***I wanted to document some past hikes/trips that I’ve taken. I actually wrote the following shortly after the hike (way back in 2001). I made some minor edits to the text but overall they are my words from 16 years ago. ***
It all started while I was still at school. During spring quarter of my freshman year at Northwestern University, my dad sent me an e-mail asking if I would like to participate in a hiking trip. He informed me that the trip would be to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Other aspects of the trip comprised of the group being made up of five individuals. I was the only one under the age of fifty. The other group members included my father, my uncle, Mr. I-fu Shih, and Mr. Hsu.
To prepare for this hiking expedition, our group held practice hikes at a nearby mountain. Mount San Antonio, a.k.a. Mount Baldy, is the third highest peak in the southern California area. With a peak elevation of 10,064 feet, our group traversed this peak once as an entire group. However, each member individually climbed the peak at least twice, sometimes three times, in his own separate groups. These climbs were to help ensure that we would be in shape and ready for hiking the many miles of Mount Whitney. There are four different trails one can take to reach the top of Mount Baldy. I have taken two of the four routes. The first route requires taking a chair lift to the start of the trailhead. From the trailhead, the peak can be reached in 3.7 miles with an elevation gain of around 2,000 feet. The other trail is considerably more difficult. With an elevation gain close to 3,500 feet, the trail continuously climbs upwards, pushing my body’s limit. That trail has a length of 4.3 miles. A separate hiking experience I had to further my training occurred while on vacation in Alaska. One of the expeditions offered at Juneau was a hiking trip. I decided to take this expedition to help keep myself ready for hiking in the wilderness. One other preparation tool I had been taking advantage of was that of running. I would jog at least a mile everyday for a few weeks prior to our trip to Mount Whitney. Continue reading “Mt. Whitney Hike”→
Even though I was under the weather and tied to being close to a bathroom, the show had to go on and our trip wasn’t going to just end (even though I had fleeting thoughts of telling my wife to go ahead and I’d just go back to Tokyo and hole up in a motel until our flight home). I’m glad that I pushed forward and finished off the trip.
From Kyoto we hopped on the Shinkansen again and continued our trip westward. Our destination was Itsukushima, or Miyajima Island, which is located just off the coast of Hiroshima. We initially thought we’d stop in Hiroshima first prior to heading to the island. However given the time of day when we arrived in Hiroshima, we altered our plans and decided to go to the island first and would check out Hiroshima on our way back to Tokyo the following day. To get to the island you need to take a ferry. Strangely enough there are two competing companies but they operate right next to each other at the ports. One of the ferries is operated by JR and since we had the JR pass, we could ride for free. It was a very short trip (10 minutes) to get across the channel.
We awoke on our first full day in Kyoto with some big plans. There were quite a few locations we wanted to tick off our boxes in Kyoto and we only had so many days to see them. We decided to head over to the Imperial Palace as it was supposed to be prime sakura (cherry blossom) viewing. There is a web site that lists the various locales within Kyoto and the status of the cherry blossoms in that location – ranging from peak viewing to not blossomed. The Imperial Palace was a short subway ride and walk from our AirBnB.
The Imperial Palace actually sits in the middle of a very large park. Upon first entering the park, you could see that others had the same idea of checking out the cherry blossoms. With it still being mid-morning, the lighting was actually quite good for picture-taking and so we did like the other tourists and posted in and around the trees. We didn’t actually go to the front of the Palace and elected to check out the Shirakumo Shrine, which is located towards the south-eastern portion of the park.
I lost my original post for these days. Oh well, I’ll just re-start it and not try to re-create the old one that I had made.
So it was our last day in Tokyo and at the awesome Park Hyatt. Before leaving Tokyo I wanted to try to get at least one run in while in Japan. I decided to head up to the fitness center in the Park Hyatt. This is located up on the 47th floor. If you’ve seen the movie Lost in Translation, there is a scene where the main characters are swimming in this pool. I didn’t get any pictures because you’re not supposed to take pictures in the gym area. To actually get up to the fitness center you have to go through their spa (and actually tell them you’re a guest to get up there). They have a row of treadmills that face outward towards their floor-to-ceiling windows. You have this great overlook of the city and being so high up you get a bird’s eye view. It was a nice way to wake up for the day.
After sadly leaving the wonderful confines of the Park Hyatt, we made our way back to Tokyo Station by way of Shinjuku station for the ride over to Kyoto. Prior to taking the bullet train (Shinkansen), we needed some lunch. Within the underground mall area of Tokyo Station is Ramen Street. This was our first experience with ordering from a vending machine. So you walk up to a vending machine and can choose the type of Ramen you want (as well as any extras such as extra noodle, meat, other things), put money in the machine and then it spits out a ticket. You give the ticket to the attendant and wait in the line outside the restaurant. Once there is an open seat, they take you to it and then your food shows up. This place also had a paper bib for you to wear in case of splatter from the ramen. It was very tasty.
I woke up on Day 5 and was a bit sick (related to the previous night’s visit to the New York Bar). The sad part is that we had ordered the Girandole Japanese breakfast. Girandole is one of the restaurants in the building and the Japanese breakfast is supposed to be one of those “must haves” while in Tokyo. Unfortunately due to how I was feeling, I only had a small portion of it but it looked amazing.
It was our last full day in Tokyo so I tried to get my sh*t together and we headed out before noon. I wanted to see Tsukiji Fish Market and possibly get some fresh fish while there. Since we were arriving so late, I knew we probably wouldn’t see as much as if we went super early like most people. I learned that if you want to see the actual tuna auctions, you have to sign up because it was becoming too popular, that start super early like 4 am. Next to the marker were some tourist-filled small alleyways that were lined with restaurants and other shops. We ducked into a small sushi joint to get some lunch. I will say that the fish was definitely fresh and overall good. And for dessert, my wife had some taro ice cream. yum!
From Tsukiji Market, we walked over to Hamarikyu Gardens, which sits near the water.