This route was a bit of a dice roll. I’d poured over it on Google Earth, on the GSI maps and using Open Cycle Map; it looked like it’d go, but, given that Hokkaido vegetation grows pretty dense I wouldn’t know until I got there. It’s a loop and so it was 50:50 as to which way I went. In the end the clockwise option that I took was by far the best because you end up going down through a muddy-boggy-creek rather than up.
The route starts about 7km up Route 32 which connects Kombu (昆布) to Okishi (大岸) on the coast of Uchiura Bay (内浦湾). You’ll be on gravel almost immediately and the most steep climbing of the whole loop comes in the first few km. There’s a small cabin, that looks habitable, on the left at around 3.4km and then about 4 corners later is one of the highlights of the trip, a cathedral like mountain lodge that is slowly returning to nature.
The lodge is a good 25m long and probably 6 meters high. Steep roofed with angular eves. It’s been well designed to shed snow as best it can, but out here in the Hokkaido Wilds, any unkempt building will suffer the same fate. I wasn’t game enough to explore the building on my own; it will be explored on future expeditions for sure. It’s well on it’s way to collapse to please approach with the utmost of care. If I had to date it I’d say it was probably abandoned in the late 1990s. The building is not on the topo map but there’s a nearby radio mast (marked on the GSI map), street lights and other amenities that indicate that it was probably a popular place back in the day.
The lodge building, along with several other structures and significant earth works are visible on the ~1976 series ortho-photo from GSI.
If you’ve got any information on this history of this lodge or the area then we’d absolutely love to know about it in the comments below.
Carrying on up the track there are roads that branch of both left and right. These all deserve some future exploration with one of them potentially running East all the way across to Makkari-mura (真狩村) at the foot of Yōtei-zan (羊蹄山). There’s a chain across the track at this point but the road beyond was still well maintained and the entire loop had been mowed or trimmed in recent weeks. Big thanks to the Rankoshi Town (蘭越町) administration for this and long may it carry-on. My property tax Yen hard at work!
The gradient plateaus at about the 8km mark as you weave and wend your way across the ridge that runs down from Mt Konbu itself. A sharp right hand corner at at 10.3km marks the start of the downhill proper and you should be able to run almost pedaling free for the next 4 or 5km. The track through here is mainly grass and moss so it’s very pretty but probably also a bit treacherous if you jump on the brakes too hard.
All along the road there are what appear to be for-sale signs for plots of land. Again, vintage unknown but they look in reasonably good order so if you’re in the market for a little slice of paradise…?
I hear the skiing and snowmobiling is good too.
At the 12km mark you’ll find that a lovely mountain spring has spring and decided to make it’s course directly down the road. Expect to get filthy through here. The road moves away from the stream and then at about 15km there’s an obvious side road into a stream crossing on the left. I chose to wash by bike, my shoes and my-self at this point. From here it’s an easy roll on down to Route 32 (the obvious sealed road) where you’ll turn right and ride back down to the car.