a weekend in Yangmingshan // hiking Mt Shamao

Mount Shamao, or Grandma's Mountain, is the most accesible hike in Yangmingshan National Park. The short climb is mostly shaded but the views from the peak are incredible.

I love public transit in Taipei. I really do. it's clean, and organized, and [for the most part] efficient. my only issue is that there is no convenient way to get from our neighborhood in Tianmu up to Yangmingshan National Park.

it seems ridiculous. I can literally see the park from my street. there is a little road that zips up the mountain behind our apartment and we can be at the park entrance in 20 minutes by car, to almost any of the trailheads in 30. but the trip takes nearly 2 hours by public transit. I love mountains, and I enjoy hiking, so occasionally I make my way up there despite the lengthy journey. but. I don't go as often as I would like.

so when some our friends offered us the use of their car for the long weekend? we of course said YES. and we of course drove up to Yangmingshan. in fact, we ended up spending most of our weekend there.

my dream hike for this weekend was [as pictured above] Mt. Datun: a multiple peak trail that I haven't yet explored. but as it is the second highest peak in Yangmingshan, it is often shrouded in clouds. on Saturday we drove up to the park intending to climb it. however, not only was the peak not visible due to cloud cover and rain -- but the road itself inside the park was barely visible. husband bravely drove us through the mist. but we had to accept that a hike was just not going to happen that day.

we stopped off for a consolatory coffee and went home for a Netflix marathon instead.

Sunday, there was rain. we went to the gym and then hung out with friends in the afternoon. one of them mentioned they had climbed "Grandma Mountain" that morning after a bike ride. after some laughter, I figured out that I know the peak as Mt Shamao. technically it is park of Yangmingshan National Park, but it is a smaller peak near the park's entrance, and one I have never climbed.

[the photo above was taken from Battleship Rock on a clear day. Mt. Shamao is the peak in the middle, between Mt. Qixing on the left and the Chinese Culture University on the right. farther in the back you can also spot Mt. Zhugao.]

on Monday, friends were coming up from Hsinchu to hike with us in the park. we planned to go to Qingtiangang Grasslands [also known as the Buffalo Meadows] for the short circular hike, and up the nearby Mt. Zhugao. luckily the weather held out. although I would have been ok with a little rain if it would have kept the crowds down. everyone else in Taipei seemed to have the same idea we did -- and we had to wait for 40 minutes in line just to get in the parking lot. as a result, we only had time to climb Mt. Zhugao before our friends had to get back home.

then there was Tuesday. the forecast was partly cloudy, and though we weren't sure what conditions would be, we packed lunches and headed back up towards the park. I had hopes for Mt. Datun [again] but could see the clouds over the peak before we make it to the entrance. so. we rerouted to the lower, cloud-free Mt. Shamao.

we parked on the street between the main Yangmingshan bus terminal and Qianshan Park. like many trails in Taiwan, Shamao is a series of uneven stone steps. sometimes the stones are loose, and they get slippery if there's been rain. I would suggest sturdy shoes, not sandals. [or you could just go barefoot like one guy we passed on the trail.]

Mt. Shamao is a relatively short hike. it took us 30 minutes to make it to the peak, with water breaks. after 20 minutes or so, you reach a flat stretch of trail. through the woods you will find [what I assume is] the Grandmother's tomb from which this mountain gets its nickname.

5 minutes of flat trail, another 5 minutes of stairs, and you reach the peak and the viewing platform. then it's time for water and selfies in the breeze.

the four photos above give you an idea of what the panoramic view from the platform is like. [and also the weather that was moving in from the east.]

1: to the right, we could see Mt. Zhugao [which we had climbed the day before] was shrouded in clouds. 2: ahead loomed Mt. Qixing -- at least the bottom half of it. 3: down the slope was Zhuzihu, and back up to the left was Mt. Datun. 4: and to the very far left I could see all the way out to the ocean and Tamsui.

the whole view was incredible, but my eyes kept going back to Mt. Datun. the clouds were creeping over its peak, and I knew we would have been miserable up there if we had tried to climb it that day. [or so I kept telling myself to reinforce that we had made the right choice in detouring to Shamao.]

I swear, one day I'll get up there.

most of the Mt. Shamao trail is shaded, so coming out onto the platform is shockingly bright. and also really really windy. from here you can continue south over the mountain and down the other side [about an hour's descent] but since we parked by the north trailhead, we returned the way we came up. we spent quite a while on top of the platform soaking up the view [and letting the wind dry our sweat], so our round trip time was almost an hour and a half.

though we only had a 50% success rate for hiking over the weekend, it was still great to get out of the city and into the mountains. having experienced what it would be like to have a car [and how easy that makes it to get away] well... it's really tempting to buy one and imagine that every weekend can be spent climbing in Yangmingshan.

getting to Mount Shamao trail

this is probably the most acessible hike in Yangmingshan National Park. the north trailhead is maybe a 5 minute walk from the Yangmingshan Bus Terminal stop where you can take the R5, 108, or 260. Yangmingshan stop [across from the Starbucks] is also close and services buses 230, S8, S9, and 1717. parking in the trail area isn't plentiful, but possible.

hiking from the north trailhead up and back could be done in an hour, and up and over about an hour and a half. however, I suggest adding an extra 15-20 minutes for enjoying the view at the peak.


the colors of Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is one of the most colorful places in Seattle. even when it's gray and rainy outside, the market is full of bright flowers, produce, seafood and neon signs.

it's pretty much a given that if you're visiting Seattle, you will go to Pike Place Market. and if you're a blogger who is visiting Seattle, that you will take hundreds of photos while at Pike Place Market.

it's hard to resist. the fish, the flowers, the neon, the vegetables... that ubiquitous sign. Pike Place Market is one of the most colorful places in Seattle, even when it's gray and rainy outside. maybe it was destiny that we ended up here on such a dull day. but then again, destiny is something we invented because we can't stand the fact that everything that happens is accidental.

do you see where I'm going here?

here's a weird little perk of travel that makes me happy: recognizing a place that I've been while watching a movie or TV.

Husband and I watched Sleepless in Seattle a few nights ago, and I haven't been able to get Pike Place Market out of my head ever since. they never specifically say where they are, and it's a really short scene sequence. but it almost feels like an inside joke. even though I visited 20 years after the movie was made [wow I'm getting old] I could still recognize the exact spots they were standing in the market.

we visited on a Monday morning, and while it was busy it wasn't packed. it seemed like a few shops were closed and a couple stalls were empty, but I don't think we missed out on much. there was a TON to see. I found the colors and the noises familiar, and even spotted a few of the fruits and vegetables I never thought to see outside of Asia.

I love shopping at my neighborhood market here in Taipei, and it's one of my favorite places to bring visitors. Pike Place definitely had a touristy feel, but I think the locals would shop there too [can my PNW friends corroborate this?]

there are plenty of guides out there on things you "must see" or "must eat" while at Pike Place Market. having only been to the market once, and not even setting foot inside the famous Starbucks [a blogger cardinal sin!] I don't feel qualified to write another one. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed my Rachel's Ginger Beer, and my family got some amazing looking stuff from the Polish Piroshky Piroshky Bakery.

we did, however, make a detour to see the instagram-famous gum wall...

as a concept, I find the gum wall pretty disgusting. I have a bit of a germ phobia. the idea of hundreds of strangers sticking their chewed gum all over a public place? ewww. however, I have to admit that the colors are eye catching. it's actually kindof impressive just how much gum is decorating the alleyway. but... it's still gross.

it was interesting to see, but I enjoyed my time in the rest of the market more. I guess I just prefer fruits and vegetables [and even raw fish] to chewed up gum.

now if you'll excuse me, I think I have to go rewatch Sleepless in Seattle...

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