Monday, August 21, 2006

A day in the clouds

Good weekend, over too quickly as usual. On Sunday, in the midst of some shopping for a certain someone who is getting married soon, we decided to pop in to the movie theater and take in the new Superman movie.

***Quick side note here. As I typed the sentence above, I flashed to one of our lessons on phrasal verbs due to my use of "pop in" and "take in". I think I've been teaching too long... a year ago, I didn't even know what a phrasal verb was! I yearn for those days!***

We hadn't really planned on seeing it, but the heat outside made a cool movie theater a rather welcoming location to spend a couple of hours. The movie was pretty good, I enjoyed watching this newbie actor do such a good job at the dual characters he has to play. Clark Kent is such a bumbling idiot compared to Superman, it's nice to see he did a good job at it. The storyline is predictable of course, as most of Superman movies are. Start with Lex and an evil plot, add some kryptonite and alien technology and bake for 20 minutes... out comes a Superman movie... Lex is of course played magnificently by Kevin Spacey. After the movie and dinner, headed back home where low and behold the first Superman movie was playing... watched most of that and turned in.

This morning, we headed over to City Hall to pick up the paperwork for the legal segment of our marriage. I understand the process is pretty much walking in with the papers filled out and signed by witnesses, handing them over and receiving a receipt of some kind... just bureaucracy really, but the big show will be done in Canada at some point in the future. Next week, I'll be making a trip out to Tokyo and the Canadian Embassy to pick up some more paperwork.

Following this stop, we headed into the hills once more. Looking back at the last 2 months, we've spent a lot of time in the mountains... whether it be Nikko, Nasu or Nagano... good place to spend a hot day though. Today's destination was lake Chuzenji, where I hadn't been since last Fall. As we climbed the switchbacks of irohazaka, we saw that the clouds were hanging low today, and ended up driving right into them at an altitude of about 1100 meters. Not fog, actual clouds... though the two are indistinguishable when you're driving through them. Half of the lake was covered by one big white puff, couldn't see much at all.

We stopped at a boathouse along the shore of the lake once we saw that half of it was mostly clear. Lovely view of the cloudy mountains with fishing boats zipping in and out of the mist.

The boathouse we stopped at had some kayaks laid out next to it... not sure if they'd just come back from a paddle or if they were getting ready to head on out.

While walking around, we encountered a couple of critters who let us get pretty close. This poor guy had most of his right wing clipped, but didn't seem to let it bother him.

There is an abundance of dragonflies in this area, no doubt the reason why I wasn't bit by one mosquito today... and they aren't shy about where they land either... on my left hand for example.

After stretching our legs for a bit, we drove the rest of the way out to Senjogahara, a wetlands located beyond lake Chuzenji at 1400 meters from sea level. Popular hiking destination, beautiful flowers in the spring and early summer... and a great place for a walk when the heat is on down below.

We ended up doing a quick 6 or so km loop around the marshes on the plateau, most of which on well kept trails or elevated platforms so as to protect the flora. They even have a large section of the area fenced off with turnstile entrances to protect the plants from hungry deer. Part of the area is also off-limits to cars, and is served by a number of gas-electric low-emission buses... nice!

I thought this sign was pretty cool... reminds me of those out in the country back home... though they usually come complete with buckshot holes.

One of the major attractions for folks taking this hike is the view of Nantai-san and Akari-san, two peaks which tower over the area. Unfortunately for us, Nantai was playing hide and seek in the clouds all day, which probably explains why I've only gotten one glimpse of it from home since I moved in last June.

As we were walking along, we came upon this uprooted tree. I found the root system rather intriguing... it doesn't seem to dig down into the ground at all, preferring to spread out horizontally instead... interesting, but obviously not very stable seeing as this big boy was blown over in a storm some time ago.

And then, as we came around a bend, I stopped dead in my tracks. There was a deer munching on some leaves and grass a mere few meters from the trail. At first, I thought it'd run off for sure, but then realized it was acclimatized to people. It continued munching away as we stomped and whistled and tried to make it look up.

It did finally give us a nod as a loud walker trundled on behind us.

We ended up seeing about 4 more of these little guys around the fields here, including a fawn, no doubt born this season. Nice to see an area relatively untouched by the gods of concrete and construction. After a quick stop at Yumoto Onsen for the traditional (I think I've done it every time I've gone up to Chuzenji) foot bath, we headed back through torrential rains. Amazing how the weather can change in the mountains, from wet to dry to wet again, in the span of a mere couple of hundred meters.

For dinner, we headed out to Cafe de Blue, which has amazing bread before heading on home. And that's that, another weekend done.

On a camera related note, I am still right in love with the Canon S3 and am enjoying learning more as time goes by. I received a pack of goodies this week, in the form of a tripod, lensmate adaptor and some filters, makes my camera kit a little more complete, now I just need to get a bag that fits the camera with the adaptor on and I'll be all set.


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