Yesterday saw the beginning of a 50-day trek along the foothills of Taiwan's mountain ranges in a project involving 100s of people that aims to promote the establishment of a national trails network across the island. The team, led by freelance guide and writer Wu Yuan-ho (
The Taiwan Green Trails Trek (
"This year it fitted in very well with our plans to promote a National Trails Network," said Weng Li-hsin (
National trails network
The Forestry Bureau envisages something similar to the Appalachian Trail in the US or the Milford Sound Trail in New Zealand that are accessible for families and others who wish to enjoy the beauty of nature without kitting up for survival in the wild.
Long treks along the Central Mountain Range have long been one of the endurance events of Taiwan's mountaineering community, with arduous and often dangerous ridge walks garnering much publicity.
"The high mountains get all the publicity, but they are inherently not that interesting. They are devoid of cultural relics and their natural environment is much less rich than mountains at lower elevations," Wu said.
"These trails, at lower elevations, are rich with reminders of Taiwan's Aboriginal history and also the Japanese occupation," Wu said, referring to the extensive exploitation of mines and forest resources during the colonial period. "There is simply much, much more to see. The flora and fauna is also much more plentiful and diverse. Walking these trails you might even get the chance to see some of Taiwan's wild animals," Wu said, "A rare treat in over-crowded Taiwan."
The conquest of Taiwan's peaks that are over 3,000m has long been a priority with the local mountain climbing community and, ironically, the trails that serve these peaks are now relatively well developed. The trail up Jade Mountain is a case in point, carrying as it does hundreds of people every week, so many in fact that quotas of 90 to 150 people have been imposed to reduce environmental impact.
During the peak season, these quotas are generally full, said a spokesperson for the Yushan National Park, adding that for the month of June, 3,380 people registered at the Tatachia check point in preparation for climbing Yushan. Yushan will be one of the highest points reached along the route.
Trails in the foothills of big mountains such as Yushan are often less well maintained and vegetation at lower altitudes means that after only a year or so, a trail may become unrecognizable to anyone but professional outdoorsmen armed with maps and other written sources. This is also part of the allure of such a trip and highlights the dilemma of opening up the trails.