Even deeper reaches in Hsinchu – Jianxibao ( 鎮西堡)

Jianxibao is located across the valley from Smangus.  Smangus has become famous for being the most remote aboriginal village in Taiwan.  It was just 20 years ago that roads and electricity reached it.  Since then it has become an overly popular as a tourist destination.  It’s almost laughable thinking about the large tour buses that continuously make the trip to Smangus on the narrow switchbacking roads with tourists that wouldn’t consider stepping off of a sidewalk into the real nature that surrounds the place.  Somehow they pass right past Jianxibao and keep going.  Even though we saw it from our breakfast table we chose not to go to Smangus this time.  Instead we hiked two outstanding trails through Jianxibao’s grove of ancient Red Cypress trees and found a secret place that was an amazing mixture of dark/gloomy and beautiful.

The million dollar morning view from our guesthouse.

On a previous weekend our guesthouse had a similar million dollar view but was completely forgettable in every other way.  This guesthouse (500NT/person or <20USD/person) was amazing.  (035847715/0919281283)  Most of the mountain guesthouses are old family homes that have been retrofitted into guesthouses since most of the family has moved away from the mountains.

On the first day we hiked an 8.3km loop (loop B) through the forest on a level and well maintained path.

Smangus and Jianxibao are notoriously wet as seen by the endless moss clinging to branches.

I have been incredibly lucky so far this year with weather.  I expect that will cruelly change on my next hike with an overabundance of rain.

Richard, the ladies and myself in front of one of the giants.  It seems like a person could sneak through that hole…

Another one of the giant Red Cypress trees (2000+ years old).  I think this one was named Giant Tree while others were named King, Queen, Adam, Eve and countless other creative names.  Adam and Eve were particularly naughtily named…

Hiskia tried to warn me that I might be disappointed since there wouldn’t be any waterfalls on this trip.  I knew that but we were completely shocked when we crossed this stream not once but twice.

The giant trees are such a big attraction that these waterfalls don’t show up marked on any maps or brochures of the area.  They are now marked on my waterfall website though.

On the second day we hiked the significantly harder Loop A to some more giant trees.

Hiskia in front of one of the smaller giants.

Ginny walking through one of the few flat places on the trail.

Shortly after this the trail went vertical and presented challenge after challenge as it climbed over 800 meters mostly in the 2nd half of the 5.4km hike.

Dulongtan.

A place that was so eerily dark and depressing yet so incredibly serene and beautiful at the same time.  It was coated with a layer of pond scum and was unlikely to be more than a meter deep in the middle.  In the US this would be dismissed as just another swamp but Taiwan’s geography doesn’t allow lakes to form and this is one of the few lakes that I have seen in my 4 years in Taiwan.  There is perhaps no better name than the English translation of Poison Dragon Lake to describe this almost mystical place.

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