Kate Dernocoeur

Kate Dernocoeur

Dec 072018
 

Shades of blue: Yufu-dake on a sunny day from far away

The mountain taunts us from a distance

As I huffed and puffed my way up Yufu-dake, a beautiful notched mountain just south of the Kunisaki Peninsula on Kyushu (Japan) recently, the memory of what it takes to climb a mountain flooded back to me.

Yufu-dake isn’t large, by world standards—just 1583m/5,193 feet. It’s a straight-forward walk-up, across gorgeous grassy fields from the pass at the grand altitude of 750m/2,460ft where we started, through hardwood and cedar/cypress forests to the upper pass. There, we scrambled up stone steps and boulders to ascend the final few hundred vertical feet to the taller summit.

Yufu-dake from the town of Yufu-in, the day before our climb

Off we go!

We joined a few other climbers at the top for photos and a quick lunch. I enjoyed a rice ball with tuna, wrapped inside a sheet of green, crispy nori (seaweed), plus a juicy mandarin orange. The added “spice” of eating on a mountaintop made it even better. On a mountain, everything tends to taste divine.

View from the pass

It was (by far) not my first mountain. Once upon a time, I fancied myself quite the mountaineer, knocking off 14-ers and other smaller mountains in Colorado, and even trying my hand on some minor Himalayan peaks (epic fail, but that’s another story) along with a couple of 18,000-foot passes. But Yufu-dake was the first opportunity I’d had in many years to remember the effort, the steadiness and patience, the strength and perseverance it takes to make my way with my own gumption and power to the top of a mountain.

I loved it.

It was the first cloudy day of the trip, but we could see Yufu-in far below. Some of us walked all the way back to town after the climb!

The final few hundred feet were a scramble

Clouds and wind rose up on the way back down to the pass

One reason I haven’t physically climbed a mountain in awhile stems from life circumstances (a busy life in the non-vertical Midwest among them) peppered by feeling that I have been climbing other, metaphorical mountains to achieve different dreams. I believe that this is just fine. In fact, I want to imagine that I’ll always have some sort of mountain to climb in my life. Goals are important, and it always feels good to achieve them.

I believe that having something to move forward to—that next mountain—is a good idea, not in a helter-skelter way, but more importantly, with clear deliberation and decent planning. I also believe in taking time to consciously appreciate the opportunities life throws at me (even when these “opportunities” are decidedly not fun in the moment).

The autumn colors on the walk down were very lovely

Yufu-dake reminded me, though, of the raw power of a real, actual mountain to invoke almost holy feelings of awe. Glimpses of it tantalized our group as we hiked at a distance from it for twelve days on the Kunisake Peninsula. It often offered up its beautiful notched profile across the miles. Spending a day climbing its flanks and, later, walking all the way back to town (adding more miles than simply going back to the pass where we set out), felt like coming home.

My much-loved boots were retired after the climb, in style

What’s your mountain? Is it challenging you? And have you thanked it for the ups and the downs of it today?

Nov 192018
 

Our guide, Mario Anton from WalkJapan, shows us the way, using this roadside map of the peninsula

The job of leading our merry band of thirteen for about 55 miles through the mysteries and wilds of Japan’s Kunisaki Peninsula fell to a remarkable young man, Mario. His way of getting us going after stops along the way was this lovely phrase: “Ikimasho!” (Japanese for “Let’s go!”) Continue reading »

Nov 022018
 

A place such as Ushuaia tantalizes us map-addicts. It’s such a delicious name, rivaling others such as Addis Ababa, Ulaanbaatar, Kalamazoo. And it’s in such an end-of-the-world place, too! There’s just something special about places that crowd the edges the way Ushuaia does.

Docking at “Puerto Ushuaia” after returning from Antarctica

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Oct 192018
 

My early days of adventure travel were bolstered by slim travel volumes, such as those from Lonely Planet. Among the best of my resources was the thin tome, “Southeast Asia on a Shoestring.” The finest travel advice, though, came from a friend just before Jim & I set out for our year of wandering: “Tips from other travelers are like dancing lessons from the gods.”


Indeed. At the hostels we frequented in those days, we compared notes with people traveling in the opposite direction. The result was fresh word-of-mouth insights and important travel tips, and often, new friends. I miss that serendipity. Continue reading »

Oct 052018
 

[The Generally Write blog has suffered lately, I’m sorry to say. I have been traveling a lot in the past couple of months, including trips overseas. The good news: stay tuned for lots of travel/adventure entries! To make up for lost time, I thought this essay from 2009 might help explain the feelings of re-entry common to anyone suffering jetlag. It was originally published in the online journal, Airplane Reading, which can be found at www.airplanereading.org]

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The Adventure Juggling Act

 Adventure, Generally Write, Travel  Comments Off on The Adventure Juggling Act
Aug 222018
 

Adventures are all about challenging myself to step beyond the everydayness of daily life and finding that which can teach me something new. It begins, I suppose, by taking on the attitude that life itself—even that which appears to be normal or routine—is always a challenge, even without the add-on of going somewhere. Just getting out of bed is a new adventure, if you ask me.

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Antarctic Seals

 Generally Write  Comments Off on Antarctic Seals
Jun 112018
 

Being at the tip of Antarctica brought about unusual wildlife viewing opportunities. I’m more accustomed to watching out for land-based critters in my travels. In Antarctica (the only continent without an indigenous human population), evolution still resulted in many “locals,” but they are mostly in the water. Even penguins, who go ashore to hatch and raise their chicks, spend much (maybe most) of their time in the water. Here, a good pair of binoculars and time spent studying the surface of the water and icebergs were necessary for success.

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May 042018
 

As mentioned in the previous blog post, ice is the most prominent feature in Antarctica. No surprise, considering that the continent is covered with it. Add to that the ice shelves and sea ice that greatly enlarge its area in winter.

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