Thursday, March 12, 2015

Koajiro Forest

When I got up this morning the first thing I noticed was the bright blue sky outside!  After all the rain lately I thought it just had to be the perfect day to get out and try to find a new adventure!  So, after breakfast, we headed out the door, roughly 1045.  Okay, Mackenzie likes to eat a five course breakfast every morning.  It's her big meal of the day.  It takes her f.o.r.e.v.e.r to eat breakfast!  We caught the train out of Yokosuka Chuo and made our way to Misakiguchi Station.  Once out of the station at Misakiguchi we walked out to the main road...and, it pained me to walk away from the beautiful sakura trees lining the road behind the station...but, we walked away from the trees and took a left at route 134.  
The walk to the forest wasn't a bad one.  We had a lot of interesting things to look at along the way.  Lots of cabbage fields.  Veggie stands.  Motorcycle shops.  Even a little shrine, I'm guessing it's there to pray for a good harvest.  

Now, before we left on this trek, I had looked at maps and guessed where the entrance might be.  I couldn't find anything that specifically said, "HERE, RIGHT HERE!"  I could see where the forest was on the map, so we headed in that direction.  After about a mile we saw a little sign attached to a post.  We checked it out and kind of guessed how much further we had to go..."Um...maybe just around this corner."  So, we walked on around the corner.  No entrance.  We kept walking and walking and walking.  Now, about two miles from the train station, and 45 minutes later, I'm looking to my right, down the hill, and I say, "Well, THAT'S where we want to be.  Down there.  I think we may have missed the turn."  Garytt says, "No, no.  It's this way.  We are going the right way."  So we walk a few more steps and I stop and ask him if he's sure.  Because what 6 year old doesn't know how to get to some random forest on the edge of the water?  So, Boy stopped, got this far-away-look in his eyes, and he starts pointing to a map that he's recreating in his mind.  After a few swift hand movements, he announces, "Yup, we missed the turn.  We have to go back."  

So...back we go.

As we are walking around, I pull up the two documents I found on the internet to explain the forest to me.  And, lo and behold, there are actually directions at the very bottom of the page!  Even a darn picture for where to turn!  Oh geez...  I show the picture to Mackenzie and ask her to help me find the intersection where we turn.  We walk a little further, and there it is!  The little building with the blue tarp in the window, just like the picture.  Right where we stopped 20 minutes ago to look at the map...yeah, how shocking that they would have a map of the forest route right next to the stinkin' entrance!  Duh!  And, how about that....the little sign (in Kanji, so I have a little bit of an excuse) on the right says Forest of Koajiro.  I learned a new Kanji today...forest...
As soon as we made the right turn at the white building with the blue tarp, we saw the signs for Koajiro Forest.   And, a map of the hike.

See the blue 134 at the bottom right?  About a mile down that road is Misakiguchi Station, where we started.  We walked past where 26 and 134 merge, around to where 26 veers off toward the top of the map.  We ended up walking all the way around to where the forest does the V on the top of the map, that's where we turned back around and walked back to the 134 split.  We then followed the red line all the way to the water, where it splits.  We took the split toward the top of the map, but that was the end of the trail.  So, we turned back and took the split that leads right to the water's edge, then follwed it around to the gray road and back to 134 and then back to the station.  All in all, I think it was about a 5 mile hike, in addition to the couple miles walk from our building to Chuo, it was about an 8-9 mile day.
Here is the view once you turn off the main road.  The road splits.  We took the road to the left.  But, first we pulled out our sandwiches and started eating lunch, since it was now about an hour past when we normally eat.
Down the hill a little, we made a left turn and found the boardwalk.  I'm glad for this boardwalk, since it has been super rainy lately, and would have been a terribly muddy trek if it wasn't there.  The forest doesn't look too exciting, since the trees haven't had time to grow their leaves back.  So, maybe we will revisit once it warms up and the leaves come in.  Oh, so I guess I should talk a little bit about the park.  Koajiro Forest covers about 170 acres.  There is supposed to be red-clawed crabs here, since they need a combination of forest, river and ocean in order to survive, which Koajiro offers.  Depending on the tide, there are other types of crabs to see as well.  I guess we went at low tide, since the mud flat stretched out pretty far in front of us.  

Nice boardwalk winds down the valley, along a river, toward the inlet.

We saw several dams along the way...some natural, some manmade....Boy disputed that any were manmade and insisted there were really smart beavers in the area.

A few cool, twisty branches and the small, winding river.

Signs that Spring is on the way!  Woot Woot!

Some of the wildlife we encountered along the way.  This guy came out with a few of his friends when Garytt decided to eat a bag of chips.  He quickly put the chips away for fear of having his hand snatched off.

Keeping watch from the trees.

About halfway through the forest we saw this:

We were quite puzzled at what it could be.  I decided that it must be a long rope that someone dropped in the water.  The kids agreed and we moved along.

Checking out what's floating in the water below.

A little farther down the boardwalk Garytt wanted to check out what was below.  All of a sudden he excitedly insisted I come look...more ropes!  So, I took of my backpack, laid down the camera, and hung over the edge myself.  The ropes didn't look like ropes from this distance.  I decided to pull up a reed from the water and see if I could fish out one of these "ropes".  

Once we fished it out, we realized it was actually eggs!  Tubes of eggs.  But, what kind of eggs, we weren't sure.  We couldn't see anything in the area that would be laying them.  So, after my inquisitive Boy examined it close up and then gave it a touch to see just how gooey it was, we put it gently back in the water and picked up our stuff.

As we stood up a group of old Japanese ladies came toward us.  One of the ladies said a whole lot of stuff that I didn't understand one single word.  Eventually, she just motioned for us to follow.  So, we did.   We walked a few steps down the boardwalk to where she was pointing.  I still couldn't understand her, and had no idea what she was pointing at.  Finally, I thought maybe the brown lump in the middle of the reeds was maybe a frog.  I said, "ribbit", but she didn't seem to understand.  Maybe Japanese frogs don't say ribbit?  Then, all of a sudden, the brown lump moved!  The kids screeched, the Japanese ladies said, "Aaahhh", and I pulled out my camera.  Two frogs making eggs!  We thanked the ladies, who went off to rejoin their group, and then Mackenzie said, "This is just like a school lesson, but in the forest!"  Then, the kids started rattling off all kinds of facts about frogs, the temperature for laying eggs, the gel around the eggs, the stages of a frog's life.  I said, "Wow!  Where did you learn this?"  (side note:  this year we are studying flying creatures.  No frogs in our lessons yet)  Mackenzie stood up and said, "We learned this from 'Wild Kratts'.  Today we are teaching you, Mommy!"

After we stood there and watched and talked about them for quite a while, the couple decided to move under a branch so we couldn't see them anymore.  This is when we moved on as well.

This is where the boardwalk splits.  To the left is the path that leads to the end of the boardwalk.  We walked up there first, then decided to go back to the split and head to the right side of this picture.

The mud flat

Once the boardwalk veered off to the right, away from the water, we were back on a dirt path and heading up stairs to find our way back to the train station.  On the way, Mackenzie squealed with delight at the bamboo tunnel she found.  

In they went...
 And, out the other side.

When we left the house, we were quite excited to see the beautiful blue sky.  What we couldn't see from our apartment was the ferocious wind!  It wasn't bad in the forest, but on the road to the park and then the road back to the station it was horrible!  A few times it actually blew us backwards a few steps.  Yokosuka had 30 mph winds gusting to 40-45.  I'm not sure if the wind was any stronger down here by the water, but it was pretty crazy!  Just look at the choppy water.

We saw a few ume (plum) trees along the way.

We made it to the station about five minutes before the train left, so we were able to grab two seats, sit and relax for the 20 minute ride back to Yokosuka Chuo.

Here is a map view of the forest.  The red dot is where we entered.  

After a winter where we didn't hike on a weekly basis, the kids complained a lot more than they usually do.  They were very excited to have the opportunity to skip school that morning, though.  I think if the wind wasn't so crazy there would have been a little less complaining.  Oh, a crab sighting or two would have helped, too.  Now that I know where to enter we can get back without so much walking around the city.  You would think that by  now I would realize that most hiking trails seem to start in someone's backyard and it wouldn't be so easy for me to miss it.  Oh well!  Another adventure to add to the books!