Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Daisetsuzan Large and Small

Note: I've been on vacation for the past two weeks in Hokkaido, Japan. Back home now in Tokyo, I'll be writing up some of our adventures there in and about Square One with the Weymiller's, as well as sharing some of our time spent in Daisetsuzan National Park. Oh, to be back near those mountains again!

Last summer we took our first trip to Hokkaido and Daisetsuzan National Park. Three weeks exploring, meeting new people, and eating great food drew us back like a magnet. Not to mention the beauty of the park made my first real back-country camping experience an unforgettable joy.

This year our friend Ryan, an experienced guide whose photographs bring us back here when we are down south, recommended we venture to the southern part of the park. With mountain huts about a day's hike apart a tent would not be necessary, and we could settle in to really explore the area.

Long hikes through varied terrain and vegetation in all kinds of weather reminded me of a different kind of beauty than the human landscapes I spend my time working in and admiring. The sight of a ripening cabbage field or bees working the blossoms of my goya plant give me a wordless sense of pleasure and satisfaction. The wildness of places like Daisetsuzan gives me similar joy, but with a different flavor. Perhaps it is because I am not at the center in any way. I clamber over large rocks to a peak to see mountains and valleys so full of life that I can hardly imagine it. The varying shades of green alone take my breath away. Every step and every turn are a wonder.

Yet, while I love the sweeping mountain views and volcanic valleys burping clouds of sulphur and steam, I perhaps adore even more the little landscapes. Colorful mushrooms bursting up along the trail, tiny clusters of plants growing in the most unlikely of places, or blades of grass bending with drops of an earlier rainfall brought me to a full stop on the trail. Wildflowers dancing with color on foggy hillsides, butterflies sunning themselves on a rock after a rain, or armadas of dragonflies flying overhead on cool winds had me watching in wonder and gratitude for hours.

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