Mt Kurofuyama and the First Camp of the Year

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I intended to climb Mt Asama the other day, but as I slept in and messed around in the morning I only got my butt to the trailhead around 11am.

There are multiple trails to climb Mt Asama and I actually visited two during this weekend, both accessible from Komoro, Nagano. However I only properly walked one, and the other I just briefly ambled through the start looking for birds before turning back.

Thinking I’d better stay on the safe side, I didn’t make the hike to Asama but went to Tomi no Kashira, the point beforehand, instead. There and back taking a few photo stops and a lunch stop took around 4 hours.

There were quite a lot of hikers going up to Mt Kurofuyama, but no one at all from Kurofuyama to Tomi no Kashira. As usual I preferred the empty trail!

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View of Mt Asama going up the trail to Kurofuyama

Being from the North Island of New Zealand, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to hike in the snow. It’s definitely tougher but also a lot of fun. The white scenery and quietness caused by the snow have a pretty unique atmospheric touch I reckon.

You can see above the cap mounted on a stick. Everyone I met on the trail had one of those walking pole things which my Ranger friends back in New Zealand used to make fun of all the time. I can’t remember what we called them instead of walking poles, probably a third leg or something ridiculous like that.

Well, I soon realised it would’ve been pretty useful on a trail covered in snow especially on the steep slopes. Of course, I didn’t have a “third leg” (or fourth??) and no way was I ever going to spend money on one. Especially not when a good sturdy larch branch I picked up proved just as stable. And so became my very own walking stick stick.

Also shameless credit to Ash Ketchum for those who recognised it. A hero of mine for traveling across the land, searching far and wide. To catch–animals–on camera–is my cause.

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My plan after hiking was to go to the locally famous Takamine Onsen, but little did I know the road to it was closed in winter. After asking a receptionist at a nearby hotel, I found I had to walk to get there, which would have been no problem were it not for the fact that they would be closed by the time I arrived in the late afternoon.

Fortunately, the receptionist recommended the nearby Takamine Kogen Hotel which also had an onsen with a mountain view. While not outdoors, it was still very good.

Feeling clean, satisfied and relaxed, I headed to set up my tent in a random spot in some red pine (アカマツ) woods. For dinner I had a curry I’d made beforehand.

I got to say, even though I dragged both my sleeping bag and a futon into that tent, and wore thermals, it was very cold at night and I probably clocked about 4 hours of actual full sleep. But I didn’t mind. Especially since I got to hear owls hooting around me all night.

As for bears, I knew they were still in hibernation so no worries there. I was actually hoping some kind of animal would pass my way for a photo, but I guess maybe red pine forestry zones are not that well liked by wild animals.

Tengu Onsen

The next day I had a slow breakfast of bread and warm tea in the sun, sitting on a log. Following that I packed my tent up and drove a little down the road to visit Tengu Onsen, and another trailhead to Asama.

Actually, there is a campsite at Tengu Onsen, but they are not officially open till end of April (and with corona now, who knows). It looks good. I’ll plan to go with some friends there one day when it’s warmer and if corona allows.

Tengu Onsen didn’t have mountain views but was still really nice and had a peculiar orange water which I believe is loaded with iron. You can see in the river picture.

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Before the onsen I spent some time around the start of the trailhead looking for birds. It was my first time to see the spring/summer migrant, the Red-flanked Bluetail (ルリビタキ), a really beautiful stand-out bird in the greens of the forest. Although, the leaves of spring had not grown yet and spotting was a little easier.

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With that, I’d had an awesome outdoor refresh and it was time to head back home. Looking forward to more opportunities for getting the tent out this spring/summer!

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