Feet Begonias grow along the trail to Leshui Bridge. According to a sign aside the trail. There will be a lot of pink flowers when the season is right. I only saw a tiny liitle pink flower, but it is beatiful because of raindrops.

I love the different grades of green in the rail, so bright and pleasant!
When I was walking on the trail, It was amazing that I was surrounded by colorful birds many times. Various kind of birds with yellow, red, or blue feathers flew in flocks. It was really exhilarative, I could see many birds perching on branches right under my nose. I was teffibly happy to see them. That was incredible. (Sorry....I am not skillful to take photos of birds with speedy motion.)

The trail is built along Nashi Creek. The creek was so clean.

The trail to waterfall area is probably only 800 to 900 meters. But it is really an enjoyment.
Soon I arrived at waterfall region. There are three layers of waterfalls.

Lower-Level Waterfall

The spout's photo was taken on the Millde-Level Waterfall View Pavilion, which reminds me of spring is arriving. I went hiking several times in the past few weeks. Even though it's been raining and cold for weeks, I could see birds and nice flowers, and I got touch with caterpillars few times. Those things always reminds me of that IT IS SPRING. (It's been raining for weeks. Please no more cold and rainy days. I have had enough lousy weather.)

Middle-Level Waterfall

Upper-Level Waterfall

Upper-Level Waterfall

To be honest, I couldn't help wondering if I could trespass to the riverbank even though there was a sign of trespass forbiddance. It's really easy to get to the riverbank.

After enjoying those great elegant waterfalls, I set my feet on Green Shower Hiking Trail in Neidong. The trail's length is about 2.2 kms which was a pretty nice walk in rainy day. I knew it connects to Neidong Forest Trail; however I don't know where Neidong Forest Trail ends because I didn't prepare for this hike.

The trail's condition was good and I had a pretty nice walk in the afternoon. Actually it was really great to go to Neidong under this kind of circumstances. There were almost no visitors in the area. It's almost empty with people. There was no kids running or crying around and I didn't have to jostle with people. It's really nice to have this place on my own. How lovely!
I spent about 3 hours on strolling in the area. When I was leaving, a clerk I encountered in front of the ticket station stroke up a conversation with me. He was amazed that I stayed in the area for a long time. He knew I hiked on Green Shower Hiking Trail immediately. I was wondering where the trail goes to. The clerk told me that at the end of Green Shower Hiking Trail, I would go to Wulai if I had turned left and I would go to water source if I had turned right. Going to Wulai would be a 12-km hike and the distance between trail's end and water source is about 4 kms. I am full of curiosity and my face probably told him I was having great interest. The clerk told me right away not to explore the trails alone. (Well...actually he strongly warned me not to hike there at all.)

Too late, I have great interest to go hiking there, and the idea is lingering in mind. I will fulfil it soon or late. :D

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2008-02-07 Hapen Hiking Trail 哈盆越嶺

The Hiking Club went hiking in Hapen Hiking Trail on the first day of Chinese New Year holiday, the first day of the year of Golden Rat. We did expect the weather wouldn't be nice, probably cold and rainy all day long, however it turned out to nice and clear day with light rain. We had prepared rain gear for the hike, but we rarely used umbrellas or raincoats during our hike.

We, severn of us, met at Xindian MRT station and drove to Fushan Village in Wulai in approximately one hour. It was funny that I was the only one who knew the location of Hapen's entry. To be the one knows the most importatn thing was cool. :) And it also reveals that the Hiking Club is adventurous, we like to explore unknow territory.

Happy hikers were checking their equipment with the backdrop of beautiful mountains.

Peter, aka Mountain Goat, was in bright a smile. The weather wasn't as bad as we expected.

Before we set out to hike, it had been raining for weeks, there were few newly formed streams along Hapen Hiking Trail because of the rainfall. But we were well-prepared, it didn't bother us at all. It was kind of fun to cross few streams.

Kitty skillful crossed the stream even though she hadn't been in hiking actitities for weeks. Really admirable.

Another picture of happy hikers. :)

It wasn't raining but the trail was mist-shrouded. It was lovely actaully. I like the mysterious feeling. And the air was fresh and clear.

However, there were few spots of landslide along the trail that we weren't aware in advance. After a 30-minute walk, we encoutered first landslide. It looked bad but we managed to pass through it.

Kitty was the first one who went through the spot of landslide and without any difficulty. However, I was screaming in mind and struggled for passing through it. I am the most inexpereinced hiker in the group.

After another 30-minute walk, we encoutered second spot of landslide. Its scale was much bigger than the first one. When we were trying to figure out if there was any path available, Katannya volunteered to explore a possible trail. She swiftly climbed up a steep slope with her overpacked and heavy bag like a little monkey. Wow.....I knew she is an expereinced hiker, but she is so competent. I took a picture of her when she was climbing.

We managed to climb to a higher place over the landslide, it was a difficult route but it was manageable for all of us. But I thought it wouldn't be a trail that I can hike alone. And I recalled that I saw a warning sign of landslide in front of Kalajimo Hiking Trail. The sign probably indicated landslide happened in the spot rather than somewhere along Kalajimo trail.

After the spot of landslide, the trail became wider with nice vegetation and forest. It was enjoyable.

The trail's condition was good afterwards. And we arrived at an unknown stream. Alone Hapen Hiking Trail, there are Bolu Stream and Lumen Stream, however, this one was neither of them.

It was my first time to see Peter carrying such a big bag. He usually is a light-bag hiker. I think we were really worried about the influence of the weather. We were really lucky that the weather was nice enough for us.

It was about time to have a lunch so Peter decided that we took a lunch break along the stream.

Peter and Chris were talking about something that I couldn't overheard. It looks they were talking something really interesting.

Robert showed me his raincoat. He was teasing himself and said he was The Little Green Riding-Hood. I thought his hat matches his raincost, actually should be Robert the Green. (Please refer to LOTR for its meaning.)

The weather has been lousy and rainy for weeks. I thought I should buy raincoat like Robert's after I get home so that I can go hiking in mildly rainy days.

Because most of us haden't gone hiking for weeks and the weather was getting worse, we decided to retur trailhead after our lunch break.

We had to face the challenge from landslide again. This time, Peter decided to figure out whether we could go through it without climbing up to its top. He found that actually there was path at the upper part of the landslide. It looked very dangerous and it was actually becuase we could fall into a few hundred-meter-deep valley. However, it was much easier to go through the path than to climb up to the landslide's top. So we went through the path one by one.

We spent approximately 4 hours on the hike and we didn't cover the whole trail. However, it was really nice to get out to the natural environment with good company.

Few days before the hike I went to Metro Oasis to pick up some hiking gear. I had a chat with a clerk who is an experienced hiker. He told me it was right time to go Hapen or Fuba Hiking trail because there would be hundreds of leeches trying to adhere to hikers' skins. I thought I was lucky that I didn't see any leech.

However, Chris was the luckiest one because he got leeches. While we were cleaning up mud around our ankle, he felt something was twisting on his neck. It was a blood-sucking leech. He got rid of it soon. He got three leeches during the hike and rest of us got none. He was the luckiest one.

After the hike, we went to a hot-spring resort, Feitian, near Jiajiuliao Hiking Trail to relax. The outdoor hot spring pool was turned to be a swimming pool because few kids played in the pool. Chris and Robert taught me swimming in the pool whose depth was only 70 cms. It was fun and scary (due to my nature of the fear of water). I could swim under water (in a 70cm-deep pool) with two coaches' instruction. It sounds funny, but one year ago, I would only scream and insist on staying at somewhere with water. I was really making progress. The feeling of swimming underwater was fantastic. This is wonderful, thanks to the two coaches' instruction.

I had great expereince of hiking and swimming within a day, it is the best first day of a new year in my life so far. :D