We had Dr. Chung and Dr. Tsai (with his wife) who came along for our hike! I love having them with us because they are so knowledgeable about the different plant and insect species, which makes the hike not just an exercise but an educational lesson as well. The previous day Dr. Chung gave us a lecture about all the alpine vegetation and flora (flowers). How many of them are very colorful and bright, because of the high competition for the limited amount of pollinators around. So when all the flowers are blooming, it made the mountain side so pretty for pictures!
(Picture above: a group of us about halfway up, enjoying the view)
The thinner air made walking on the incline so hard. It was funny because you could tell when everybody was starting to get tired... the conversations were getting smaller and quieter haha. Although the trail wasn't completely rural (an easy paved road), it was still a good workout walking up the mountain because of the incline.
We took many stops along the way, mainly to take pictures! This group is great, they try and capture every single moment of this trip haha. The beautiful mountain backdrop was perfect for our famous jump shot pictures (accredited to Ben).
Another picture at a break spot! Just displaying the scenic view!
This picture (above) is when I went off the paved road a little bit. I noticed that there were a lot of narrow, small, dirt trails that followed the mountain's ridges. So I waked down the trail a little bit, and plopped myself down onto the grass to enjoy the scenery. I sat there quietly, for a good while, just me and nature. It was so peaceful, perfect for just soaking in God's creation. Psalm 65: 6,8 "the one who by his strength established the mountains... so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe." Maybe being higher in elevation, and closer to the clouds, but I definitely feel closer to God whenever I'm in the mountains! I was so happy to fit in a moment to talk with Him.
Picture above: finally made it! 3416 meters about sea level and an absolutely stunning area!
We finally all made it to the top! 3416 meters! I don't think I have ever been this high before! So a new record for me! The tallest mountain in Taiwan is Yushan Mtn (Jade Mtn), which is 3952 meters high. This was actually not too far from where we were, so it was cool to say we were really close! Being this high at Hehuan, I had this new energy within me, and I wanted to just keep going and hiking all day long! It was only a couple hours shy of lunch time, but we had other things to do after we were done hiking.
We all hoped on the bus and traveled a short distance to another hiking trail (the bus ride was a quick breather!). This trail had way more people, and a lot steeper than our early morning's hike. A lot of our group wasn't really getting a move on, so Ben and I just pulled from the pack and started up the mountain. He is crazy; jumping and almost sprinting up the steps/rocks at some points. This trail was very narrow, only wide enough for maybe 2 people standing next to one another. Also, there were variations of steps and natural rock/terrain... but some of the man-made steps were for giants, I swear! I already have long legs to begin with, but these ones I had to make a huge effort to lug my foot higher than my waist, to be able to land it on the next step (maybe because at times I ventured a little bit off the main trail; that is why the steps were not as "friendly" to me haha). But Ben and I were the first people of our group to reach the peak, followed by Baker, and it was so nice to catch our breath, and take some pictures before the rest caught up. This peak was 3237 meters above sea level, so a little less than our first one, but still so unique! The weather now was more foggy than in the morning, so the sun wasn't as prominent. This made it a little eerie to climb the mountain and look out onto a mist, which blanketed many of the other mountain peaks. I saw some beautiful vibrant flowers on the way up as well. The flowers seemed to pop even more against the almost subdued greyish-green mountain color (due to the lack of direct sunlight).
at Mt. Shihmen edge!
This picture on the left is of a little mirror pond that I spotted on the way down. I didn't even notice it as we were making our ascent, mainly because I was focusing on keeping up with speedy Ben. But it was nestled down a couple yards away from the main trail. Tall bushes and shrubs surrounded the pond, and I was just curious of what it would look like up close. So I took a detour to a smaller trail (more rugged) to go down the mountain further. At one point I had to slide on my bum because the ground was too steep! But I made it down, and stood at the water's edge, camera ready. I loved how the clouds were captured on the water's surface as a reflection. There were a couple of little fishes and water skimmers at the edge, which I thought were lucky to live here, so secluded from the outside world of city life! It was very peaceful down at the pond; I just took a moment to quietly appreciate this experience, away from the noise and chatter.
Last picture to this very long post... a perfect "picture in a picture".