The last two weeks of my life has been a stress filled, deadline ridden, patch of time filled with personal life stressors and bullshit. I’m not gonna lie it was difficult holding myself together enough to where I wanted to work. The only thing pushing me forward was the daydreams of spending two days at the Hakkoda Mountain range, quenching my powder addiction and camping out in the car surrounded by nature. Eventually the work week ended and my vacation started (thank based gods and shit). I spent the first couple of days relaxing and preparing for the trip and also cleaning my house that really needed it. The night before the trip I ensured that my gear was packed and next to the door ready to go.
I woke up around 0610 and began by ensuring that everything I needed was in the car and started towards Hakkoda. Usually the trip is about an hour and a half but this time it was a little longer due to morning traffic in the tiny city of Towada. Once I made it through the concrete thicket the expansive farmlands started to open up and I enjoyed a number of beautiful views (I tried to take some photos in the car for y’all). Once I got to the mountain base I parked my vehicle and got my gear on and made my way towards the Gondola.
The lines weren’t that long due to the fact that it wasn’t the weekend, where you’ll see hordes of Chinese tourists waiting in line to ride the gondola just to take one photo and go back down the mountain -It’s quite the annoying fiasco but I know that the ropeway staff needs to make money somehow so props to them for getting business.- Anyways after waiting in line I got to the top and was blessed with a bluebird. Bluebirds at Hakkoda are the stuff of legends and you only ever hear about them like they’re some mythical creature that grants you a wish in exchange for your left nut.
Hakkoda is a free range of slack country courses and once you know the danger zones you can navigate the first mountain pretty easily, I’m still working my experience up to travel to the other peaks. I am pretty comfortable with the main peak but sometimes that isn’t good. During one of the five runs at the start I was cutting through some trees and I didn’t realize that I fell into a tree well that was somewhere around six to eight feet tall. When I hit the ground I was still upright and my upper back cracked to my neck and I had lost my breath. I stood there for a second or two and pondered if I had needed any help. I just told myself to “stop being a pussy and ride” and luckily made it down the mountain without any further problems. I got a couple more runs in and I started to feel my legs give out so I decided to break for lunch by grabbing a cold brew from the cooler and my cooking gear.
I took a cast iron skillet and melted some butter and started to work on the peppers. After the peppers were starting to lose their rigidness, I threw in the onions and then the hotdogs that I had bought. After those things started to come together, I added some white rice that I had cooked the night prior. It wasn’t the fanciest thing I’ve cooked but it worked, and anything tastes good when you’ve been riding all day. I do want to tweak the recipe and add some type of sauce to bring it all together just a bit more.
After a relaxing lunch and another beer, I put on my boots again and got in the line for the gondola. That’s when I met two tourists who used to live in the area. They were both English teachers, an outgoing dame named Alex who now resides in Korea (the southern one) and a friendly ripper named Ryan who currently lives in New Zealand (lucky dude). They were friendly and we hit it off pretty well. After a conversation in the gondola they invited me to join them for their last runs and I had a blast riding with them. Hopefully we can ride again sometime next year! After they left to go back to their hotel that’s when I ran into Julius who was a tourist from Singapore who is currently traveling with his buddy in the northern Japan region to hit up all the slopes and backcountry areas. We talked about boards and all the different spots that we’ve been hitting up that day and got along pretty well.
After we got to the top Julius and I went our separate ways and I hiked my way to my favorite slope on the mountain. It has this incredible view of the valley and off in the horizon you can see the entire city of Aomori and how the Noheji Bay wraps around and shoots to Mutsu. I sat there for a little while just taking in the colors of the sky, the fusion of orange, pink, purple highlighted by the shapes of the clouds. The peaks of the mountains cutting into the air and all the snow monsters casting their shadows. It sure was a sight to take in, and let me tell you that last run of the day was one of the best I’ve had in my life.
The parking lot started to empty as people started to leave for the night. I grabbed some water from the river and started to get ready for the evening in my car. I started dinner while listening to some podcasts (The Dollop and Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast.) After I ate, I cracked another brew open and started to watch Jeremy Jones’ Further, and Higher. Talk about inspiration at it’s best. After my laptop died I gave my father a call and stargazed after ending the call. The stars were brighter that night even with the light pollution from the nearby city, the air wasn’t too cold, and all seemed well and I got cozy in my sleeping bag.
I lied there and thought about all the things that were cluttering my mind. Slowly but surely as I thought about the amazing day I had, the minuscule problems that were bothering me started to melt away and I started to feel calm. Our tendencies to focus on the little things that bother us, the little things that aren’t perfect, start to accumulate and roll down the hill and snowball into a bigger aggravating mess. Most of the time we don’t notice it until it’s too late. My time at the mountain made me realize that as much as I try to have control over my life, there are some things that are just out of our reach and that in itself is okay, and okay is good.
I woke up to frozen toes and a beautiful sunrise. I made a couple calls and started breakfast (yet another helping of hot dogs, peppers, and onions). I “neatly” packed my gear up and got my snowboard and waited for my friend Var to arrive. That’s when I met a middle aged French traveler by the name of Stefan, who is a factory worker, and a neighborhood Judge (The French court system is vastly different from America which was interesting to learn). He told me about how his travels have taken him around the world and how he loves Japan. His reasoning was that the culture was vastly different, and that lasting impression is the reason why he comes to visit every year to ski, snowshoe, and enjoy the culture. Shortly afterwards Var made his way in and I said goodbye to Stefan and wished him a good vacation.
After we reached the top Var and I were greeted with a typical low visibility Hakkoda, which made for a fun first run trying to make it down the slope without going into a valley that you don’t want to end up in. After the first run we were greeted by ANOTHER beautiful day at Hakkoda, which was wild to say the least. We mostly took to the forbidden path and found ourselves enjoying this run a lot considering the varied features and the amount of untouched powder was unreal. I snapped some photos on our fourth run and when we found ourselves at the bottom we called it a day and made our way home to Misawa where later that night I grabbed a couple drinks with some contractors from Florida and called it a day.
As I write this my entire body is sore, my back is stiff and my shoulders can barely handle the air that sits on them, my car smells like peppers and onions, and I have a mountain of laundry to do still. Even with all that you couldn’t try to wipe the smile that’s on my face when I remember that two day stint in the mountains. I completely understand why Jeremy Jones can camp out a month in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a tent and some friends that love snowboarding. It’s a freeing experience to just enjoy nature and be with just yourself. It’s an amazing experience because it’s just you slowly working through your problems and the mountains are just there to listen and go “yeah man, totally.” I highly recommend trying this at least once in your life because honestly, it changed how I’ll go about mine forever.
Thanks for reading this and letting me vent, hope you enjoyed the story and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
Y’all have yourselves a good one, Deuces.