After some deliberation on which mountain to spend a warm (and humid) September afternoon, my eyes fall on Yinghanling once more.
Again, I start at 凌雲禪寺 Lingyun Temple, but this time I choose a different path and head towards 鷹仔尖 Ying Zi Jian. From there, I hike down to a small road to 潮音洞千手觀音, a small temple built inside a rock cavern dedicated to 觀音 Guanyin, the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion. Guanyin can also be found in the name of the volcano 觀音山 Guanyinshan and the North Coast & Guanyinshan Scenic Area it is part of.
From here, another steep trail heads up to 尖山 Jianshan where I find my first viewing platform of the day overlooking Yangmingshan and the wider Taipei area.
The sweat starts flowing; a friend recently pointed out that the only dry spot on my shirt is the shape of the island of Taiwan. I don't quite know what to make of her comment.
Today marks my third trip to Yinghanling. Finally, I climb it the more interesting way: a path made up of rocks, narrow trails and a few ropes, in contrast to the well-paved stairs the masses take up from the other side. There are a few stairs too, but they are made of old rubber tyres. It seems a more fitting way to reach Tough Men's Peak, the English translation of Yinghanling.
On the other hand, whatever dry spot might have been left on my shirt, is soon drenched in an ocean of sweat and exhaustion. This is my first hike out of a long 14 days of quarantine. I pull myself up the final steps towards the viewing platform, thankful for every piece of rope to aid me along.
It's a pleasant autumn day, with a few fluffy clouds over the ocean, Tamshui river and Taipei. I spend some refreshing moments on top, patiently waiting my turn to take in the views of the city. The place is, not surprisingly, crowded. What's interesting to me is how easy it is to avoid most of this hustle and bustle by, ever so slightly, keeping off the beaten track.