“We’ll have two cars, so that will make the shuttle convenient,” Saoka reasoned.
In the end, Haidee’s knee was giving her grief on that weekend, so she volunteered not to hike on the Sunday and dropped us all off at the remote Pinneshiri trailhead.
This was somewhat of a special hike, as Geri, a regular adventure buddy previously, was visiting from the UK. She was back in Hokkaido for a few weeks, after moving back to the UK a few years ago. It felt like good old times. The last time we’d hiked with Geri was the Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse in August 2021.
From the Pinneshiri trailhead, the trail started out in forest with a variety of plants and trees. At this point the trail was well defined and wide in most places.
The trail soon broke through the treeline and we found ourselves on a steep slope covered with alpine plants, the such of which I’d usually associate with much higher altitudes; we were only at around 700m.
For the next hour or so, we found ourselves walking along a narrow trail on the exposed, treeless ridgeline for about half of the distance between Pinneshiri and Yoshida-dake. Views were stellar, and we were appreciative of the very mild weather. Had the normal Hidaka Range winds been blowing, we would have been very exposed.
Before we arrived at Yoshida-dake, we again dropped below the treeline, and spent some time walking through gorgeous sasa bamboo-grass fields. At just over shin-height, the areas looked as though they’d been carefully cultivated. Out of the sasa ‘lawns’ grew white birch shirakaba trees, contrasting against the green.
We were just under half way through the hike, and already we’d experienced a great deal of diversity in plant life.
Just as we’d had our fill of the sasa fields, we were spat out of the thickets and into a new landscape. This one was defined by naked rocky outcrops and more high alpine vegetation – despite the relatively low altitude. The trail was also more defined and maintained here. Ropes laid along the ground framed the trail, keeping hikers within the bounds of the trail.
At the junction of the Yoshida-dake trail – a short 2-minute detour off the main trail – we saw our first evidence of the Apoi-dake Geopark infrastructure. A well-built sign informed us of the characteristics of Yoshida-dake. An outcrop of rock dotted with peridotite, apparently.
The short hike from Yoshida-dake to the summit of Apoi-dake again felt like a completely different world. Rocky outcrops got rockier. Views got more impressive, now giving us glimpses of the vast Pacific Ocean to the south.
After around five hours hiking without seeing any other hikers than our group, the summit of Apoi-dake was somewhat of a shock. The broad summit was clearly well-trafficked by regular hikers, and today was no exception. There were at least five other parties lounging at the summit, taking photos and eating lunch.
We did the same.
We’d chosen to do the full traverse from north to south, because this would allow us less overall climbing. Now it was time for us to make the final 700m descent down to the Apoi-dake trailhead.
We were now passing ascending hikers as we descended, many in light clothing, some in jeans and t-shirts. The views of the Pacific Ocean were like the icing on the cake of a beautifully varied hike.
At around the 5th Station Hut, we left the treeline behind and spend the rest of the descent enveloped in beautifully shady trees. Up to this point, the hike had been mostly dry, with no streams or water sources. The trail was now wet with water seeping from the hillside, with small streams here and there.
Being late in the season, Saoka was pointing out all the interesting mushrooms she noticed. Mushroom identification is her newest thing.
As we were just emerging from the forest, we saw Haidee hiking up towards us.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” I said, happy to see that our driver for the day had made it safely to pick us up.
“I was just about to hike up to see you guys,” she said.
We all walked to the trailhead where we scrubbed our muddy boots and then headed straight to Apoi-sanso Onsen for a soak.
Quite possibly one of the most varied and interesting hikes I’ve done in Hokkaido so far.