Thursday, June 9, 2011

Old Shikong Trail 石空古道

Even though this mountain trail is near the prime tourist sites in Toucheng, it isn't very well known. Nor is it particularly beautiful or dramatic. However, this ordinariness is the trail's main charm. Because the trail isn't very popular, it feels more natural than the major tourist trails. It's an extremely convenient way to get into the mountains for a taste of typical Yilan rainforest. It is a short walk from Waiao beach and Wushigang, two of the most popular tourist spots in Yilan. So it's possible to take a walk in the mountains, then go back to the beach and take a dip in the ocean to cool off afterward. There is also an air conditioned coffee shop in the beach visitors center where you can rest and cool off after your hike.

The trail theoretically runs for about two and a half kilometers, but the final kilometer has been paved and made into a rough concrete road which is completely devoid of charm. So the trail is now only about 1.6 kilometers long. Round trip takes about 1 hour 45 minutes. The trail is pretty basic - mostly just a dirt path. In some places you have to climb up or down slippery mossy stones. Given the condition of the trail, you should definitely wear appropriate trekking shoes. You will probably also want to avoid coming here after a heavy rain, as I imagine that it gets very muddy.

As you start to ascend, you will have a superb view of the ocean. Because the mountains are right next to the sea, you can get a fantastic close-up panorama of the ocean, rocky beaches, and
Guishan Island from here. After you get to the top of the first mountain and start going inland, you find yourself in a very quiet subtropical rainforest. The trail runs next to a stream, which is very pretty in spots. Unfortunately some selfish people living downhill have run water pipes through the forest to get free spring water from the source, and these pipes mar the scenery for much of the way.

At the top the trail exits the forest and you find yourself out in the open. If you like you can keep going and walk down the concrete road, but there isn't much to see. The only reason to go forward is to visit a little shrine which dates from the Japanese colonial period, which is located just beyond the forest. Also, the concrete road runs next to a stream which has places where you can bathe in summer. It's a good place to soak in the cold mountain water on a hot afternoon.

The entrance to the trail is easy to find. Directly across the street from the large yellow visitor's center at Waiao beach, north of Toucheng town, is a little road which passes under the railroad tracks. After you go under the tracks you will see two temples. The big temple is called Jietian Gong 接天宮. There is a big brown map of the Shikong trail on the right side of the temple, and
signs in Chinese point the way to the trail head. You can park next to the temples and start walking north next to the tracks, or you can just walk over from the beach. The path along the train tracks which leads to the trail head doesn't look too promising - it becomes very narrow and you will wonder if you've made a mistake. Don't worry - this is the way to get to the trail. When you see a train platform on the other side of the tracks, you will notice some concrete stairs leading upward on your left. A white arrow with red characters marks the trail entrance. Just go up here and keep walking.

1 comment:

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