Yufu-Dake in Oita, Japan

Yufu dake, aka  Bungo-fuji or Hakufu-dake is in the prefecture of Oita, Japan, in the north-eastern part of Kyushu, the southern main island of Japan.  The closest stop on the JR line is in Yufuin.  Take a bus or taxi from there.

The approach give you a good long look at the mountain’s twin peaks.  The false summit is on the right, the true summit on the left (as you approach).  Walk about a km or so across an open area before beginning to climb, gradually at first, through the humid forest.

After about 30 min or so, the trail opens into grassy switchbacks, but resist the urge to cut across.  Once in the crotch of the peaks, you can choose which peak to climb.  We took the true summit, and were ninja-ing our way up on chains which had been bolted to the side of the rock.   This part is not for the faint of heart.

The summit appears quickly once you reach the chains, and the top has incredible views of Yufuin and almost all the way to Beppu.  Our packs were primarily full of beer, and the Japanese people we met at the top, in their northface gear and gas stoves, were shocked that all we brought was a few beers.  By our standards, the climb was not too difficult, and we didn’t need anything that we didn’t bring.

One word of caution… it’s a long walk back into town if you miss the last bus.  trust us, we know.  and 2 sweaty, slightly drunk white guys are extremely unlikely to be picked up as hitchhikers.

There are tons of sweet, day peaks all around Japan.  This one was very close to our house, so we climbed it a few times.  Ask around for local peaks where-ever you might be.

some okanagan fsr trips

About 6 months ago I bought a very used ’91 4runner.   The main reason was to shuttle bikes up some of our favourite okanagn runs, but its become somewhat of an adventure mobile as well.  It’s been exploring all over the okanagan.  But this is not a toyota ad, its about some of the roads and spots we’ve been.  and you can be there to, even without 4runner.  but some kind of 4×4 is recommended.

Up to Greystokes

Greystokes Park was the maiden voyage.  We barely made it into the park, the road to hilton cabin is not a road at all.  the best we could do was to greystokes lake.  We got a little lost on this trip, there are a lot of intersections and randon roads.  We crossed a small creek and ended up camping in a snowy clearing.  It was October, but there was a lot of snow up there.  It’s a cool place, but there was more traffic than we expected.

Terrace Mountain

Bear Creek Road is a well travelled road.  Grouse mountain was on the way, so we stopped and checked out a sweet old mine.  It got a little rough in spots, but nothing crazy.  The road to the top of terrace was different.  Again, no snow in the valley, but post-blizzard conditions in higher elevations.  We needed winter tires, and even then, we had to park 1km from the summit and hike up.  Harder to get lost, and some cool views.  We ran into quite a few other people up there.

Dee Lake Route

Off highway 33 onto philpot rd.  Keep heading north.  Ideal Lake is a cool spot to check out, and the road there only got us stuck twice.  It was around February, and there was lots of snow.  The rec. site there was unaccessible, but we returned in April and we got there, but i was glad i had 4×4.  The road north pretty much ended at ideal lake in February, but we could do the whole circuit in april.  We went north and camped at specs lake, a small rec. site.  Thats were we turned west and headed past dee lake and beaver lake.  i hear thats a decent canoe route in summer.  On the was down to winfield, we took echo lake FSR, it looked like it continued and was plowed towards oyama lake, but we wanted to get to the top of wrinkly face park.  unfortunately, that road was not drivable, so we had a fire instead.

James Lake

Take Goudie rd. north off highway 33.  James lake is about 20km off.  There is a very nice but small rec site there, and a small lake.  The road was passable in 4×4 in January.  I think the road continues to postil fsr, but we didnt have a snowmobile.

Postil FSR

We drive this road a lot because there are some sweet bike trails here.  Usually we don’t explore it too much, but we have driven around the mud pits and tried to continue up hill.  The 4runner is not a mud pit truck, but they were cool to watch oter people play around it.  The trails past the mud pits are just that, trails.  We almost got in over our heads (not literally), but we pressed on.  The bottom of the truck scraped on the decomissioned road bumps and trenches.  We ended up back on postil fsr not much farther up from where we left it and  the power steering was overheating from getting royally stuck.

Lambly Lake

This was a popular winter rec site we did as a loop.   We started off bear creek fsr and kinda hung to the left at most major intersections.  We finished joining hwy. 97 by glenrosa, by pwers creek and crystal mountain.  I know this area a little from before, because powers creek is a popular biking destination for us.  It was winter, but we saw a corolla up at the lake.  The attempted trip down Jackpine lake fsr was different.  we pulled out a humvee that some idiot driver had burried, but continued up the very very snow and sketchy road, until common sense told us to turn around, but we couldn’t.  so we backed up for 4 or 5 km on what was barely a rd.  it was February, and jackpine lake rd was just a snowmobile trail.

McCulloch Lake

The rd was plowed all winter and There is some small collection of buildings, including a resort.  a 2wd and good winter tires would get you up here most of the winter i think.  There are a few good comping spots, and some xc-ski trails i will check out in the summer with my bike.  also, the KVR goes right by the lake.  Just stay on mcculloch rd and you’ll get there.  the lake and rec site are not far from highway 33, which is another access point.  we tented here in January in 2 feet of snow.  It felt like wilderness then, but i think its probably pretty busy in the summer.

It should go without saying that a good map is necessary.  A gps too.  Backroads Mapbooks are the best, but you have to know how to use them properly, otherwise, they are a good firestarter and thats all.  Bring shovels and some kind of winchy thing, and never travel alone.  most of the roads have a VHF frequency used for resource trucks, and these can be good if you have the proper license, or even if you don’t.

Manitoba, the un-praries

When I say I grew up in Manitoba, most people roll their eyes and think “How much fun could the praries be?”.  Well, first of all, there are lots of sweet trails in the Manitoba praries, and 2nd, the part of Manitoba I grew up in was not praries.  It was the Canadian Shield.  Think rocky outcroppings, rugged landscape, and more lakes than there are people.  And maybe a few mosquitoes too.

There are lots of hiking options, but the canoeing is pretty sweet to.  One of my favourite canoe routes is Elbow Lake in Nopiming Provincial Park.  The parking area and campground is at Tulabi Falls, about 45 minutes north of the town of Lac Du Bonnet.  Its perfect for a family day trip of a week long backcountry adventure.  On weekends and during summer the designated campsites can get fuller near the put-in, but as you get past Elbow Lake (a good 1 day paddle from the in) people and boats become more scarce.wet road

The camp spots are frequent enough that you can be choosy, but far enough apart to keep real novice paddlers working on a popular weekend.  Please use the designated spots, there are enough of them.  Random camping might be fun, but it really hurts the ecosystem when you clear a space for a tent and rampage the bush for firewood.camp spot

The fishing is excellent with huge pike and pickerel making daily dinners, but you may need a Manitoba and Ontario license, depending on how far in you go.  The border is at Snowshoe Lake, a 2 day paddle from the launch.island camp

Be prepared for portages and pack accordingly.  The longest is just over a kilometer and there are 3 to reach Elbow Lake and about 6 to reach Snowshoe.  The portages are well used near Tulabi, but degrade as you get further from civilization.  Get ready to get wet feet, even if it’s not raining.  There are trail maps (sometimes) available at the trailhead, but the trail is pretty clear.  I have gotten lost leaving Elbow Lake before, so maps are just as necessary on this trip as on any backwoods adventure.  The 1:250 000 government topographical map that covers this area is 52L.lake to river

There are lots of other river/lake trips in this area.  Gem Lake is another great trip.  If you want some white water and longer trips, the Manigotagan River is good too.  I did 28 days on the Bloodvein river, which is a Heritage River full of all levels of everything.

Manitoba is not only praries.  Remember that next time you are looking for your next great adventure.

mabel lake. close enough, but far enough too.

Last summer my wife and I needed a little get away.  We had heard about Mable Lake, just north of Lumby.  We went on the Thursday before a long weekend, but the campground was so full it could have been the Saturday of a long weekend.

our cooler

In fact, the campground was full.  Totally.  We were not going to go home, especially after seeing the lake, so we continued along the gravel Mabel Lake road until we reached the forestry site.  Just after a big hairpin.  We took our 2wd drive car down a sketchy road to a popular camping spot near the lake.  We were not alone there either.  There were atleast 10 other cars there, most with rv style trailers, and atv’s.

it looks quiet

Somehow though, there was 1 tent spot right near where a creek joined the lake and we could set up our tent without seeing anyone else.  It felt like seclusion, even though it wasn’t.  The whole weekend was spent swimming, bbq-ing and exploring the area.  The lake was busy, but felt quiet, and we found some incredible waterfalls just uphill from the campspot while looking for a geocache.

some falls

This is a great spot, but it’s no secret.  Go early if you want a spot, or get adventerous if you want to get away from the crowds.  Cool spots are available, but they take some adventure to find them, otherwise they wouldn’t be so cool, would they?

camp

Iceland Vatnajökull national park and Landmannalaugar

Imagine a country that defines the term “backcountry” and you have Iceland. The main highway pretty much requires a 4×4. Water crossings a frequent, even on the main road circling the island, and pavement is reserved only for the capital city of Reykjavík.

I spent 3 weeks in Iceland in August, and weather-wise, it could have been Newfoundland. Kinda gloomy and overcast, but it seemed the sun would always come out when we stopped for a hike.

One of my favourites was in Vatnajökull national park. jökull means glacier. The trail made its was from sea level up into the mountains and to the glacier covered volcano, passing a series of waterfalls on the way. It was not a beginner hike. Once near the top, the network of possible trails was impressive. you could easily spend months hiking trails in the park and never step on the same trail twice. this park is located in the south east part of iceland.


Another sweet hike more inland pushed through fields of obsidian and fluffy white flowers (weeds?) in Landmannalaugar. Again, the trail possibilities were endless and the scenery was incredible. In a few hours we walked through many places that no other place on earth can offer. There were ridge walks, valleys to explore, obsidian everywhere and bubbling hotsprings of mud and acid.

From hiking up and across rivers to spectacular water falls, walking on the edge of crazy pressure craters, and finding random sheep in the wierdest places, iceland is one of the greatest places i have ever hiked.

graystokes...as self guided as it gets

When i recruited people to venture into greystokes provincial park, everyone always asked “where the heck is that?”.  Weird, considering it’s only 60km from kelowna.  It’s pretty much inaccessible without a truck, quad or snowmobile, but once there, there is some pretty cool stuff.

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The main center of the park is greystokes lake, which is actually a reservoir.  There are some snowmobile cabins you can stay in while exploring the lakes, hiking trails and backroads.  There is also plenty of opportunity for free camping.  When we were there, we planned on tenting, but ended up sleeping in the truck because we weren’t prepared for the winter camping that was at the top.  it was 15 degrees in kelowna in october when we left.  Also, the cabins were out because the 1st one was full of rowdy types, and the others were inaccessible do to the road not actually being passable, unless you have a rock crawler or other crazy 4×4.  Maybe the road is slightly more passable without snow, but it would still take some skill.  It’s a mission for next summer.

greystokes lake

Since there are so many extremely deactive roads, there are tons of opportunities for exploring on foot.  But, a mountain bike would be the best i think.  There are also some hiking opportunities in the park.  a short trail just before greystokes lake leads to lemon lake.  a small wooded alpine lake.

There is also a longer (read multi-day) trip around some of the other lakes and to the summits of Jubilee Mountain and Mount Moore.  Apparently the hilton cabin in the south of the park is quite nice.  apparently.

This park is a very popular snowmobile destination in the winter.  very popular.  partly because thats the only way to get around this largly unmaintained park.

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It turns out that this park is pretty darn cool.  unfortunately, besides the one or two hiking trails (though they do seem epic) there is not too much in the way of maintained, non-motorized stuff to do.  If you are down with random back-country hiking and snowshoeing, self guided old road mountain biking, then this is a sweet place.  But be prepared, though it is not so far from kelowna (access greystokes FSR off highway 33) it can be a lonely place to have a truck breakdown.  There is no cell reception either.

bring a truck

Thanks for posting the Graystokes info Rex. I (TracksAndTrails webmaster) figured you wouldn’t mind if I posted the Graystokes pics that I had as well. I even give you a few shots of a couple of the cabins up there.

camping with NO bugs!

Most people love camping, but everyone who does hates the bugs.  We found the best way to go camping and avoid the bugs is…. go in winter.

Clayton has posted some great stuff of the site about sleeping in quinzees (maybe i spelled it wrong), but we usually sleep in a tent.  Due to our work schedules, we frequently don’t get out to a good spot until around 5, and by then it can be getting dark.   On Nov. 20th, we headed up to Hydraulic Lake (a favourite winter spot of ours, and Clayton too apparently).  We got there with just enough light to get everything set up, but not the 3 or 4 hours needed to build a sweet quinzee.

Our tent was an old Northface 4 season tent. It was easily warm enough for the -15 or -16 night.  We each had down sleeping bags from MEC (thanks for the gift card Clayton!) and good thermarests.

We snowshoed around the lake to Idabel Lake on at least a foot of fresh powder.  On Sunday we hopped in the truck and headed up towards Canyon Lakes to attempt a snowshoe up little white.  There was SO much powder and breaking trail was exhausting, but 1st tracks in the backwoods are always a great feeling.

We didn’t see many others up there, which was a big reminder to be prepared and able to get back down alone.  Cell phone coverage is sketchy but does exist up there.

We ate tons of campfire cooked food and brought all the stuff (chives, bacon, cheese, sour cream, etc) to make the most incredible baked potatoes ever. The hardest thing was trying to keep the beer from freezing.  We even got to do some snowboarding on the way back.

A surprising nature hike in Cuba

A touristy place like Varadero, Cuba, didn’t seem like a likely place to have some kinda of crazy hiking adventure.  The miles of white sand beaches and resort after resort seemed to indicate most people where not here to get dirty and bitten by bugs.   It seemed doomed to be a relaxing weekend of suntanning and endless rum based drinks.

That was before we found the crazy mangrove wilderness area.  It was 3 pesos to get in, and needless to say, not a popular destination.  We saw only 1 or 2 other groups.  For 3 pesos we got a poorly translated photocopied map and a push in the right direction.  For the next 4 km we self guided ourselves through some of the craziest plants i’ve ever seen.  We explored huge caves carved in sandstone and ate lunch with bats.  We saw lizards and snakes (none poisonous in cuba) and 300 years old cacti wrapped in 250 year old figs vines.  The caves were my favourite part, but the whole hike was awesome.

This trail was a sweet find.  I think that other resort areas around the world probably have something similar, its just a matter of getting off the beach chair and finding it.  Turns out, this trail was only 1.5 km from our hotel.  It was good to try something cool like this, and the rum tasted better for the rest of the day.