I've always loved spending time in Tamsui. I first discovered it while looking for places to jog during a business trip a few years ago. I like the views from its boardwalk. There's a prominent hill sloping up from Bali on the other side of the river. After moving to Taipei, it's just a matter of time until I realise that I can probably climb it.
You can easily reach the starting point by public transport. I take the Zhonghe–Xinlu (Orange) MRT line to its final stop in Luzhou and a bus up to 凌雲禪寺 Lingyun Temple. From here, the trail starts - as so many in Taipei - with lots of stairs. I'm quite happy about this type of hiking because you make quick progress and it's good exercise too. Another reason may be my go-to hike back home and its notorious stairs worked into the mountainside. Of course, I also have long legs which I'm told is an unfair advantage. However, after bringing a friend to this trail a few weeks later, I realise an abundance of stairs requires a disclaimer.
The trail is relatively short and easy. I initially plan to go to Jianshan but I somehow never find where this part of the path starts, so instead I reach the top of 硬漢嶺 "Tough Man Peak" after about half an hour. The weather isn't the best. It's foggy, slightly cold and windy, short of rain, the worst conditions you could ask for. The view down to Tamsui is sure gorgeous, but on this day I can only see the white of the clouds hanging over the river below. Many hikers already crowd the mountain top as a group of school children in matching uniforms is climbing up the final steps.
I soon decide to get away from the hustle and descend on the opposite side. The path is much more interesting as it's an actual trail with ropes aiding you along. I struggle slipping and sliding down through the mud in my running shoes, hilariously unprepared for the terrain. Progress is plodding as I meet the last part of the children's group still pushing upwards. I'm not sure whether they're enjoying themselves or cursing their teachers for the “torture”. What must they think of me, doing this at my own free will?
I realise that the trail would be more attractive in the opposite direction, climbing up through the forest and taking the stairs back down. I also begin to lose patience with my shoes, so when I find another trail that seems to loop back up to Yinghanling and the more developed part of the trail, I decide this will be a good closure for the day. I'll come back another day with better weather - and better shoes.
I walk down to the visitor centre and continue for another 10 minutes to a small viewing platform. The fog has lifted a bit, and I can finally see down to Tamsui and the coast and spend half an hour to reflect on my day. I settle for food and coffee at before making my way back home. It has been a good day in nature, but there's a sense of unfinished business too. I know I'll have to come back soon.