For this second part I hiked a couple of trails starting from Houtong. One passed through an abandoned gold mining village and the other followed a historic path to Mudan.
Every since reading this article I've wanted to head up here. I walked this with a visiting friend on a searingly hot and humid April day. There isn't much in the way of shade on this trail so I'd recommend saving it for cloud. The trail is also much easier from the Jiufen side but I wanted to finish in a particular teahouse.
Both the Dacukeng and Jinzibei hikes start from the same side road in Houtong; a village famous for its cats. Like many people I can see cats in every town and village, so I've always been more interested in Houtong's mining history. I'll write about that soon now I've explored it some more.
Exit the station and cross the old coal bridge, turning left at the mine tunnel. There are signs for Houtong Shrine but it's up a steep hill and not really worth a look.
Head along the road until you come to signs for the Jinzibei Trail. You'll pass a half abandoned school on the left. The Dacukeng trail is signposted but it is in Chinese. Look for '大粗坑' . It means 'large pit'. The walk up a tarmacked road here is long but peaceful aside from the odd territorial dog.
Eventually you'll come to a long stone house besides which the trail begins. If you cross the bridge to the right the road climbs to the mouth of a small, sealed coal mine.
The trail is steep but very pretty. We took plenty of breaks from the heat and at one point used a small stream to cool off.
I was ahead a little as we entered the old village and suddenly I was surrounded by six noisy and excited dogs.
I was slightly nervous at first but someone emerged from a nearby building and calmed all of them except the large tan-colored pack leader. That dog never really warmed to us. They are strays but they apparently listen to the villagers. I don't think it would be wise to do an evening hike here though as packs are normally more aggressive then.
The man was one of the former villagers. He explained he drove from Keelung each day to take care of the grounds. A few former villagers take care of the buildings and the small temple.
Dacukeng sits in an isolated spot a lot higher up the mountain than I thought it would be. Its inhabitants were miners and farmers and the community was large enough to support a small school. Looking on the excellent Wolf Shephard blog there are a few old gold mine tunnels not terribly far away and a narrow coal or gold tunnel that I missed on the trail itself. Most are slots in the cliffs and are only wide enough for a crouching adult.
The village reached its peak in the 1960's and 70's. It was extremely prosperous but as mining became easier with technology in other countries the whole area declined. Apart from the school, temple, and a roofless two floor house, the other buildings in the village are just overgrown walls. I had a hard time believing it was big enough to support a school but I expect many structures are just lost in the forest.
After the village the trail climbs a staircase suspended in the sky. It's an odd looking construction but the views back across the valley are great.
At the trail end turn left onto the main Jiufen to Mudan road and head past Little Jingua Outcrop. On weekends this road is probably unpleasant to walk along but it was quiet on a Monday. You'll eventually come to the start of the Caoshan Defense Road and a large viewing area. All of the walks in Part 1 (and soon part 3) can be reached from this road. Alternatively head down a steep trail next to a wide viewing area and into the dense alleys above Jiufen Old Street.
Jinzibei (Golden Stele) Trail
Stele is not a word I'd come across before I moved here. It's basically an inscribed stone tablet usually found in temples. The golden stele was inscribed in 1867 by General Liu-Ming-deng. He was something of a fan of inscriptions as his work is also all over the Caoling Trail. It was covered in gold leaf and surrounded by carvings. It sits near the top of this historic trail. To reach it there are a lot of steps through a beautiful dense forest followed by an easier dirt trail, and then down more steps.
At several points I heard barking deer near the trail but sadly I didn't see any. It's not a particularly long or difficult trail. I finished it in about 90 minutes while Dacukeng took about 2 hours. It would be possible to combine these two though I'd recommend starting from Jiufen.
I'm sure there are some excellent views from the top but on my trip it was in a cloud. This did add its own silent beauty however. At the highest point there is a small pavilion with a shrine, another stele, and a historic flagpole stone.
This stele requests that people do not cut down the trees by the route so travelers can enjoy shade. It dates from 1851, making it some of Taiwan's oldest environmental protection literature.
The trail starts from the same road in Houtong as the Dacukeng Trail above and is well-signposted. It ends in Mudan Village about 2km from the train station. A lot of the walks in Part 1 involve Mudan, though it would be tough to combine this with one of those trails in a single day. Check the Hidden Taiwan Map for an idea of the routes.