Sunday, July 25, 2010

Quantoumu nature trail 拳頭姆自然步道

This trail is an absolute gem. It passes through an unusual and very beautiful ecosystem - a subtropical fern forest. I visited on a weekend, and was afraid that it would be crowded. When I was driving to the trail, I passed through the town of Sanxing nearby, where tourists were lined up to buy scallion pancakes and fried meat (burou 卜肉), which are famous local specialties. Considering the crowds below, I was expecting the trail to be packed with daytrippers from Taipei. Fortunately, I was surprised to find the trail completely empty. Even on a weekend when crowds had descended on the town just a few minutes away, this amazing trail was completely deserted.

Few Taiwanese have even heard of this place. The government probably doesn't promote this trail because the area is obviously very ecologically sensitive and they don't want to attract tour buses. Because this wonderful place is so low key, it has been reserved for the select few who are willing to search for it.

The trail isn't very long - just a 1.3 kilometer loop around the hill. You can do it in 45 minutes, although you'll probably want to linger and enjoy this special place. This forest seems more like Middle Earth than Taiwan, filled with many unusual ferns, moss, and irridescent blue dragonflies.

The trail is very well layed out. Instead of the usual stone slabs and concrete, the path surface is made from logs, wood chips, and crushed rock. The natural materials of the trail bring you even closer to nature. Bilingual signs point you in the right direction. There are several lookout points designed to allow you to enjoy the view - one east to Luodong and the sea, one north overlooking the river and mountains, and another inside the forest to admire an ancient banyan tree.

There aren't any signs pointing the way to the trailhead. To get there, you take Road Number 7 west
from Yilan. Follow the brown signs pointing toward Taipingshan. After leaving the suburbs of Yilan you will eventually come to a long bridge next to a gas station, marked by a sign pointing the way to Sanxing 三星. Turn left and cross the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, the road soon dead ends. Turn left. Then take the first right onto Road 7B (7丙) - there are some vendors selling snacks at this intersection. You will soon see a huge wooden sculpture of a fist by the side of the road. This marks the entrance to trail.

After walking the trail, you might want to stop by the town of Sanxing for a snack - which is the main goal of most Taiwanese tourists who come to this area. Sanxing is famous for its scallion pancakes, which are a bit different from those in the night markets in Taipei. They're thicker, smaller, contain more scallion, and are deep fried. I wasn't too impressed, but you might as well try one while you're here so you can tell people you ate one. There are also vendors selling the local produce (scallions, pears, dragon fruits, etc.) Taiwanese friends will be impressed if you give them some scallions from Sanxing.

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