松蘿湖 Songluo Lake
After a short night in a cosy hostel in Yilan, I meet my friends to take the 40-minute drive to the Songluo Lake trailhead.
We carry our tent, gear and water for the 2D1N trip. Most importantly, this is my first hike in truly “Taiwanese style”, sporting a pair of plastic rain boots. While an odd sight to European eyes, it's pretty typical attire among local hikers. And finally, this is a trail where it makes A LOT of sense.
The sole person in our group wearing hiking boots carefully negotiates the trail, finding rocks and tree branches to keep her feet dry. Meanwhile, I step right into puddles of mud, like a little boy happy to be playing in the dirt.
The hike starts innocent enough. It's a few minutes on the road until we reach the trailhead. The first part leads gently through the lush green forest. Despite its short length of 5.4 kilometres, this trail is not to be underestimated. It soon gets steeper as we climb over boulders, step through mud and around puddles of brown water. It's not even raining today; in that case, I imagine the trail might turn into a stream.
While I wonder behind which ridge the view might open towards the lake, the trail gradually becomes steeper; some ropes help with the climbing. Finally, we reach the ridge where our trail intersects another route. It's the last spot with cellular signal. There's no connection at the campsite (which comes unexpectedly because Taiwan's mountains are usually equipped with surprisingly stable and fast mobile internet). From here, the final stretch of the trail guides us down to the lake in 15 minutes.
The term lake is a bit of an overstatement (at least today). It's more an assortment of small ponds and streams, meandering through a wide field of squishy mud. It's no less beautiful, though. There are forested hills on all sides and a dense fog hanging in between mysteriously.
We find a spot to pitch our tent. Wandering too close to the water, one member of our group suddenly sinks in waist-deep with one of his legs. It takes the rest of us some time to pull him back out and then some to dig out his rain boot. Lesson learned we tread more carefully near the water from then on.
We prepare our dinner at a small sheltered area, maybe 200 metres from our tent. We catch a glimpse of sunlight, but soon clouds and fog begin to build over the lake again. Within mere seconds the wind blows them over the entire area, covering everything in a thick layer of white. We memorize the way back to our tent; in the dark, it'll be hard to find even with headlamps.
We settle in for the night, doing our best to keep the dirt outside and at least some of our clothes dry. The following day, the scenery is still the same. The fog creates a magical atmosphere. The perfect backdrop for a “Lord Of The Rings” movie, I think. Maybe not, though; this place is better kept pristine.
The return trip is an easy, mainly downhill 4-hour hike back to our car where it's already sunny again. 2 hours later, we're back in Taipei, ending a memorable trip with some well-earned bubble tea.