Notes from the field: decision points on the Four Beasts trail

decision points

Two magnificent hikes up Jiuwufeng this weekend. While I wouldn’t say that I actually flew up the mountainside, I made the best times I’ve ever recorded of around thirty-five minutes from the Four Beasts entrance to the summit. Perhaps Malcolm Gladwell is right about his ten thousand hours theory – at least when it’s applied to activities like hiking that require discipline and determination rather than any innate talent. I’m yet to be convinced that it is equally valid for more ethereal pursuits like writing.

On the trail this morning I found myself thinking about how my critical decision points along it have changed. In the first half of the year, I would always debate whether to continue up to the top of Jiuwufeng or turn right and skirt the hillside past a couple of charming little temples to either Tiger or Leopard Mountain. These days, I go right past it with barely a thought and head straight up to the summit of Jiuwufeng.

decision points

The summit has become my new decision point, when I have to choose whether to go on to Elephant Mountain or go back the way I came. Since there isn’t too much difference in the distances between the two routes, this decision point is nowhere near as significant the previous one half-way up the hillside. Most weekends, therefore, I split the difference by taking one route on Saturday and the other on Sunday. The stakes simply aren’t high enough to merit any additional effort to make the “right” decision.

My next major decision point is looming as the fall approaches. Do I stick to what has now become my Four Beasts comfort zone or do I opt towards longer and tougher challenges outside Taipei? For me the key item of contention is the longer travel time that would be required to, for example, get to Teapot Mountain or Yangmingshan.

Probably the best solution is to start small with a couple of trips out of the big bad city every month to see how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the pleasures of Jiuwufeng.

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