Is the water safe to drink?
That was the question that became an obsession briefly on Sunday afternoon as I climbed up the closed Maki-Koganezawa Forest Road, slowing working my way up the back side of the hill toward Otoge („Ootouge,“ or „Big Pass“) on a great Sunday ride,
I left home early and quickly rode to Oume, then out Yoshino Kaido and Oume Kaido to Okutama-ko; then up to the top of Matsuhime Touge („Pine Princess Pass“), arriving by Noon.
As usual, I stopped to enjoy the view on top of Matsuhime.
Click here to see a larger version of this photo, on which the names of the various sights from the Matsuhime viewpoint are legible:
The weather was spectacular, hot and a bit humid down below in the valleys, but nothing like the summer, and on this one rare occasion I felt as if I had raced the Tokyo heat to the higher elevations and won!
From Matsuhime it was a very fast descent from 1250 to 650 meters elevation heading South, and I turned off the main road at the reservoir behind Fukashiro Dam („Deep Castle Dam?“). I slid my bicycle under the locked gate and headed through the tunnel, a first for me but following in the footsteps of many Positivo Espresso riders (Tom, Ludwig, Michael).
I had tried to fill my water bottle at the „Lake Fukashiro“ park rest room, but thought better of it given the large warning signs that indicated the water was not drinkable (just like the water at Matsuhime). I started riding up the road slowly, knowing that without any food left and only about 300ml of water, and having consumed several liters of liquid just to try and stay hydrated so far during the day, I would need to conserve energy to make it to the top. Google Maps‘ terrain feature had led me to believe, correctly, that even though the top of Otoge is 1560 meters elevation, the North (back) side of Otoge is not nearly as steep as the climb up from Otsuki on the other side, and I was in the shade much of the way.
Also, based on Ludwig’s posts from earlier this year, I knew that the road condition on the North side was too poor for a carefree descent. The road seems like it is used only for some TEPCO maintenance of electric power facilities (including some mysterious tunnels into the hillside — very Area 51) and is shut off to all other traffic. There were two short gravel stretches where the road is under repair, lots of landslides (but none blocking more than 25% of the road surface, and too many rocks to count — but nothing to create any difficulties in climbing slowly on a closed road in bright daylight and dry weather).
I rested when I got to another gate, somewhere around 1200 meters elevation, having finished my water long ago, running very low on energy, and with another 350 meters elevation of climbing ahead. It was at least peaceful, like this:
There were streams running down the hillside, and I was tempted to drink the water … which looked perfectly clear and safe. But having hiked in the Appalachian mountains in the eastern U.S., where just about every stream has enough giardia lamblia to require water purification of some kind, made me cautious. I pushed ahead and finally, after another few kilometers, came to various signs of life — a van or two parked by the side of the road, a cyclist descending, two motorcycles (dirt bikes) and then a wood cutting team with chain saws, the senior member of which was standing in the road supervising. I asked and he assured me that the water was „probably“ completely safe, that he and his crew drank it all the time. I filled up my liter bottle, immediately consumed about half of it (delicious!), and hopped back on my bike.
Then it was up to the pass, around yet another gate (watch out for bears at the top!), took one look back at the last gate, and then a very quick descent the last 15-20 km to Otsuki Station, to hop an express train to Tachikawa and ride the last 25 km home from there, for a total of almost 170 km and 7000 meters of climbing (calculated using Tom S.’s altimeter … something more like 2300 meters elevation on my altimeter, the truth probably somewhere in between.)
More next weekend!