My last hiking trip in northern Taiwan (for now) brought us to Houtong. A small town near Rufang (the village famous for it’s numerous stray cats), outside of Jiufen. Jiufen is famous because it was a gold mining town during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. Now, Jiufen is centered around an overcrowded market street popular for it’s fish balls and taro cakes. Starting out in Houtong, the hike brought us through the jungle until we reached Mt. Xiaozukeng (Pinyin spelling?).
I found this hike with the help of the Taipei Escapes hiking books that are extremely clear and easy to follow, with hand drawn maps and everything. The author has a hiking blog here: http://taiwandiscovery.wordpress.com/
Houtong is a very small town. We took a left out of the train station and walked a few km down the road to the elementary school. There we found a sign for the trail head.
It was a beautiful hike. It started with a paved path up then gradually transformed to stone steps after crossing a few bridges.
Halfway up the steps we came across a ruined village.We took a short break then continued uphill until we reached the Japanese Mountain God Shrine.
The entire uphill duration was about 45 minutes of straight stairs. After the shrine, it leveled off to a gradual sloping pathway through the jungle.
When we emerged from the jungle we could see Jiufen below and Mt. Keelung in the distance.
The whole hike took us under two hours. We walked down into Jiufen. Walking through a crowded market after sweating profusely for two hours did not suit us very well. We stopped for a short ice cream break and continued up the road to Mt. Keelung.
The path up Mt. Keelung is much steeper and more direct than the hike in from Houtong. We took the side trail hoping for some shade, rather than going directly up the stairs. It took us a little over an hour.
We rested at the top for a little before taking the stairs down. Mt. Keelung was formed by the collision of the Philippine and Eurasian plates. That entire coastal area is all a direct result of the Philippine plate being forced under the Eurasian plate.
It amazes me that the earth is so volatile, and yet out of that, come the most beautiful things.