Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Old Paoma Trail 跑馬古道
This is one of the most popular mountain trails in Yilan. During the nineteenth century it was one of the main thoroughfares between Taipei and the east coast. Pioneers and merchants walked this trail to get to and from the Lanyang Plain. Now the trail is maintained by the government, not just because of its historical significance but also due to the great scenery. Even on weekdays you will run into several people walking the trail. On weekends there can be quite a few visitors.
Although you are climbing the whole time, the slope is gradual with no stone steps and the trail is very well maintained, so it's an easy walk. The trail surface alternates between dirt and gravel with flat stones.
As you walk up the mountain path, in places the foliage opens up to reveal spectacular views across the Yilan Plain to the Pacific. Higher up you have a postcard perfect view of Guishan Island.
The trail cuts through the mountain forest. Along the way you can hear the water from Houdong Falls far below. Near the top of the trail the foliage gradually changes from lowland subtropical rainforest to evergreens and bamboo. Lots of monkeys live in these mountains, and if you're lucky you might see some. I saw two the day I visited. If you notice a rustle in the tops of the trees, stop and take a look. You almost always hear monkeys before you see them. Also, along the way is a little shrine to the mountain gods, which is a good example of the makeshift spirit of Taiwanese folk religion.
Near the top of the trail is a little mountain spring called Houdongkeng Stream 猴洞坑溪, which feeds the Houdong Falls below. If you climb over some rocks, you will find several little pools which are hidden from view. There you can strip down in privacy and cool off in the icy mountan water, which feels great on a hot day.
There are two entrances to the trail - one at the bottom (south) near Jiaoxi and the other in the mountains (north) at the top. Almost everyone walks from Jiaoxi uphill, as the south entrance is much easier to get to, and you also get to walk downhill for the last half. The entire walk takes less than two hours.
To get to the trail head, take the road out of Jiaoxi toward Wufengqi Falls and the Royal Jiaoxi Hotel. Turn at the first road on the right - there is a sign here marking this as the road to the Old Paoma Trail. There is usually someone selling snacks at this intersection. (If you get as far as the Royal Jiaoxi Hotel, turn around and go back - you've gone much too far.) Follow this twisting narrow paved road uphill until you get to a large wooden sign that marks the start of the trail. There is room for parking here. Walk along the trail until you get to the paved road at the top, then just turn around and go back down the same way.