As this whole passing of time thing continues its unfaltering march towards infinity, I figured why not take a minute to reflect on what all has happened this year. A little notch made on the metaphysical tree bark, if you will, that perhaps some future version of myself might one day find curious.January – Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, TX – Fledgling memories with a new troop of troubadours.February – Rialto Beach – Forks, WA – If I was looking for powerful, I found it.
Prior to booking my ticket to Japan, I had no desire to hike to the top of Mt. Fuji. I had seen photos of it on travel programs, thought the snowy peak looked quite nice from the comforts of my warm abode with functioning amenities, but never really thought to myself, “I need to be on top of that.” Proximity sure is a son of a bitch.
Once I realized where the mountain was, and the seemingly smallish effort it would require to attain this summit, the seed had been planted. There was no turning back. “I enjoy hiking,” I thought to myself. This will certainly be a grand way to spend two days in Japan. Travel and outdoor adventure. What a perfect pairing of things I enjoy! Oh, even better, the hike is rated as moderate. In hindsight, this statement does contain a smidgen of accuracy when looked at through a glass full of vision distorting oil.
My journey began leaving out of Tokyo. Feeling a bit citied out, I found myself on a train bound for Kawaguchiko, where I could catch a bus up to the 5th station to begin my hike. It was my first train ride of any sizable distance, and I was enjoying being able to utilize my JR Pass for the first time, and watch unfamiliar countryside zip by. I had checked the weather report before departure, and I knew that there was a chance of encountering rain. Approaching the mountain, this chance imperceptibly morphed into a gray certainty of hovering precipitation. It was going to be a wet day for walk up a mountain.
Arriving at the 5th station, there was already limited visibility. Having condemned myself to lugging boots and a heavy jacket around for this specific endeavor, there was no way I was going to back out of this. I prepared my gear, worriedly purchased water (did I have enough?!), and bid adieu to the dry warren of the station buildings. Helllloooo, Mt. Fuji!
Aside from the moisture, I didn’t think the beginnings of the hike were all that bad. In a way, the mist and rain was pleasant (I told myself), because I became so scorchingly hot inside the shell of my jacket from labored physical activity. Watching people pass in the opposite direction, I wondered what they knew, that I didn’t.
I opted to hike up the Yoshida trail, which by and large is the most popular trek. I had arranged for overnight accommodations at a mountain hut at the 8th station. Leaving around 3:00p, my only goal was to arrive before sundown, which thankfully I did. That’s where things kind of began to take a turn.
In my mind, once I reached the 8th station, I had 30 minutes left beyond that to make it to the summit. All of the articles I read talk about staying overnight to acclimatize, and give yourself a rest and warm meal, in order to pleasantly continue to the summit to watch sunrise. Arriving to my hut around 5:30p, I was proud of what I had accomplished; albeit, a bit soggy. I had found my lodging despite rain and language barriers, and I was able to watch the shadow of Mt. Fuji grow against the horizon as the sun went down. When double checking what time I needed to leave in the morning to catch sunrise, I was told 1:30am. Wait.
With the new year upon us, I thought I’d take a moment to put together a list of trip ideas. Sometimes it’s fun to not think too hard, and simply brainstorm a big ol’ batch. That’s how anything starts, right? Below you’ll find a list of 20 or so you can use as idea kindling.
- Visit a Caribbean Island. Inspired by recent photos that friends have shared, along with the fact that I will be between living arrangements come March, maybe this is the perfect time to make a jaunt. Added bonus: warmth.
- Go skiing. My sister and brother-in-law were the first to introduce me to this most excellent activity. Many moons have passed since I last found myself on a pair of sticks. If you have a Swiss friend who happens to know the ins and outs of comped Zermatt visits, now is the time to make that introduction.
- Drive the 101. Having been able to experience segments over the last few years, it never disappoints. 1540 miles of open road beckoning your name. Washington, Oregon, California. Yes, please.
- Visit Maine. I feel like this is a hidden in plain view kind of destination. Maybe those who reside in Maine like it this way? Coastal road trip up to Nova Scotia? Count me in. General itinerary consists of lobster roll stand to lobster roll stand while on mooseback.
- Drive to Key West. Perhaps the stars will align, and cheap airfares will allow a visit to Miami for a bit of sunshine and art exploring. While there, why not rent a car and dip down to enjoy a photo-op and slice of key lime pie? Plus watching the hues of the ocean change color while driving sounds quite enticing! Hemingway wants you to visit.
- National Parks. You don’t have to twist my arm all that hard to get me to one of these. It’s quite easy to find inspiration these days while online or hunched over your phone scrolling through Instagram, but I assure you the feeling you get while there, without any cell signal, is infinitely better.
- West Texas. This area of Texas has been calling my name over the course of the past year. I’ve had quite an affinity to see Terlingua and Big Bend National Park with my own eyes. Sprinkle in a bit of Marfa, and I think we’re on to something.
- Time spent with dark skies. It was recently brought to my attention that astro-tourism is very much a thing. Having gazed at a number of astrophotography websites over the past year, I want to start creating my own photos. The Atacama Desert in Chile is currently peaking my interest.
- Drive from the lower 48 up to Alaska. In my mind I envision a motorcycle or a Vanagon meandering up through British Columbia. Of course, upon arriving in Anchorage, it would only make sense to go and visit Denali.
- Motorcycle Ruta 40 in Argentina. One of the most remote roads in the world. This adventure would take a fair amount of research and planning, but I feel like it would be well worth it. Takes the idea of self reliance to a new level.
- Hike to Havasu Falls. Is this place even real? I’m not sure if it is. I should probably go to where it is purported to be, and investigate.
- Trail systems of America. Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, American Discovery Trail, Trans-America Trail. Obviously these would be longer term trips, but who says you can’t enjoy a section?
- Travel locally. You are somewhere, aren’t you? Discover the redeeming aspects of where you are right now.
- Find the best damn gas station in America. Where is it? I want to know about it. What makes it special? Why do I need to see it?
- See the Northern Lights. I will never forget driving across Saskatchewan on a tour, and looking out the driver side window to see the Northern Lights, suspended in iridescent warble. I wish to experience them again.
- The Bronx. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Have a friend who grew up in the Bronx? Send me their way.
- Patagonia. I’ve had a map of South America on my wall for the past two years. Every day I am home, I look at it with wonderment. For the longest time I’ve wanted to travel to Patagonia, and soon I will. The spires of Torres del Paine whisper to me in my dreams.
- Madagascar. Africa is massive. MASSIVE! I know very little about it, but would like to know more. Perhaps I could connect through Johannesburg on the way. The Avenue of the Baobabs looks absolutely otherworldly.
- Japan. My understanding of this country clocks in at around zero. Having recently read a Murakami novel, paired with a viewing of Enter The Void, I dare say I have a skewed perception of what Japan is or is not. I would like to demystify through experience.
- Let me plan your trip. This is something I’ve been knocking around in my brain for a while. An outgrowth of tour managing has been a fascination in creating trips for others. I’ve spent a fair amount of time researching routes, flights, rentals, logistics, you name it. I’d like to take what I’ve learned and apply it to bringing your trip to life. Email me.
So, in no particular order. This is where my brain is at currently. I thrive on talking about this stuff, because it eventually leads to action. Obviously there are considerations such as time and money, but I feel like if you really want something to happen, you figure out how to make it happen. Some great advice I received a while back was to look at how you currently spend your time. Those are your priorities. What are your priorities? May everyone have an excellent start to your New Year!