No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

09 May, 2009

The Guardians of Fuji-San

Every city dweller needs to get out. Especially if you aren't from the city. Away from the cars, the masses, the pollution, the noise and the constant go of the city. Our backpacking trip in the Tanzawa Mountain Range, just an hour west of Tokyo, was a chance to fill our lungs with fresh air, get some sun on our Tokyo Gray faces and work our pathetic city bodies into the ground. We climbed rolling mountains for 2 solid days, a feat the fit Japanese accomplished in just 1.

The uphill climb never stopped. No gentle zigzagging switchbacks here--this path was all steps from top to bottom. Aching thighs and calves and this is only the beginning.

Cute little mountain huts dotted the peaks with a chance to rest your weary bones and have a cold beer or hot ramen. Sakura trees were still blooming along the high mountain ridges.

More stairs. Too bad the camera doesn't do the scenery justice. The landscapes were breathtaking--from Fuji to the sea to Tokyo.

Setting up the rain fly deemed tougher than we had imagined. Future note: 2 person tent with packs does not = 3 person tent without packs. The math doesn't work out to a restful, peaceful nights sleep. But, our illegal campsite was incredible. On one side, an unobscured view of one of the world's largest cities at night, and on the other, Mt. Fuji.

Fuji-san peaking through in the morning light.

The valleys were low and the peaks were high. It made us miss the outdoors in Oregon and Vancouver BC for Craig & Charity.
Some parts of the ridge were quite steep.

Outside of Tokyo, the Japanese marvel at foreigners doing the things they do. Echoes of "konichiwa" were all around us, with the occasional, "country doko?" (what country are you from?). I gave a shoutout to a guy wearing a Dallas Cowboys hat and he turned around, tipped his hat and bowed to me. The average age of the typical Japanese hiking the same route was probably 65. They schooled us.

This is why the Japanese finish this trip in 1 day, and we took 2.

We climbed from near sea-level to the highest peak at 1,637 meters (about 5, 370 ft). Doesn't seem like much, but it was a continual up and down to reach 5 summits. Add our backpacks and our out-of-shape bodies and it all adds up to Charity, James and me hobbling into school 2 days later.

I don't know what was going through his head here, but I imagine he can't believe what he's about to do....

He proposed! At the end of 1,000 meters of steep, downhill running, we came across a rocky river bed. Charity and Craig walked on and James popped the question on a beautiful little bridge. I was shocked! He slipped a copper rivet on my finger to test my sincerity, but when I finally said "yes," I got the real ring.

A little giddy and unable to wipe the smile off my face, we walked into a small village to catch the bus to the train station. Little did we know the bus quit running after 5 on Sundays (another fact the overzealous guidebook left out). Hitchhiking didn't work out either--can't imagine why no one wanted to pick up 4 smelly gaijin?? We walked into a small village where we found a lovely shop owner who was able to call us a taxi. She sold us cold beer and KitKats and we sipped and celebrated as we watched a local outdoor performance of a kabuki play.

And the next to best part was the great meal at a yaki-tori place near the station. Okonomiyaki, edamame, yaki-sobe and pitchers of cold beer. Kanpai!


Scott and Heather said...

CONGRATULATIONS Jesse and James! What a fun way to announce your engagement! I love it.

Your photos are beautiful too! How special that you were capturing the day without even knowing it!

Love - Heather and Scott

YourFrenz said...

Yahoo, congrats to the both of you. Didn't see that one coming by the way the pictures were going.

What's with the two man tent and three people? Who was your third? Were they in on the suprise?

Can't wait to see you two and share a celebratory toast.

How about getting married in Thailand, then we can all meet there for the wedding......

Peace and Love

Todd and Jackie

Holly said...

Congrats! I am so happy for you two! I love the ring and the pictures of your trip were amazing!

Much Much Love to you both!


Wendy said...

Yay, Jesse! Congratulations!!! That was such a fun way to propose and an incredible memory. Your ring is beautiful... he did good! So happy for you!

Tia said...

Jesse and James - Congratulations to you both! Marriage has been such a blessing in my life and I'm so happy for you. What a stellar proposal, too (nice work, James ;).

We look forward to seeing you next time you're in Orygun.

Tia, Andrew and Lily

Shawn said...


jenny said...

congratulations! James I did not know you were romantic like that.good job proposing.