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Half-Fast Mike

Lanterne Rouge-et-vert
May 22, 2007
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Saturday 31st October - Mitsumine Loop (+13T)

I had never ridden this loop in the depths of Chichibu, although I'd been meaning to for years. The autumn colours - and of course the new tiles - were calling. Naturally I had to make the ride difficult for myself by taking tiling detours not normally attempted by anyone without caterpillar tracks.

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I got up later than planned :sleep: and started driving. Saturday morning traffic was denser than I expected on Kan-etsu Expenseway, and I ended up starting my ride after 09.30. This would have minor consequences later. I parked my van at the Ōtaki Onsen / Michinoeki and rode clockwise, conscious of @joewein's various notes including queues of traffic for the shrine car park. Good call!

It was utterly splendid.

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My first detour, while a closed road, was not bad at all. The gate even had a cutout so I could duck through on my bike without even dismounting. Most of it was paved, and not too steep. Just 150 m before the tile border, an amiable road crew were pretending to work on repairing a culvert. We had a chat, and with the requisite warning about bears acknowledged, they let me through. Beyond the border was a landslide - I could have carried the bike over and continued, but it didn't seem as though I'd find anything there but the end of the road (and possibly bears) so I turned back to the 'main' road.

The road was in very good condition. Once past the gate there were more leaves on the road - the broadleaf type that look like and can hide big stones - but it was very peaceful. Not a cloud in the sky, and so pretty...

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Up to the top, through a 1-km tunnel, it got even better. I hadn't appreciated that the shrine was quite a way down from the tunnel. And.. just... wow!

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Did a little sightseeing and had a good lunch at one of the many restaurants. Then headed down, past the promised line of cars waiting to get into the car park. Followed some motorbikes for a while, until I reached the turnoff for my second detour.

This one was much longer than the first, and was a nice easy climb for several kilometers with lots of picturesque waterfalls at the side of the road and a stroboscopic effect from the sunshine through the trees.

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After the first gate the rindō turned even more leafy and occasionally muddy. After a bridge and a second gate it turned into a steep rock garden, with 2 km to go to the final tile I wanted. I was expecting this, having got the scoop some time back from Andrei the Invincible [he's not russian - he's just naturally that fast].

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I battled through 500 m of this. It was not yet 3 p.m., but the sun was starting to go down behind the mountains and it would clearly take an hour or more to stagger up to the border and back, so I decided to leave the tile uncollected. It's already beyond the western border of tileability for my max square. Maybe I will be back, and maybe not.

Safely back to the car by 4 p.m., rested for a while, then drove through the twilight via Karizaka Tunnel which was a little longer but good fun. Spectacular night views of Enzan and Kōfu from the 'Fruit Line'.

Sunday 1 November - Kururi Revisited (+14T)

On Sunday I took the train to Kimitsu in Chiba to join my tiling accomplice and fill-in a patch of lonely tiles resulting from a foreshortened ride. We finished on 4th October at Kururi station instead of completing our planned loop back to the coast.

Although almost exactly the same distance (62 km) as Saturday's ride, this was much easier and there was plenty of time for sightseeing. A fun day out, and very satisfying result on the map.

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Searching for tile border...

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FINISHED!!

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joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,924
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@Half-Fast Mike, now I definitely want to go back to Mitsumine this coming weekend for koyo! Your timing looks perfect.

An old Urban legend has it that during the Apollo project NASA paid a million dollars to have a ballpoint pen developed that would work in zero gravity. The Russian simply used pencils ;) (the UL isn't true, that ballpoint pen wasn't developed specifically for NASA).

As I usually don't bother with plotting a course upfront for tiling, I make it up as I go, looking on Google Maps for the roads available and Google My Maps for the KML overlay of remaining tiles. I then need to track the cleared tiles as I advance so I don't miss any. Though a custom app to track real-time tiling progress would be super cool, my ball point pen on a paper printout works just fine :)
 

Karl

Maximum Pace
Feb 7, 2011
1,008
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I battled through 500 m of this. It was not yet 3 p.m., but the sun was starting to go down behind the mountains and it would clearly take an hour or more to stagger up to the border and back, so I decided to leave the tile uncollected.

Wimp! ;)

Seriously, I wish I'd done the same yesterday. Discretion being the better part of valor and all that. I wasted nearly 3 hours slogging up a trail in the dark, only to give it up within 100 yards. Should have known better. Gets dark mighty fast in those hills.

Anyway, good writeup. I don't think I'll be getting around to doing that rindo till next year, but good to know the gravelly goodness that awaits me.
 

Half-Fast Mike

Lanterne Rouge-et-vert
May 22, 2007
4,212
2,812
Gets dark mighty fast in those hills
Sure does. Even if I had bagged the tile, the two directly to the north appear to be untamed super-steep mountains. No trails or anything. So the west edge of my max square pretty much has to end here. Even my obsession has boundaries ;). Scrambling up a riverbed is OK for 100 m or so. But not for kilometers. There's plenty of fun to be had in Gunma and Ibaraki...

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Karl

Maximum Pace
Feb 7, 2011
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Yeah. I don't see any way, no matter how much I stare at the map, it would be possible to get those tiles w/o some serious scrambling or feats of death defying danger. It is the Tiling World's equivalent of the Great White Whale.
 

Karl

Maximum Pace
Feb 7, 2011
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Barring unforeseen circumstances, I'm planning a ride up around Chichibu for Saturday. I'll be at Seibu-Chichibu station at 8:50 AM. The plan is to do the large climb (the rindo) first, then play it by ear (and knees) and do whatever else I can. I'll be staying overnight in the area, so if you join, you can bail at any time.

 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,924
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@Karl, I will most likely see you on Saturday, as I'm planning to do a Mitsumine jinja loop with friends starting from 9:00 at Seibu-Chichibu station!
 

Half-Fast Mike

Lanterne Rouge-et-vert
May 22, 2007
4,212
2,812
Needed to take some time off, to use up some paid leave. So made a little midweek trip to Nikkō. This was not primarily a tiling trip, but some new tiles were within easy reach of the planned route.

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The main objectives were (1) get out of Kantō, and (2) overdose on autumn colours. Both achieved, although a lot of people seemed to have had the same idea. Walking around the shrines and temples on Tuesday - a public holiday - it was hard to get photos without muggles in the way.

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Even on Wednesday, the traffic was fairly constant on Iroha-zaka, although the drivers were courteous, the road in good condition, and the views spectacular. Halfway up, it started to snow very lightly, and continued until we got back down off the mountain. It wasn't too cold, but a handy reminder that winter is coming.

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Lots of day-trippers were to be found in Chūzenji village, but few seemed to go very far from the main junction. We visited the newly-rebuilt British Embassy Villa - it's now a museum and tea room - and walked for a while on the Lake Chūzenji nature trail... to grab two new tiles. For as far as we walked, the trail was either a paved road or parallel to one, although bikes aren't allowed; might be an early-morning ride for me there to get all the way around the lake.

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After a quick photo-op at Kegon Falls, we headed back down. The Iroha-zaka descent was a little tiresome, with so much traffic. A couple of detours to the north of the main road brought my new tile total to five.

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Plenty of new territory for me to terrorize up there next year, when I can find the time. I've a couple of ride plans for the mountains west of Kanuma. Having make the trip by train once, it feels a little closer. But it will make more sense to find somewhere to stay in the area and do two or three days at once rather than shuttling back and forth from home.

I was considering going to Tanzawa tomorrow, but recall from an autumn ride a few years back that bikes were prevented from entering Yushin Valley due to all the leaf-appreciating walkers. Don't want a wasted trip, so the choice is to either get up ridiculously early or leave it for another time. Hmmm.

Hope @joewein and @Karl are having fun in Chichibu...
 

luka

Maximum Pace
Jan 13, 2015
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The Iroha-zaka descent was a little tiresome, with so much traffic.
strange, that's exactly what I remember as the best ever descent of my life. since the traffic is only one way (meaning there are no cars coming up in the opposite direction) I cut off all the cars and buses on each corner and was able to descend so fast, despite all the traffic, it was fabulous. that said, I had to wait for my riding mate quite a while once I got down, so perhaps I was taking more risks than a saner person would
 

Half-Fast Mike

Lanterne Rouge-et-vert
May 22, 2007
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Karl

Maximum Pace
Feb 7, 2011
1,008
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@Half-Fast Mike Nice one! You've really got to travel a lot to get to new tiles!

I was up at Chichibu chipping away at some tiles. I did some scrambling to get a tile at the end of a road. It was tough going. So I checked to see how you did it. Looks like you hiked that trail all the way up and over the ridgeline then down. I'm really impressed. I got the tile and turned around. All I saw was a rocky stream bed disappearing up the mountain. Can't imagine going up and over.

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@joewein Missed you at the station. Waited till a little after 9:00. Maybe next time. Looks like you had a tough ride. Don't know how you dealt with all that traffic.

BTW, I saw your pic on Strava of that old decaying building with what looked like steel rebar in it. I almost took a picture of it myself. Looked too old for that to be what it was. Any idea what the story is?
 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,924
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193.7 km, 2718 m of climbing: +1T.

I went to Chichibu for the annual autumn leaves viewing ride, this time as a clockwise loop to Mitsumine shrine.



I needed to be at Seibu-Chichibu station (45 km with 700 m of climbing) at 9:00 for the meetup with the other five cyclists (and a chance to meet @Karl). Leaving from Kitasakado at 5:40 I thought I was on the safe side with 3:20. I had picked a route via Tokigawa and Gelateria Hana that should give me a bit less climbing than via Shiraishi and net me one tile. The climbing side (Tokigawa side) was officially closed for road works, but the signs said work would starts at 8:00 or 8:30, and I should have made it to the Greenline by then. The construction sites were still deserted, parked machines but no workers in sight.



I took pictures at the Greenline intersection, then entered the closed road on the other side that according to the map should cross the tile and emerge just above Gelateria Hana on Rt11. I expected leaves and broken road surfaces and the odd unrepaired landslide that pedestrians could pass. How bad could it possibly be? :)

The road was soon buried in a carpet of leaves, but it was all downhill and I wasn't worried. The sun had come out and it was getting warmer.

In a few steep places the road surface had been completely smashed up by falling rocks and then turned into a stream bed by subsequent typhoon rainfall. I dismounted and walked the bike through these. I should still be OK timewise.

I turned another corner and the road was gone. I mean, as in dead and buried a long time ago. The hillside must have come down, then dug up and replaced with a wall of stacked bags filled with heavy gravel to prevent further landslides:



On one side was just the wild Sadamine river, to the other the forested slope and in between this barrier of piled up bags, each probably the weight of a car.

So I lifted the bike onto the first row of bags and climbed on. Because the road had been going downhill here, it was mostly a matter of descending from one layer of bags to the next. At the far side I could see the road re-emerge.



I managed to cross all the way to the bottom and got back on my bike:



I made it to the station about 10 minutes late so I missed my chance to meet @Karl. After that we had a great autumn leaves ride. Once we got back to Seibu-Chichibu station I rode back to Tokyo on my own.
 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
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@joewein Missed you at the station. Waited till a little after 9:00. Maybe next time. Looks like you had a tough ride. Don't know how you dealt with all that traffic.

Traffic wasn't really bad. I mean, not for a weekend in peak koyo season. The Mitsumine shrine car park had 65 cars queuing, about 500 m of vehicles. I think last year it was about 4 km of them, but because it was so bad last year we did the loop clockwise so we were heading into the opposite direction to the queue.

When we descended to the lake on the west side, there was not a single car in front that would have slowed us down. It was very enjoyable. I think we made it back to Seibu-Chichibu station in record time.

@joewein BTW, I saw your pic on Strava of that old decaying building with what looked like steel rebar in it. I almost took a picture of it myself. Looked too old for that to be what it was. Any idea what the story is?

This one?



That's an old traditional storehouse (Kura 倉 or dozo 土蔵). This one is on the Ochigawa (大血川, "big blood river") on the eastern climb to Mitsumine. Its walls are constructed from a bamboo frame onto which mud is layered to make it fireproof so that even if your farmhouse burns down you will still have food to eat until the next harvest. Now largely unused, some storehouses are still being maintained as a status symbol as they were once a mark of wealth amongst farmers, but many have since been demolished or fallen into disrepair like this one.
 
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Karl

Maximum Pace
Feb 7, 2011
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Thanks. I was wondering about it.

I suppose it is like the old barns in the US. They used to be really well constructed. Most fell into disrepair or the wood was stripped away for use as 'seasoned wood' to get a certain decor. I love these old buildings. Wish they could all be saved.
 

Half-Fast Mike

Lanterne Rouge-et-vert
May 22, 2007
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Looks like you hiked that trail all the way up and over the ridgeline then down
Oh that one. At the time (June 2017) there was a hiking trail in good enough condition to push bikes up to Torikubi-tōge and carefully scoot down the other side, barring a few staircases, past the ghost town and the dismantled limestone works. (The latter were still standing on Google Streetview the day before we went, so I was surprised to find them not there.)

It was quite an adventure, but easy compared to the post-typhoon trails we've seen over the last year.

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luka

Maximum Pace
Jan 13, 2015
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@joewein is describing descending from Takashino toge down what is (was?) known at TCC as the goat-trail down to Hana. I haven't used that path in years, and thought it was no longer passable, so I'm glad to see the photo report of the current condition. and I believe there is a pretty insignificant difference in terms of both elevation and gradient for either Shiraishi or Takashino, so you don't really lose or gain much either way choosing one over the other
 

Half-Fast Mike

Lanterne Rouge-et-vert
May 22, 2007
4,212
2,812
recall from an autumn ride a few years back that bikes were prevented from entering Yushin Valley due to all the leaf-appreciating walkers. Don't want a wasted trip, so the choice is to either get up ridiculously early or leave it for another time
I needn't have worried. There were no hordes of hikers. The road is officially closed, even to pedestrians. (Of course this didn't stop me.) It was 2016 when I last passed the junction and saw all the crowds being marshaled and bikes being turned away. Since then, storms have wrought havoc on the road, and repairs are still ongoing.

Three rides today, claiming 8 of @Karl's Golden Tiles 🥇in the Tanzawa area. There are a few more that I can get with the bike - been waiting for Yabitsu to reopen so I can pick them off with some efficiency. I may have to abandon that excuse and just get on with it.

Back to the story...

1. Yūshin Valley 18 km, 466 m, +3 tiles

Two rindō, each following a river. Mostly paved. Lots of leaves on the road on the first one. I started early, so it was a little chilly. Once the sun came over the mountains it became very pleasant and warm. November's such a great time for cycling.

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Barely saw a living soul.

The gate on the branch heading for Yūshin valley (ユーシン - why katakana?) seems very serious about nobody being allowed beyond, but is easily passed.

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...and definitely worth the trip. There are three new open-sided tunnels for landslide protection .

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The gated tunnel that stopped @Karl, @Gok and @sean-e in their tracks last May on "Hail of a Ride" was standing open! I didn't hold much hope of getting as far as another tile, but pressed on through. Sure enough, just past the other end...

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I caught a glimpse of the river and its gorge, in a gap between the end of the tunnel and that big brown metal fence. I guess that more splendid scenes are to be had further up the valley, but only accessible for now on foot from the other direction, over the mountain. For me that'll probably be a facsimile of @Karl's Tonodake 19-km loop hike, but I'll need more daylight hours than are available right now.

The backhoe in the background was in operation. So I turned around, happy that I'd got what I came for, and headed back to my van.

2. Tour of Tōmei Earthworks 3.1 km, 72 m, +1 tile

A cheeky short ride to grab a tile took me past some impressive construction work for the Shin-Tōmei, which will parallel the existing Tōmei expenseway in this area. As there's no flat land left at all, the new route must plough through tunnels and fly over bridges. Not much else to see, except some people's houses. Onward to the main adventure.

3. Ohnoyama Loop 26.6 km, 647 m, +4 tiles

Didn't know what to expect on this one, as @Karl had done it as two out-and-back sections, rather than a loop. Google Street View wasn't much help, as the camera car doesn't go through gates. There was a very faint trace on Stravr Global Heatmap, suggesting that someone had been through once. But that could be a mislabeled hike.

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I rode counter-clockwise: get the tiles first, then see whether the road is passable. Well, the climb is paved for a long way. Then it turns to gravel. Then the mountainside comes down to play.

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Meh. I've had worse.

Then there's a long, almost level section: a traverse on gravel, followed by a ridge road of packed dirt, with occasional landslides and big holes where a road once was. Superb fun.

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Toward the end of the ridge I started seeing groups of hikers. Some were quite casual - not quite high-heels and jorts, but close. So I figured I was quite close to civilized pavement. Sure enough, cresting a steep climb I found myself at a car park, with people walking up and down a steep and gated (but tempting) paved road leading off at right angles to my course. It didn't look like it could be far, so I decided to take a look. It turned out to be the top of Ohnoyama, and the view is wonderful.

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Fujisan in the not-too-distant distance. Socially distant picnic-ers. Not shown here, but a nice vista below of Lake Tanzawa and the dam that creates it. Very glad I made the extra effort.

This guy was cute, too; here we're looking in the other direction, toward Ashigara. Too hazy to see the sea.

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From this point the road is well-paved, but it's a steep descent. Saw lots of road bikes with breathless riders climbing up that side, as I zoomed down. Passed another Shin-Tōmei bridge construction site, and all-too-soon was back at Yamakita station.

Perfect weather. Challenging terrain. Satisfying tile count. Back home by 14.30. A good day.

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Karl

Maximum Pace
Feb 7, 2011
1,008
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@Half-Fast Mike said: "claiming 8 of @Karl's Golden Tiles 🥇in the Tanzawa area."

You've definitely been a busy beaver gnawing at my tiles. I wouldn't call my tiles golden. More like mud colored, but still valuable. That trail you took looked really challenging. At least my mud tiles made you work for them.

I was out today trying to get that stubborn tile that has eluded me twice. Went up the trail (again), forded the stream (again), got to the top of the trail (again) but this time made sure the Garmin was on (and my GPS watch too, just for good measure). Got the tile!
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Next, I headed on down to try for some more tiles. Got a couple but couldn't get a couple more that I wanted. Road had washed out on one and the other had a hiking trail where a road was supposed to be. Was too late in the day and I was too tired to try for them. But, "I'll be back."
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