Hiking in Fulong

Fulong is a town on the NE coast of Taiwan. An hour from Taipei by train, it is a popular beach getaway in the summer. In the winter and spring Fulong shrivels into your basic dull, small Taiwanese town.

Fulong is located on the north side of a peninsula that forms the lower jaw of a large, sandy bay. During the 18th and 19th century the east coast of Taiwan was totally undeveloped and the most efficient means of travel was by boat. The coast itself is more or less inaccessible, for the mountains rise to over 3000m over just a few kilometers from the ocean, and the steepness of the rise gives it some of the highest sea cliffs in the world.

Nevertheless, during the 18th and 19th centuries, a system of bypass trails grew up across the bases of the peninsulas that jut out at intervals from the east coast. These mountain trails are today maintained as historical trails by a collection of governmental, NGO, and volunteer efforts. Our hike took us over the old trail from Fulong to Shihcheng, about 10 kms, or three hours, of up and down climbing. As Jeff put it "The trail was 5 out of 10, but the company made all the difference."

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Our hike started on the 7:23 express to Suao out of Taipei. Here Zeb and Dan-dan horse around while we wait in the dining car, as there were no seats.

Fulong town, lifeless on a Saturday morning.

Fulong town, lifeless in the offseason.

The train station.

We were on the hike at the invitation of my good friend Jeff, who has a daughter, Tara, my kids' age. The three are good friends. Dan-dan said she considered Tara her sister.

Gathering for the pre-hike talk. Despite the ominous clouds in the background, it cleared and we hiked under the sun.

Tara ready for action.

The kids psych themselves up for the walk.

Our volunteer guides lecture us on the route. We also got a historical lecture from a local volunteer who helps maintain the trails and research the old markers along them. While volunteerism is practically absent from young people, it is common among adult Taiwanese. Many adults maintain a quiet outrage at all the history that was deliberately left to rot under KMT rule.

And they're off!

Zeb poses in front of the Buddhist Center for World religions, a faint blotch on the side of the tallest mountain behind him. The temple legend states that its founder lived for two years in a local cave without food, subsisting on the wind. All my attempts to live without food have so far failed.

The trail follows a stream all the way up.

Mulberries, now ripe, lined the trail. We feasted in several places.

The trail follows a paved road for the first few kilometers.

A small temple by the road, a common sight in Taiwan.

Resting by a local church.

Jeff fixes Tara's hair.

A local farmhouse. The area is relatively deserted.

Zeb studies an old marker from along the trail.

A closer look.

A small community beckons in the distance.

Inside the village.

A ruined community building...

A map of the local trails. Here we left the relative flat ground of the previous track and began heading up.

Up...up....up....following a stream, as so many mountain trails do all over the world.

Tombs carpet a hill.

Jurassic plant? No, just local vegetation.

A local resident pauses for a snack.

The road began to get quite steep. As Jeff pointed out, there are many well-maintained roads in remote areas.

Tara and Sheridan straggle.

A local in dazzling finery.

Through the lush vegetation one can occasionally glimpse the stream below.

Rock layers, usually some kind of friable sandstone, crop out next to the road.

The road vanished and the trail narrowed to a four-wheel track, and then a footpath. Here Zeb boldy ventures into a stream.

The footpath entered the forest and a fairly steep climb ensued.

No matter how high the mountain, how remote the site, or how difficult the trail, there's always concrete there.

Up, up, and up!

Zeb brightens as we stop for lunch.

Dan-dan takes a hit of water.

Breaking for lunch. Taiwanese are notorious litterers, but things are constantly improving. Here everyone carefully picked up everything, even old trash others hadn't picked up. The new generation of Taiwanese is developing a powerful environmental consciousness that can only be reinforced in pleasant experiences like this one, and may yet save our dirty and polluted little island.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Jeff does!

Zeb and Dan-dan pose with a tablet Jeff identified as dedicated to Fu De, the earth god.

The top of the ridgeline provided some spectacular views over the ocean.

The steepness of the land, and the rocky coastline, have inhibited development.

The descent was quite steep and there were many minor slips and falls. Jeff seems to enjoy the danger, however.


Another tablet along the trail, also dedicated to the earth god.

Fishing boats hard at work. An abyssal trench parallels Taiwan just offshore, providing a remarkable array of deep-sea fishing that is easily accessible from any east coast port.

Jeff captures me capturing the fishing boats.

A close-up of an important industry hard at work.

Jeff contemplates the end of the trail.

A modern marker signals one end of the trail.

The hamlet of Shihcheng, a hoppin' place.

The one highway down the east coast.

We made it!

Zeb and Dan-dan ponder the limitless reaches of the ocean.

Fulong town revives as the day goes on.

Toasting the success of our outing at the Fulong train station.

Waiting for the train to Taipei.

Of course, any healthy hike must be followed by a strong dose of junk food, to offset any health benefit that may have arisen as the result of clear air and exercise.

A local train pulls into the train station.

Maria leaves with a smile.

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