In celebration of my 57th birthday in October 2001, I hiked up Mount Asama,
an active volcano in central Japan. Mieko declined an invitation to join the festivities.
The trail started out like a rain forest.
Then it opened up into a long valley with alpine vegetation.
There was adequate warning along the way.
In the Clouds
It was another mile up to the tree line.
Soon all signs of vegetation disappeared. The terrain looked like the surface of the moon.
Into Thin Air
At 2500 meters the bag of potato chips that I had purchased in Tokyo at sea level
had expanded out to look like a sumo wrestler.
I started what I thought would be a thirty-minute circumnavigation of the rim of the crater,
but turned back after encountering sulfur fumes that burned my eyes and throat. On
September 2, 2004, the mountain erupted again after being quiet for over twenty years,
spewing out 200,000 tons of volcanic ash. The surrounding area is again off limits to
hikers, and may be so for several years.
The best part of the trip was a hot spring bath on the way down the mountain.