November 2, 2014.
Fuji Mountain Trail from Rd. > summit and back
12.2 miles | 2100′ ele. gain | 4.5 hours | Photos
I found an opportunity to get out for a solo adventure so I grabbed it. Daylight Savings Time even gave me an extra hour of sleep so I could take off even earlier than I normally would. Early starts make me happy.
When I pulled off highway 58 onto the road that would lead me to the trailhead, I drove straight out of fall and right into winter. The ground was coated in a thin layer of snow that must have recently fallen. The air was justifiably cold, and the sun was hidden behind a thick layer of gray clouds.
The Fuji Mountain trail took off uphill from the get-go. It was an excellent way to help raise my body temperature on this chilly day. The forest felt exceptionally quiet, minus the crunching and sliding noises coming from my feet. Even the birds were still asleep; they must have missed the memo about the time shift.
I walked through one picturesque scene after the next. Tree limbs bowed under the weight of new snow. There were no human footprints anywhere, as expected. I’d have this amazing day all to myself. As the trail began a long, arcing traverse of the mountain on its way to the summit, the sun began to poke through the cloak of clouds. New light reflected off the snow. The trees became shorter, the trail rockier, and I knew I had to be close.
Atop Fuji Mountain, there was a gallery of rime sculpture. Knobby ice jutted out from every surface of every tree, shrub and rock. It was suddenly breezy, as the exposed area did not have as much tree cover as the forested trail. I layered up and hunkered down for a quick lunch.
The clouds hiding Diamond Peak split for a brief moment, then engulfed the craggy summit once again. Then, they settled in for good. I waited several more minutes to see if the weather would change for the better, but it was clear that the best part of the day was now behind me. I packed up and headed down.
Soon after I saw two men walking up the trail in my direction. I was surprised to see them, and they were surprised to have seen my tracks! They were hiking in from the upper trailhead about a mile away, and were planning to hang out on top for a while. Sounded like a cold and disappointing plan. It was novel to see so many footprints in the snow, but they quickly disappeared and I was back to retracing my own tracks back to the car.
The air temperature was rising, sending pellets of melting snow down the back of my jacket. What was once a lovely winter wonderland was becoming a sloppy, muddy mess. The forest turned from white to brown the closer I got to the road. But the melting snow revealed a variety of plants, fungi and lichen that I didn’t notice just a few hours before. It’s amazing how much the character of a trail can change in the course of a day.
All day I’d passed junctions with other trails marked for winter travel with blue diamonds and signs. This area will make a delightful snowshoe getaway in just a few weeks. While I’ve had lots of experience snowshoeing a couple of miles away, this is all new territory for me. I know now that Fuji Mountain and the surrounding areas have lots more adventures in store.