December Waterfall Updates/Trips

Last year I chose to go a slightly different route with my blog. Previously I would write a waterfall guide entry and then combine everything that happened on a weekend into one post. The result was blogs that largely duplicated the guide entries that I had written and jumbled mess of what we did. Instead of doing that I wanted to do more comprehensive regional blogs like the one that I did for Maolin (Explore Taiwan – Maolin and Duona) in April. I also wanted to do some best of lists like the 10 Best Easy Waterfall Hikes and North Sumatra’s Waterfalls. There were also some places or events like Shimenggu or The Wang Ye Boat Burning that needed much larger blogs to do them justice. Along with a few other recurring blog themes (Local Spotlight and Great Bloggers) this was the plan for the year.

Something happened though. I traveled so much and so often that it was impossible to work and to keep up with the waterfall guide entries. I visited 40 NEW waterfalls in Taiwan and 35 waterfalls in Minnesota, the Philippines, East Java and North Sumatra in addition to dozens that I have gone back to because I wanted better photos, better information, better maps or simply because they are great waterfalls. If you do that math I went to almost 100 waterfalls in 2016. Blogging became an afterthought since it was nearly impossible to keep up with all of the basic information in the waterfall guide entries.

The logical solution would be to scale back the number of trips that I go on but I have actually increased the number of trips so far in 2017. Taiwan received a nearly devastating amount of rain from two typhoons and a couple of heavy storms this fall. That combined with the unusually warm temperatures this winter has resulted in perfect waterfall chasing conditions. Not only is the weather perfect for hiking but I have swam at almost a dozen waterfalls in December and January. Maybe it will slow down in February (unlikely with so many holidays). Perhaps March…

So this year I am going to try to make an effort to do a brief rundown of all the waterfalls and places that I have visited each month. We will see how long I can accomplish that.

December’s first trip was a 3 day weekend to Taipei/New Taipei. I stayed at this spaceship themed hostel which was very interesting and was also able to meet many Taipei Hikers (FB group) that I hadn’t seen for awhile for a potluck dinner one night. More importantly though I was able to add 5 new waterfalls to my guide that weekend.

Yunsen Waterfall has been on my to do list for a long time but I chose not to do the whole loop to Manyueyuan so I will be back sometime to do it again.

Xiufeng Waterfall was my favorite of the three waterfalls on Dajianshan.

Silong Waterfall was a nice short hike that was pretty easy to get to.

I have also been leading hikes with the Southern Taiwan Hiking Group. One of benefits of teaching English in Asia is that most classes don’t start until the afternoon or even the evening. I lead 2-3 Tuesday hikes every month to places in Kaohsiung or Pingtung and have made really good progress on my local area to do list.

The Liangshan Waterfall trip was actually at the end of November but close enough. This was my 3rd trip to Liangshan and I finally got the perfect photo. No, I don’t know who that woman is. She showed up and posed for 3 minutes and then left.

Swan Lake is a rarely visited but once very popular recreation area. It isn’t easy to get to either Swan Lake Waterfall or Lover’s Lake Waterfall but it is awesome to be there with only your friends.

One of the bigger trips that I led in December was a Miaoli Research Trip. I had only been to one of the waterfalls before and I wanted a smaller group that could handle poor trail conditions. We visited the Luchang and the Taian Hot Springs areas and made it to 4 out of 5 of the waterfalls that I wanted to visit.

Kuhuatan Waterfall was a difficult to find but perfect swimming hole that our group didn’t fully enjoy in December. It would be great to return here with warmer temperatures.

Shenxian Waterfall is a nice waterfall made very famous by the Seediq Bale movie. It lacks the fun aspect since they ‘discourage’ people from going down to the waterfall. My favorite part was the hike from Shimen Bridge to Shenxian Waterfall. Of course, they strongly discourage this with ‘DANGER’ signs. This waterfall can officially be known as the No Fun Waterfall.

Shuiyun Waterfall was the highlight for the weekend. The waterfall drops into a beautiful side canyon full of interesting rock strata. Josh has always been in the right place at the right time for my photos. I only wish that his wardrobe didn’t consist of shades of gray. I also wish that he hadn’t moved back to the states. He has been an excellent waterfall adventuring companion for the last year.

The final trip of the year was a Christmas Day hike to Maolin and Duona. Guifu Canyon is one of my favorite places but this trip is one that I will think about for a long time. Three people in our group got caught in an eddy and couldn’t swim out. Everything happened so quickly but luckily we were able to get them out.

At least Lesley knows how to wear bright colors for photos.

Duona, waterfalls and the moon?

I returned to familiar terrain on my last motorcycle trip and I served as an assistant guide for our group since I have made about a dozen trips to Maolin.  Unlike previous trips we explored Duona this time.  Duona is the last village in Maolin Valley and it suffered a terrible loss when its famous hot springs were buried under a cliff.  In the last 3 years Duona has transformed into a pleasant bustling aboriginal village.  There are now a half dozen nice restaurants and several nice tourist shops.  There’s a chance that it becomes overly touristy but currently it’s just about perfect.

Despite being to Meiya Waterfall a couple of times before I got us lost.  Not such a great a guide I guess.  I was also so convinced that the waterfall would be dry that I left my tripod and needed to balance my camera on a few small rocks for this photo.  Directions to Meiya Waterfall are on my waterfall website.

Duona High Bridge is the tallest suspension bridge in Taiwan towering 103m above the valley before.  We chose to Evil Kenevil it across the bridge (not necessary for visiting Duona).  It’s not particularly difficult but it is a little tense.

The trip gave me an opportunity to visit a new place in Maolin.  Guifu Canyon (Ghost Axe) is located about 1km upstream from Duona and it seems to be flying under the radar.  Apparently before Typhoon Morakot the canyon was full of small rock swimming pools but there are filled in with rock and silt now.  Perhaps they will resurface in a few more years.  Directions to Guifu are on my waterfall website.

Guifu Canyon is a narrow canyon that is similar to some of the tight canyons in the American Southwest (minus the red rock).  Not far from the entrance a waterfall drops into the canyon over the cliffs.  It is possible to go further upstream past the waterfall but you should bring some ropes and safety equipment with you.

The walk out of Guifu Canyon back to Duona.

Richard Saunders also led us around to several scenic oddities in Taiwan.  These are part of Taiwan’s Badlands.

Yangnu Mud Volcano was one of several that we visited during the weekend.  This isn’t actually a geothermal vent but rather a methane vent that can be lit on fire.  It didn’t actually smell from where we were.  Taiwan is one of the few countries in the world with mud volcanos.

An action photo from the weekend.  This was taken by Trevor Barth while wearing a backpack and twisting around on the back of a scooter traveling at 50km/hr on bouncy mountain roads.

Bicycling out to Maolin’s Purple Butterfly Valley

The best way to train for a summer of hiking and biking should be obvious.  Last weekend was the first of my hike and bike weekends but hopefully I will have time to hike and bike twice every month this spring.  I chose to visit Maolin for what feels like the 10th time.  Of course I stayed at DeenGorge Guesthouse although I camped.  I was also a little tardy leaving Kaohsiung but it was okay since it has been very warm this winter and it’s cooler at night.  We are not allowed to call it getting lost but I did miss a turn and went through Meinong adding 10+ kms to the trip.  Ironically the turn I missed was at a 7-11 that I stopped at for snacks.  After ten trips I should have the route memorized by now but apparently not.  DaTou (Big Head) was very surprised to see me when I showed up at 10:30pm.  DeenGorge was overflowing with campers and guests since it is winter vacation and a lot of families are traveling.

DaTou is the son of the family that runs DeenGorge guesthouse.  This is kind of a special place since they have spent their entire lives conserving their land and it is like camping in a naturalists garden.  DaTou speaks good English and has a university degree in some type of conservation (or related degree).  Here is a previous visit at DeenGorge.  Hunting Frogs at DeenGorge.

Overall it was a 160 km trip with 2 hours of hiking.  My legs felt awful Sunday night but surprisingly good Monday.  That is encouraging.

Maolin is a small aboriginal village that has returned to its pre-Morakot status and seems to be getting bigger every year.

Large murals are extremely common in the aboriginal villages.  This mural is 6-8 meters high and maybe 20 meters long.

The Purple Spotted Butterfly.    Every winter thousands if not millions of purple butterflies migrate to Maolin.  It’s quite common to see dozens of butterflies on a single branch but unfortunately the purple butterflies were somewhere else when I hiked the one hour observation trail.

The Red Base Jezebel Butterfly.  I haven’t seen one of these in Taiwan before but I don’t study butterflies too much.

The Common Tiger Butterfly which looks similar to the Monarch butterflies that I grew up with in Minnesota.

There’s still one more bridge to be built at Maolin and it is a very impressive bridge.  Here are some photos of the bridges last year.

I stopped at Dajin Waterfall for at least the 5th time before bicycling home.  I still don’t have a photo that I really like though.  Last year I counted 650 stairs to the waterfall but this year I counted 693 stairs so it looks like I might need to make a few more trips and count more carefully.  This young couple jumped into to my photo and her pink shirt adds an interesting aspect to the photo.