Saturday, October 29, 2011

3X600m: Riding in the Simaxianshan area of Miaoli

An epic day in the mountains of Miaoli to the northeast. My friend Domenic Alonge and I rode up to Xiangbi in Miaoli. Originally we planned to climb Zhongxiang Rd and cross the ridge at 1100 meters, descending to Dahu and then returning on 3. But we got to Xiangbi too late, so instead we rode back to the bridge and then went back to Dongshih via Dongqi Rd (a map of the ride). It was a stunningly gorgeous day of blue skies and imposing peaks, every picture seemed like a postcard. The area above the river is a forest reserve and recreational area.  I'd been there before, but for some reason hadn't been back. I'd been missing a lot -- the Simaxianshan area is one of the loveliest in Taiwan.

Our ride began at the McDees in Tanzih by the train station. We cycled up through Fengyuan and down the Dongfeng Bike Path and over to 3. Climbing the ridge up 3, we passed this awesome fellow and then waited for him at the top so we could grab a picture. Simply fantastic.

Outside Jhuolan we turned east and followed the river.

Though the road climbs up, the incline is quite gentle.

There are several signs for "communes" in the area. I think they mean "community".

It doesn't get any clearer than this.

Dom finds another "commune", the Tai-an.

As we crossed the first bridge, I took this shot upstream. On one hand, it's gorgeous, on the other, you can see that the riverbed is constantly being reshaped by gravel operations.

Another road to explore, but not today. Here we bought some persimmons and then hopped on our bikes to cross another bridge.

A local cyclist stops to buy persimmons. I always look forward to persimmon season; they are totally addictive.

There are a number of villages along the river, many of which are Atayal. Until the dam at Shihlin, there is a steady stream of coffee shops, small eateries and bike rest stops.

It reminded me of riding the Northern Cross-Island Highway.

Along the way we passed several of these simple cable car systems that transport goods and people across the river.

On its way across the river.

The area is a rich fruit-growing region. The white spots are bags used to cover the fruit and protect it.

Splendid views of the river gorge as we continued to climb.

The Shihlin Dam.

The map indicated that the road was out in the area that I wanted to ride to.

Dom plots lunch.

The reservoir.

Dom powers above the reservoir. Here a more serious climb begins.

At this altitude, nearly 600 meters, the golden orb spiders appear to form colonies. Large agglomerations of innumerable webs could be seen in many places along the route.

Finally we reached Xiangbi ("elephant nose") at over 600 meters. Lunch!

We had lunch at this little store whose owner operated a tiny eatery next door. She had four energetic kids.

Lunch -- simple and delicious. At this point we decided to turn back. We had arrived much later than I had calculated, sadly. Dom and I planned a return for a two day ride in the area.

Looking over the vineyards back down the river gorge.

The family.

A local farmer gives us some encouragement.

Both Dom and I decided the views were even better coming back.

Dom, a strong rider with great endurance, pushes uphill.

A cable car against the mountain vastness.

A last look before we went over Dongqi Road back to Dongshih.

The bridge back to Jhuolan, where we would instead turn south and climb up to Baibufan village.

I'd been on Dongqi Road before, but never so far north. Three switchbacks take you quickly up to the ridge. Here I am resting after the second switchback just below Baibufan, a 16% grade monster. The first one is 12%. The third, a mere pup of 10%, felt like a relief.

Dom broods, persimmon in hand. Although I had thought it was only about 400 meters high here, we were at 570 with no top in sight.

Up we went, crossing 600 meters in altitude....

Finally we reached the top at ~625 meters. Whee! Downhill all the way to Dongshih town. A lovely ride through farm and hill country.

We reached Dongshih and then crossed the bridge and climbed back up to Sinshe. From there we took the side route away from the main road, 129, through the farms and hills and by the lake, just below the ridge. After that we climbed up to 600 meters for the third and final time, and rolled down stunning 88 from Shuijing back to Fenghsing Road and home. 108 kms, with well over a thousand meters of climbing. An incredibly beautiful day of unforgettable scenery. Can't wait for my next trip in the area.
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Anonymous said...

Great photos. Really admire you capability to frame them so nicely.


Michael Turton said...

Thanks, George. Too bad you couldn't have come with us! Next week we can do a short one on monday.

Gilman Grundy said...

Beautiful scenery in the mountains of Miaoli - the best on the west coast.

Tommy said...

Ah, persimmons! They are absolutely my favorite of previously unheard of fruit. When the season started in Hong Kong, I would buy them every week. How I miss persimmons and wish the US would wake up and import some.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for sharing, MT. ~ marc

Jade said...

Persimmons are very common in any asian store here in the US. We eat it almost everyday when it is in season.