Having held my interest for a while, Haidee and I headed out from Chitose late in the morning to try out riding this dead-straight forestry road. Being our first time to cycle uphill from Chitose to Lake Shikotsu via the dirt roads, it would prove to be a little tiring. Like it’s more curvy brother to the north, the Kita Go-Jo straight road was ‘paved’ with what appeared to be railway-grade gravel. Real tooth-filling-rattling stuff. And it sure was straight.
Such was the deadpan straightness of the road that I only took one photo of the ride on gravel. “I’m pretty much over this,” was Haidee’s general view of the route. I was inclined to agree, thinking that this route would be amazing if going the other way. In the opposite direction it would be a fairly even downhill gradient, and with some big, soft tires, it would be a very fast ride.
Our ultimate destination was the Lake Shikotsu township, on the shores of Lake Shikotsu, the large caldera lake west of Chitose City proper (but still within the city limits). Once we hit the Chitose-Lake Shikotsu cycleway, we first pumped our tires up back to pavement-pressures. The PostPump that comes standard with the Tern folding bikes made short work of this.
From there we headed straight to Lake Shikotsu township, arriving just before it started a steady light rain.
Today was the Lake Shikotsu festival. Celebrated with a generous helping of lake-caught sockeye salmon (introduced to the lake many years ago) cooked over hot coals. Delicious.
This was followed up by coffee at the Log Bear Coffee House, run by the effervescent Hideyuki Kikkawa. He roasts his own coffee in his kitchen out the back of the cafe, in a home made LPG gas burner coffee roaster.
Interestingly for us, Mr. Kikkawa, who also runs the Lake Shikotsu Youth Hostel, mentioned that it is possible to use the youth hostel’s hotspring baths (onsen) in the evening, even if you’re not staying there. “Other onsen in Shikotsu-ko recirculate their hot water,” he said.
“Our onsen is never recirculated, it is always fresh. And the spring water quality is very good for the skin,” he boasted, lightly drawing his hand across the skin of his inner and upper arm. Lightly pinching the soft skin hanging under his outstretched upper arm, he said “see look, it makes you nice and soft!” After which he let out his hilarious full-bellied laugh.
This is to say, we had thought that all onsen in Lake Shikotsu shut their doors to day visitors after around 4pm. This new info means that even when camping, it is possible to have a soak in the evening.
We headed off back towards Chitose City proper via the paved cycle path around 2pm. Since the going was easy and the gradient downhill, we felt happy to drop in on some attractions we’d not been to so far, such as the turn-of-the-century Chitose hydro electric station, and a sockeye salmon hatchery.
The Chitose hydro electric station (location here), built in 1910 was perhaps the most surprising. We’d not known it had existed until today, despite being on the edge of a very impressive valley to the north.
The power station mainly supplies the Oji Paper Corporation’s paper factories in nearby Tomakomai City, and has been doing so since the power station was built. The water from the power station comes from Lake Shikotsu, via the Chitose River, and has a head of around 150m. Definitely worth a look if you’re heading through the area.
The other attraction was the sockeye salmon hatchery (location here). Fishes on their way to being skewered and cooked up to a delightful treat. From there it was downhill all the way home to Chitose, ending a great day out.