Taipai 101, Keelung River, riverside park and airport.

Recently, a friend posted on FB asking if anyone wanted to do anything outdoorsy. By coincidence this was one of the rare days that I didn’t already have planned out nor were my legs and back particularly acting up. Why not? I thought. It was the type of day that is a shame to spend indoors.

Because I couldn’t handle a bike ride yet, and I definitely can’t handle carrying it down three flights of stairs, we looked around on-line for a hike that I thought I could handle. Taiwan has numerous trails, many of them in or near Taipei. Unfortunately, because Taipei is in a valley and surrounded by mountains, it’s hard to find hikes that don’t require me to be physically fit but I managed to find a site that advertised urban hikes in Taipei.

We chose Jiantan Trail. Steve, Jeremy, and I met up at Jiantan MRT, and walked the four minutes over to the trailhead. Along the way we discussed (my oh-so-favorite subject) my back herniation and their various past and present back problems. I had to laugh. All three of us were in our early thirties, and all three of us currently have an assortment of back problems. From sciatica and general back pain, to bone spurs and biking accidents and circling back to more sciatica and treatment for all three.

Pathetic. We three, young, active sporty people, who all feel as if we are still in the prime of our lives, walked up several hundred stairs up the mountain discussing the efficacy of acupuncture, cortisone shots, and medication. It’s a sad sorry thing to realize that at the ripe old age of thirty, I currently have the body of a 40+year-old. Laughable really.

We made our way up the mountain, and ran came across some  temple grounds.

There’s always a temple around.

Where the locals were celebrating Moon Festival. Of course, it wouldn’t have been a celebration if someone wasn’t singing KTV, and we feared for their enjoyment. But then we stumbled across this:

It’s all about the KTV.

We continued on past the temple and strolled the temple grounds for a bit, searching for the continuation of the trail when we ran across an old-school swing set seesaw. I haven’t played or seen one of these since I was a kid. What fun to find one in Taiwan, rusting away up in the mountains at some temple? You won’t these types of old school toy sets in the US anymore. No company could get away with making such a “dangerous” product for today’s sheltered children.

What is this doing at a Temple in Taiwan?

While there we were accosted by an old man who insistently encouraged us to get off the hiking path. Although he spoke English, we had a hard time understanding him. The only thing we could figure out was that he seemed to want us to take some overgrown trail straight up the side of the mountain. Jeremy volunteered to climb up there to see what all the fuss was about. Predictably, it was nothing. He walked around for a minute, clawing his way through some bushes only to see a bunch random trash and barbed wire lying all over the place. There was no trail, no scenic view, and no shortcut to the trail we were already on. Nothing at all to see or enjoy. After Jeremy came back down, the old man then smiled and indicated our path would take us to a nice scenic view too.

I’m pretty sure this guy was just fucking with us. I hate it when Taiwanese people do this. I don’t like being stopped in the street or in the mountains or anywhere, in fact, by overly curious people wanting to know every detail of my life. People offering unasked for help in minimal English, particularly when we clearly knew where we were going, is painfully annoying. I know the Taiwanese pride themselves on being particularly friendly and helpful to foreigners, but Jesus Christ. Let’s not go overboard.

We continued walking around the extensive temple grounds. Typically, the facilities are spaced out over a large area. We saw the outdoor gym, bathrooms, gardens, and various meditation spots. Jeremy took a few scenic photos of the city. We had a great vantage point of Taipei 101, the Keelung River, Dajia Riverside Park, and Songshan Airport.

Let’s get our work out on…

Trip anyone?

Every so often the trails would branch off. Sometimes they had signs and we knew where to go, but occasionally a sign was missing. Never did we find the path branches and various trail markers to be congruent with the map at the temple. None of us particularly wanted to backtrack, so we decided to continue to Jainan Road Station on the brown line. I’ve never taken the brown line that far north before and was interested in taking a look.

A lovely Sunday stroll through the city.

Following the “directions” posted ever so often we attempted to find Jainan Rd. MRT. We lost the trail when it turned into a road but figured if we kept going down we would walk back into civilization with no sweat. Then we lost the road near an army facility where several stray dogs were roaming and decided to go down a very steep driveway/road. It was unclear which one it was at that point, but my drive way suspicions were confirmed when we  dead ended at a house. For the first time ever I saw a cactus in Taiwan. I didn’t even know they could grow in such a wet tropical environment.

How is this thing alive?

No one wanted to backtrack up the insanely steep driveway, so Jeremy scouted around and found a very overgrown path that continued further down. We took that, passing by someone’s garden, and an old, presumably private graveyard, and eventually met up with our previous hiking path at the bottom of the mountain. The path continued up over a traffic tunnel but I pointed out that we could just take the tunnel and avoid the climb. We did. It was long and loud, and when we emerged I realized we had turned back west rather than east. Whoops!

We were losing the light, didn’t know where we were, nor how to get to Jainan MRT. Things were beginning to look scary and bleak as we contemplated the long walk back to the hiking trail in the dark and even longer walk to the train station.

Just kidding. We were still in Taipei, so we did the sensible thing and flagged down a cab, got back to the red line in five minutes, and went home.

Awwww, did you really think we had a scary hiking adventure in northern Taipei? Don’t be silly.

All in all it was a beautiful day, a fun easy-going hike, and a positive step toward activity for me. I’d recommend it for anyone wanting a short relaxed hike without having to leave the city.