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2015-04-06

2015年4月5日 新店獅子頭山 Mt. Lion head of Xindian

Vew of Shizitoushan from Guanshiping, Lion head, body and tail
新店獅子頭山は過去数回訪れている、馴染みの山である。以前は、別の山との縦走を兼ねての通過点であったが、今回はこの山だけの登山だ。それは、同行するメンバーに獅子頭山に点在する日本統治時代の遺跡などを案内し、また展望を楽しむという手頃なハイキングでの山行である。以前、別の山行で一緒に歩いたカナダ人の山仲間に以前約束していたことの実現でもある。

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A round trip to visit all sites of interest
Hiking elevation profile
F707 free bus just arrived at the trail entrance
Mt. Shizitoushan (獅子頭山 meaning Lion head) is located south of Xindian (新店) district of New Taipei City. With an elevation of 864m it has a primary triangulation marker on its top. When topographic maps were being created, they designated several mountain peaks for their triangular measurement. The primary mark means that the widest angle of view can be attained from the point. There are only five primary triangular markers in the northern Taiwan while the secondary and subordinate markers are many. Mt. Shizitoushan is one of the five. It was several decades ago when the marker was placed on the top and obstructive vegetation has long grown since then, yet the peak still offers a good command of view for the direction of Taipei.

Guard camp
Memorial stone (replica)
Climbing the ladder
The mountain played an important role twice in the history of early Japanese occupation era (1895 - 1945); first in the anti-Japanese fight by Chinese people and territorial conflict with Taiya aborigine tribes (泰雅族).  The geology and its very steep slope provided a good defensive advantage to anti-Japanese insurgents. They camped on the mountain and fought their last fight. After the anti-Japanese movements were quelled around the turn of the century, the government put more efforts in development of Taiwan's resources. One of the important products of the time was camphor made from camphor trees. The more camphor trees were planted on mountains and more people came in for production of camphor, the more territorial disputes happened.  Aboriginal people had long lived in the mountains and hunt for plays for centuries. The new comers in their eyes were invaders to their land and they of course defended the land and killed those new comers. As the development of mountain resources advanced, the government set up a border (隘勇線) between the aboriginal territory and the rest. Guard camps were established along the border line and Mt. Shizitoushan had an important station near its top. Ruins of these historic sites remain around the top of the mountain.

Panorama view from the deck above the first ladder
The hiking to Mt. Shizitoushan is an easy one particularly after the local government improved the trails and associated facilities a few years ago. A free bus F707 shuttles between the Xindian district office and the trail entrance on weekends. Five of us gathered in front of the district office around 8:10 and take a 8:30 service. The bus has only a maximum capacity of twenty passengers and no standing is allowed on the hilly road up to the trail entrance. You would better get there earlier to make sure of your seat on the bus. When our bus comes on time, there are almost twenty passengers.  The bus crosses Xindian River and climbs the Xintan (新潭路) all the way to the highest point.

Another panorama view from the deck above the second ladder
Observation deck of highest point, many holes on the floor
A little after 9:00 we arrive at the trail entrance. There are a few cars parked around it. Under such nice weather many hikers love to come. At 9:15 we start climbing the wooden staircase that leads to a good hiking trail from its top.  There are a couple of steep climbs but the rest are moderate incline. In about twenty minutes we come to a flat field called Guanshiping (觀獅平, meaning viewing lion field). Red azalea flowers are in full bloom at the edge of the field. A massive volume of the peak is just in front of us. It represents a lion head. On the right of it a body of a lion lies with a trailing end called Shiwei (獅尾, meaning a lion tail). We have a good view of BigTaipei area from the observation deck built at the edge of the field.

Azalea flowers besides the trail
The very steep trail starts at the end of the field. It soon changes to an almost vertical wooden ladder. A boy of 7 or 8 years old is climbing just ahead of us. It looks precarious but once you start climbing it is pretty secured and just like climbing a normal ladder. We come to a small deck after the ladder climb where we have a good view of the mountains around us. The Guanshiping is now just at our foot. We go up two more ladders and keep ascending. A steep climb is now over and a good trail lies in front of us leading further up. We come to a big old camphor tree with an sign board at its side. It explains how important camphor trees were in the old days and all conflict with the aborigines started because of the camphor. We further go up and come to an observation deck of the highest point at 10:15. We have a break here as we have walked for an hour. The deck is rather in sad shape. Floor wood plates are broken at some spots and holes are open. It looks like no maintenance job being done for many years.

View from the highest point
Deck by the memorial stone
We head for our next point of interests after a few minutes of rest.  In two or three minutes we come to a junction and take left. As we go down azalea flowers are blooming on the side of trail. We go down for a matter of a few minutes and come to another deck where a memorial stone is placed. There are two stones, one original of 1903 and one replica made a few years ago. The original stone stands just at the edge of the place and its front faces a valley. It is difficult to read inscription on the front and I assume it it the reason why they made a replica. The memorial stone was elected to commemorate solders and policemen died on duty during the fights with aborigines.

Trail to the camp ruin
There is a trail going straight on the mountain ridge. This one leads to Mt. Xiongkongshan (熊空山) of Sanxia (三峽). We just take right and go down to a valley. It is rather slippery and aiding ropes are affixed. We come down to the bottom. There is no water today but this is where solders of the camp above took water in the past. We then go up a little and come to a site of old camp ruin. There used to be a camp house for solders to guard the border line. Now only stone walls remain. The whole ruin is now under a permanent protective roof built a few years ago by the local government. I ponder how those solders felt when they were alone here in a remote mountain and faced a constant threat of attack from aborigines.

Trench site
There are two trails from the ruin. One on the right leads to the top of the mountain and other going on the mountain side to the bandit cave. We take right one to go up. In a few minutes we come to a trail that goes on the top ridge of the mountain. There is another trail going down. We take it to down to an old well. It is said that this well of a 6 meters deep served those anti-Japanese fighters when they hid themselves up here almost 120 years ago. We go back up to the upper trail and pass by the trench site where insurgents fought their last war. Soon we reach the primary triangular marker at 10:49. Now it is surrounded with tall trees and you cannot have a view from this point.  There is a observation deck built at the side of a cliff. You can have a nice view from there.

The primary triangular marker 
Small bandit cave
We start descending on a ridge trail. We take left on on the first junction and right on the second. We come down to the small bandit cave. The small cave is said to have accommodated insurgents. Whey it is called bandit cave is that the insurgents later had to rob food and money from local residents after they were chased up here by the government forces and had no food and supply. We further go down and take left turn to Guanyindong (觀音洞).  This is a huge overhang rock and there are two small Buddhist statutes under it. People still come here and pray for god. Time is 11:10 and we have a break.

Guanyin dong cave
Big bandit cave
After 15 minutes of rest we resume our walk to the next point of interest, the big bandit cave. This cave is much bigger than the small one. It looks big enough to hold several people in it. The board next to the cave says that they placed a machine gun on the top of this cave to defend themselves. This is the last historical site today. We go down to Shiwei. We pass by a geologically interesting site, onion ring formation. Rocks of round layers just like onions are visible on the trail surface.  We walk down on a wide dirt road and come to Shiwei at 11:47.

Trail back to Guanshiping




We start on a paved road down and come to another trail entrance. A public toilet is just by the entrance. This trail goes along the side of the mountain and back to Guanshiping. It is said to be an old trail but wooden steps were built on it and does not look like an old trail. Some step plates are rotten and dangerous to step on. It goes up a while and starts little ups and downs. At 12:25 we are back at Guanshiping. We have completed a round trip earlier than I originally planned. The next F707 bus down the mountain leaves 13:50. We still have an hour and a half for it. We have a good long rest here and lunch. A little before 13:00 we start the final section of our hike today.  Just less than 15 minutes we are back at the trail entrance. We wait for the bus and it shows up on time. We are back at the district office by 14:20.

Going back to the trail entrance
We walked for four hours including breaks to cover approximately five kilometers. This hike was an easy one while they learned what the local history was like a century ago. This kind of hiking gives you another perspective, not just physically satisfying. I hope that more hikers find history and geography of the place you hike interesting. Mt. Shizitoushan is really rich in history and has challenging trails while you can finish in a matter of four hours. This route is recommended for all hikers. The trail and physical requirement is both level 2.

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