Oregon’s capital has always been in Salem but the current building is not the first capitol. It makes sense with all the trees in Oregon that the capitol would be made out of wood, but as history has proven that is not always a wise move as fires has twice burned down the capitol building. The latest version was finished in the 1938. A more modern building the white marble building will hopefully last longer than it’s predecessors. We didn’t have much time to visit the Oregon State Capitol and it wasn’t open when we went. We did have a chance to walk around the area and found the neighborhood to be very nice. One one side is a little park with whimsical statues dedicated to music and on another side is Willamette college.
When California was part of Mexico, the capital of what was known as Alta California was in Monterey. In 1849 California declared itself a free and independent nation. At that time Sacramento drafted it’s first city charter. In 1850, when California became part of the United States, Sacramento was incorporated as the first city of the State of California.
Sacramento became the Capitol of California in 1854. There was a major flood in 1861 that forced the California legislative session to move to San Francisco for one session but that was temporary for the year. Things are always in flux in California. For a long time the governor lived in the Governor’s Palace and then he didn’t, and now he does again. Not to mention the fact that the Sacramento capitol has been the background of many historic moments such as the Black Panthers, the grape strike lead by Cesar Chavez, and the assassination attempt on President Ford.
Today the history of Sacramento continues. There are many things to do in Sacramento and see. Some of our favorite things to do is to visit the Railroad Museum and this last time we were at the capitol we just walked around the grounds to see all the many shops.
Merida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan, is the largest of the three cities in the world that share the same name. The original Merida is in Spain and there is another Merida in the Philippines. The Mexican city was founded in 1542 by three Spanish soldiers named Francisco de Montejo, which conquered the existing Mayan village of T’ho. Considering that the area was populated for at least 2,000 years before the Spanish arrival some say that Merida is the oldest continually inhabited city in the Americas. The city was used as a hub for conquering the entire Yucatan peninsula and is still the economic hub for the region today.
Besides it’s initial founding Merida grew in riches due to the production of henniquin, a strong fiber that once used in ship sails. One Calle Montejo, the street named after then founders, you can see mansion after mansion. These were primarily built in the late 18th and 19th century, when Merida had grown rich. The mansions are covered with a white lime based mortar which has given Merida the nickname of the “white city.” At one point it had the most millionaires in the world. This stopped in the early 1900s when synthetic materials were discovered. Today Calle Montejo is a great place to see some of the restored mansions, which many are now restaurants.
Speaking of food the Yucatan peninsula has its own very unique cuisine. Despite it’s unique food I did notice two prolific foreign invaders: Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Considering we have both of those readily available at home we skipped them in Merida. The first day we were in Merida we went to a place called La Chaya Maya. Some locals told is that it was too touristy and that we should not go (they wanted us to go to their uncle’s place), but we went anyway. We were glad that we went. The place was crowded but after only a five minute wait we got a seat. It was there that tried Chaya Juice, which is a drink made with a green leaf. Overall we found the local food to be varied and steeped in Mayan influence. Here are some of the things we tried:
Salbutes – Soft fried tortillas topped with turkey, avocados, and beans.
Panuchos – Like a soft mini tostada, where the tortilla is soft and filled with refried beans.
Papadazul – Mayan egg and cheese enchilladas topped with a pumpkin seed sauce.
Sopa de Limon – Lime Soup, usually has a chicken broth with lime and onions. Often served with tortilla chips.
Rellengo Negro (also known as Chilmole) – Turkey or chicken stew cooked in black paste sauce.
Queso Relleno – Ground Pork inside of a edam cheese ball served in a tomatillo sauce.
Poc Chuc – A Mayan version of boiled then grilled pork.
Breakfast was a very popular meal in Merida, more so than lunch, which is typically the biggest meal in the rest of Mexico. As such eggs and fresh fruit (which is considered dessert) was always available throughout the day.
Eating a good breakfast in Merida is important because Merida is a good jumping off point for many adventures. Besides visiting Merida itself which has a very impressive plaza, many museums (the Mayan Museum is world class), and shopping areas. There is several places of cultural interest within a one or two hour drive. While we were there we visited two Pueblo Magicos (Izamal and Valladolid), as well as we visited a cenote (underground pool) called Xcajum, and three archeological sites (Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and Kinich Kak Moo).
Getting there was easy. The airport is medium size and only about three miles from the downtown area. We like to travel from the Tijuana airport because the national airline rates are so much cheaper. Currently my favorite airline is Interjet (Volaris is cheaper but has less leg room). Taxis are cheap but we found Uber cheaper, although one thing you can do with a taxi easier than Uber is hire your own driver for the day. There is also public buses, but we didn’t use them because we were only there for a few days and didn’t have time to learn the schedules.
The hotel we stayed at was called the Hotel La Mision de Fray Diego. It was a very nice hotel, that used to be a convent. It had a beautiful mission decor with a little pool, nice bathroom, and a continental (fruit and bread) breakfast every day. The normal rate was $90 per night but we had a Groupon and paid $50 a night (pro tip: look for groupons before you go somewhere, even in Mexico).
Idaho became a state on July 3rd, 1890. Idaho has peculiar history on how it became a state and even more so on how Boise became it’s capitol. US history in Idaho starts with Lewis and Clark passing through the territory now known as Idaho in 1805. There was a bit of controversy with the ownership of the territory as both the United States and the United Kingdom both had claims on the area, though in 1846 the dispute was officially ended with the Oregon treaty, which made Idaho part of Oregon. But then, in 1848 Washington, Montana, and Wyoming got in a land battle with Oregon and started to declare Idaho as their own. This went on until 1853 when apparently Washington won and Idaho became part of Washington. Then gold was discovered in 1860 and Idaho was like “yeah right Washington, as if we are going to share with you!” Washington did not agree but Idaho means “land of many waters” and since Washington gets too much rain anyhow they let Idaho become it’s own territory in 1863 with Lewiston as it’s capitol. It is said that Abraham Lincoln had to personally intervene to make this happen, not sure if it is true but they have a lot of Lincoln stuff in the Idaho Capitol basement, and let’s face it, who doesn’t like Lincoln?!
That was all cool but the first territorial Governor, William Wallace took too to long to get to the capitol (Lewiston) and so another guy name named Caleb Lyon was named in his place. He was smarter than Wallace and he was like “forget going to Lewiston, I am from Boise, so the capitol is now in Boise.” The citizen’s of Idaho were like “Wait, what did you just say?!” and Lyon left the state so that he didn’t have to go to court on the matter. So that left Idaho with a guy named Clinton DeWhitt Smith who was appointed, but the stress of the job got to him and in seven months he literally killed himself by drinking on the job. So a guy named H.C. Gibson came along and revived the government long enough to “loan” himself the enter territorial treasury of $41,062. Meanwhile, Caleb Lyon, who previously left showed up again and said that he was still Governor and then walked away again, but this time he took with him $46,418.40 in Indian Affairs money that was allocated to the the Indian territories (and then he complained when said Indians tried to kill him). It was about this time a group of Idahoans were like “Enough!” so they went to California, used the printing presses in San Francisco, published a constitution and voted them all out by becoming a state (except the dead guy, he remained dead).
Today Idaho has a lot less controversy. Known as the “Gem State,” there are many mining operations in the state, but it is also known as the “Potato Capitol” due to the fact that 1/3 of all the potatoes consumed in the United States are grown within the state. Less known is that Idaho is also the “Lentil Capitol of the World” due to having the largest hops farms in the world.
The state is very big and there are a lot of open spaces where you will probably see more sheep, cows, and horses, than humans. While there we literally went to a town called the Middle of Nowhere. We saw only one human running a very small gas stop. The only other natives appeared to be horses, donkeys, llamas, and a very aggressive bird named the Snaggle Grouse (man was that a pain getting him out from under my car seat).
The state of Idaho values women’s rights. In addition to being one of the first states to give women the vote, the state seal was designed by a women in 1891. Be very careful however how you treat women in the state. Also be warned that there is a state law on the books that says it is a misdemeanor to give any women less than 50 pounds of sweets in the state of Idaho. You’d think that every male in the state would be in prison by now but they make it very easy to stay within the law with all the manifestations of sweet treats available such as chocolate bars, stroopwaffles, huckleberry, and Idaho Spuds that I found at the capitol.
In conclusion Idaho is definitely a unique place unto itself. Some say it is even “out of this world”, but that is a topic for a different blog post.
We collect National Park cancellation stamps when we travel within the USA. On the way out from Springfield, Ilinois Denise asked if I could get a quick stamp from the old railway station in Springfield.
I went to the railroad station and the door was closed but the hours on the door said they were open and so was the door so I let myself in. Once inside the historic depot I noticed no one was there so I walked briefly around the depot looking for the stamp and found it at the ticket booth. It was while I was getting the stamp ready I hear this voice…
“Hello”, said the voice.
“Hello,” I replied. Must be a park ranger I thought.
“How are you doing?”
“Good, I just came to get a stamp and then I will be on my way”
“I am going to miss you dearly.”
Wow, this place must not get many visitors.
“I am now on my way to Washington DC.”
What is this guy talking about?! I went to the next room from where I heard the voice. It was at that point that I came face to face with a video projection of an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln, giving Springfield a farewell speech from the station (sadly he never came back). And that is my story on how I had a conversation with Lincoln. I am happy to say Lincoln was a kind host and I was able to get my stamp and continue on my way.
Abraham Lincoln is an interesting character in history because he is so well loved that he is claimed by so many places. He was born in Hodgenville, KY in a simple log cabin, but as an adult he clearly made Springfield, Illinois his hometown.
In 1839, Springfield had become the new capital of Illinois. In 1842 Springfield was a growing city and was a perfect setting for Lincoln to set up a law practice. Him and Mary were not poor but they did not have a lot of money either. The story goes that when Lincoln arrived he asked the local shopkeeper how much bed sheets were and when he was told they were $17 he had to buy them on credit from his profits as lawyer.
Lincoln’s practice went well and he was soon able to pay off his debit and in 1843 for $1,500 he was able buy a house and a small plot of land. Lincoln’s home started out modest and as his prestidge grew so did the house. Mary Todd Lincoln employed help but she really liked to cook so she had a very nice stove (even though the kitchen itself was small). The highlight of the house was seeing Lincoln’s desk. I can only imagine all the idea he had there.
Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln never made it back to Springfield alive. After being assassinated, there was a very solemn funeral train back to Springfield in which Lincoln was laid in state at the capitol building and then at the Oak Ridge cemetery in a huge memorial tomb.
The Lincoln tomb is an impressive structure that features on the outside scenes from the civil war and on the inside impressive amounts of granite and marble. In the first room you will find the model sculpture that is featured at the Lincoln Monument in Washington DC. The dome in the first room is made of palladium which is supposedly one of the more durable metals on the planet. In the burial chamber you will find a big tombstone, which 10 ft. under is buried Abraham Lincoln. They had to bury Abraham Lincoln under 10 ft. of concrete to prevent grave robbers. Also in the burial chambers is the crypts of Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of Lincoln’s four sons, Edward, Willie, and Tad. There is a memorial to the eldest, Robert Todd Lincoln, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which is interesting because if you look close they made a mistake on his birth year and had to correct it (he was born in 1843). If the tomb looks bigger than it should be it is. It was meant to be a tomb big enough for all of the Lincoln family, but most of the Lincoln family chose to be buried elsewhere so they wouldn’t be overshadowed by President Lincoln’s memory.
As a kid growing up in Southern California I was no stranger entertainment. We are indeed the Entertainment Capital of the World. Radio, television, music, and film making, as well as the abundance of tourist and amusement attractions in the region, undoubtedly makes us the #1 entertainment place in the world, except for one thing, the stage.
To find the best musicals, the greatest musicals, there is only one place to go, and that is Broadway, New York City. They know, we know it, and if you ever go to a show on Broadway your pocketbook will know it.
Shows on Broadway are expensive. There are ways to try to mitigate. You can do what we did and try to find a show like Groundhog’s Day that is previews and rush it. That is when you go to the theater the day of the show you want to go to and see if there are any discounted tickets. There is a cost to that, in our case it cost us $119 dollars when we walked out during intermission when we discovered how much bad language can be crammed into a 4 minute song (it is a lot). It also means that you can you can find yourself 3 rows behind comedian Caroline Rhea. You just never know what is going to happen when you follow your dreams and perhaps that is why Broadway is so magical, because it is a not only a place of dreams, but it comes with a soundtrack.
Today (4/23/17), Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is opening on Broadway. It is amazing show. It brings in that magical mystical musical adventure that is Broadway. A mix of new and old songs, it brings new twist to the Roald Dahl classic. It is very different than both the 1971 Gene Wilder and 2005 Johnny Depp version.
It has the “Pure Imagination” song, it has some definite dark moments (when the oompa lumpas start singing you know something bad is going to go down), but it is unique, and they are my favorite part in the musical. How they do them is something you have to see for yourself.
As magical as seeing a show on Broadway was it was kind of eye opening. First of all the theaters are very close to each other, which is good because they are all in walking distance. The second was that they are all very small, or at least smaller than their Los Angeles counterparts. The term Broadway show does not necessarily mean that the show plays on Broadway, which is a street in New York, it more refers to how many seats the theater holds. If the theater has over 500 seats it is considered a Broadway show. The largest is the Gershwin Theater (currently playing Wicked) at 1,935 seats and the smallest is the Helen Hayes Theater (currently under renovation) at 597 seats. Compare that to the 2,703 seats at the Pantages and you notice the difference. The third thing was parking. At $38.01 an hour, you are not parking on Broadway. You are going to take public transportation in, which is fine because the streets.
I am very happy to have been able to have finished this experience for the list. Saying that however I am OK watching the new musicals preview at the Macy’s Thankgiving Day parade and waiting for the good ones to come out to Los Angeles.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
We were anxious the morning we were to go and visit the Statue of Liberty. We got to Battery Park very early, too early. Arriving at Clinton Castle Fort (which is also a national monument) we found the line where we needed to confirm our reservation tickets, but we told that we could not get in the line until 30 minutes prior to our start time. I wasn’t sure why this was, when we finally did get to the line we found out that your start time doesn’t really matter. The ferrys just constantly run and when you get to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island you are allowed to stay on each island as long as you want.
As soon as we got to Liberty Island we headed straight for the crown. You are not allowed to bring anything with you into the statue except a camera and one bottle of water. They have lockers you can rent for $5.00 at the gift store at the base of the statue.
Despite having gone through intense security before getting on the boat, to go to the statue you have to pass through security again. Inside the base of the statue, the first thing you see is the old torch, which is nice because from inside the statue, even at the crown, it is hard to see the torch. Not to mention the passageway up to the torch has been closed to visitors since 1916 when German spies blew up some ammunition and the shrapnel got lodged in the torch in what is now known as the “Black Tom” incident.
After climbing a lot of steps you get to the pedestal. The pedestal viewing area is very windy and cramped. There are a lot of people and it can sometimes be hard to get past them. From the pedestal you can get a good view of the base of the statue and see the old walls of what used to be Fort Wood, which was what was on the island before the statue.
Continuing upward in a very narrow (only one person can go at a time) spiral staircase, you get to the crown. There is very limited space at the top. When we went up there were two rangers keeping a watch on the statue and stairs. They were very informative and told us an interesting story about the real intentions of the statue.
Here is a video:
Going back down we got our backpacks once again out of the lockers. There are two gift stores at the island. The one at the base of the statue of liberty is very crowded, compared with the store at the landing with the food court, that has most of the same stuff (Denise said they had different postcards) and is less crowded.
AJ always enjoys doing the Junior Ranger program every time we go to a national park. It is a free activity and you get a cool badge for your adventure. The junior ranger program is much shorter than other junior ranger programs. We completed it rather quickly with the audio tour that is included with all tickets. The audio tour looks like a phone receiver with a lanyard and at different points you put in a number and the virtual guide explains what you are looking at. At the end of junior ranger program we got to meet ranger Louie, which was cool. He is one of three rangers that go up to the torch to make sure it is always lit (except for that one day, but that is another story).
From Liberty Island the ferries run every 30 minutes to both New York and Ellis Island.
This was #11 on my all time goals list. For the rest of the list please go to goaltravels.com
It was an expensive but the “Goraiko” (sunrise shot) was worth it.
Getting up to the top of Mt. Fuji was for me (John) a long and strange journey. 23 years ago I had been a California Youth Ambassador assigned to Japan. My job at the time was to promote California by going to different places in Japan. In the four months I was in Japan I went everywhere and everywhere I went was Mt. Fuji. On a clear day it dominates the Japanese skyline as it can be seen from almost anywhere on the main island and sometimes even on the smaller islands. As I traveled the land I saw Mt. Fuji over and over again. It seemed to call out to me and I remember starting to call it Fujisan (my friend Fuji). Even though I called Mt. Fuji my friend, it was a friend I didn’t really know and so I knew someday I would have to come back to visit.
On July 1st, AJ and myself (John) set out from Toyko to go and climb Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji is 3,776 meters high, which comes out to about 12,389 ft. tall (half the size of Mt. Everest). It took us 24 hrs. to reach the top from the 5th station (the tallest point you can get to by bus). Our goal was to see the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji, which we did on July 2nd, 2016.
Even though we trained for three months, we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, even after summiting we weren’t quite sure what we had done. Despite that, looking into the rising sun struggling to break free from the clouds we knew instinctively that we had done something significant.
The beginning of our hike up to Mt. Fuji started at Shinjuku station in Tokyo. Transporting over 3 million passengers per day, Shinkjuku station is registered by Guinness World Records as the busiest transportation hub in the world. To give you a hint as to how big this station is, it has 51 railway lines that cross it. The bus station is on the 4th floor. It is amazing in itself to see how they drive these giant highway buses in some very tight corridors. It had already been a busy morning, since Denise and I had been to the Tsukiji fish market earlier in the morning. AJ and I arrived at the Shinjuku station at about 8 a.m. It took us awhile to find the right platform, but thanks to a tourist information center on the first floor we found our way to the bus ticket sales counter. I had prepared the day before by having the concierge service write down “I would like one adult and one child ticket to Mt. Fuji” on a piece of paper. I handed it to the sales lady and she responded “ie”, that means “no” in Japanese. At first I thought the paper was written wrong so I mustered my broken Japanese and muttered “Ni kippu kudasi Fuji”, which means “two ticket please Fuji”. Again “ie” but this time she handed me a timetable which clearly marked that all the bus tickets were sold. “Great!! All this way to be told I am idiot because I didn’t make a bus reservation.” I was told that there was a train that I could take but it would cost me double the amount of the bus and I wouldn’t get to the 5th station until 2 p.m. This was a problem. Starting a hike up Mt. Fuji at 2 p.m. would get us up to our mountain hut in the dark. Doable, yes, but not a fun way to start an epic hike. So while I tried to figure out what we were going to do, AJ decided he was going to do what he does best, twirl around like a mad man. I guess it worked because after a few minutes of him twirling a lady handed me a paper with the number 252 on it and said that if I came back at 9:52 a.m. I could try to get a cancellation ticket. I thought “what do I have to lose” so I took the number and we came back at 9:52 a.m. and to our surprise they called our number. We were very happy to get a seat on that bus. So happy that I made sure that I reserved and pre-paid for a 12 p.m. bus returning to Shinjuku station. I didn’t want to be stuck at the Mt. Fuji 5th Station without a return ticket.
The bus trip was about 2 hours long. As we slowly headed into the interior of the country, things went from metropolitan to very green. At the base of Mt. Fuji are many different towns and villages. The side we were ascending from was from the Shizouka prefecture. The bus made a stop at the third station which is home to an amusement park known as Fuji-Q. From there we turned up a road called the Fuji Subaru Line. The Fuji Subaru Line is a road that is only open in the summer, which is the when Mt. Fuji is officially open for climbing.
The Mt. Fuji 5th Station, or as they translated it on the bus, the Mount Fuji Fifth Step, is kind of a weird preview for the hike that was about to come. That is to say, it didn’t represent at all the hike that was about to come. The Mt. Fuji 5th station is basically a tourist trap. It is like that part on Main Street USA at Disneyland where you walk through the shop just to find a door that opens right into another shop. There were hikers there, but there were also photo spots, horse rides, vending machines, and a very colorful shrine. They sold these souvenir walking sticks there as well. We had our own hiking sticks but bought a half a stick so that we could put it in my backpack and get branding stamps along the way. They also had ice cream at the 5th station. It was kind of hot when we got our hike started (at 12:30 p.m.) so we felt mountain berry (tasted just like strawberry to me) ice cream cones were the way to go.
The trail from the 5th station to the 6th station was kind of deceptive, in that it was very easy. It was a little bit steep in some places, but it was very well maintained, and it had lots of tree cover that offered nice shade. There were a lot of signs warning people not to go too fast and each sign had an estimated time of arrival to the next station along with the distance. There were also signs at the beginning telling people not to do a “bullet run”, go up and down the mountain in one day. The sign said we would get to the 6th station in a little over an hour which we did in about 40 minutes.
Getting to the 6th station we thought the hike was going to be a lot easier than we expected. We happily paid our 1,000 yen (about $10 USD) conservancy fee (completely optional, but who doesn’t want to protect the trails) and continued on our way. Right after we paid our conservancy fee, the trail changed dramatically. First of all, there were no longer any trees. Second of all, the dirt trail turned into a decomposed volcanic (Mt. Fuji is really a volcano not a mountain) rock trail. Then finally, we started to climb up the first of many steps on the trail. Despite this new development we pushed on.
About 200 meters (think two football fields) away from the 7th station we came upon two interesting things. The first thing we came upon was a television crew. At first we marveled at the fact that there was a television crew on top of Mt. Fuji and started to wonder what they were filming. Then they saw us and got really excited. We knew that July 1st was the first official hiking day of the 2016 Mt. Fuji season. What we didn’t know is several locals had reported to the ranger station a story about this little American boy attempting to climb Mt. Fuji. So, the local news station got a hold of the story and sent a crew to find this American boy. And so there, right at the cooled lava flow, which is the other different thing AJ spoke to a news crew. AJ was not at all shy, anyone who knows AJ knows that he will talk to pretty much anyone about anything. The news crew I think got a little more than they bargained for, not only did they learn that his name was “AJ” and that he was from California, but they also learned that he is “8 and a half years old and goes to Madison Elementary School” and that he “is strong and prepared for the hike because he does jogathon at school.” The news crew was a little bit confused about what a jogathon was but they smiled and thanked us for the interview. AJ was very excited about being interviewed and told everyone on the mountain how “famous” he was, which kind of turned out to be true, because pretty much all the hut owners and workers knew AJ’s name going up that mountain. Whether it was by word of mouth or because of that interview I can’t say for sure, but his fame did get him some privileges on that mountain.
After leaving the news crew we started to climb up several lava flow formations. These lava flow formations were very rocky and pretty steep. Steep enough that to navigate them you needed to use both your hands and feet. No rope was required, but they did have guide ropes that showed you the way up the trail. Starting at the 7th station, we started to pass by a series of huts, which we used as rest stops. At the first 7th station hut we stopped and had our lunch, which was some 7/11 sandwiches that I had bought for the trip. At each hut there was a bathroom that you could use for 200 yen (about $2 USD) and different things for sale. The higher you went, the more expensive things got. While at one of the 7th station huts, AJ made a friend of a 15 yr. old girl from Winchester, CA. Winchester is very close to Riverside, CA, so those two had lots of things to talk about. AJ’s friend walked with us a long time on that trail.Which is good because it took AJ’s mind off the constant pace of the trail.
As we were almost to the 8th station my legs started cramping pretty bad. I don’t know if it was due to altitude or the length of the climb, but every time I had to scramble up a big rock my legs started to spasm. AJ was like a billy goat and loved the big rocks, but not me. Just as I was about to get to the first 8th station my legs seized up so bad that I slipped and fell on a stairway. It was so sudden that I barely had time to break the fall with my walking stick and arms. I fell on my behind really hard and it hurt even more. It took about 10 minutes of rubbing my thighs with my hands before I got my knees to bend again.
Needless to say, my climb from the 8th station to the 8.5 station where our hut was located was very painful. At the Mt. Fujisan Hotel, which is the biggest complex on the mountain, but still a hut and definitely not a hotel in my opinion, AJ’s friend left us. It was just me and AJ going up the mountain together to get to our hut. It was very painful climb and just before arriving I experienced another muscle spasm episode and literally crawled up the last set of stairs to the Goraikoukan hut.
I chose the Goraikoukan hut for two reasons. The first reason was that it was the highest hut you could stay overnight in on the mountain. This would give us the most amount of sleep time and yet have the opportunity to make it to the top of Mt. Fuji by sunrise. The second reason is that as part of their package they offered a hot dinner (it was about $150 for the both of us). There was a little confusion about our reservation, but I had my pre-paid reservation number with me. Also, the hut owner recognized AJ and decided it was big honor to have him staying at his hut so while we were at the hut AJ got to stay in the fire circle, which is something normally only the workers were allowed to do, but for AJ they made an exception. Our bed for the night was a futon mattress on a tatami mat. It wasn’t anything luxurious but after a full day of hiking it was all that we needed and I slept with no problems.
At 1:30 a.m. I could start to hear the movement of hikers and AJ told me that he needed to use the bathroom. I told him that once we left the hut, we could not come back and that we would have to start our hike up the mountain. He was OK with that so we got our stuff together, went to the bathroom, and started to hike up Mt. Fuji in the dead of night. I had packed two headlamps, but decided it would be better to have AJ use his headlight, put him in front of me and we would both be guided by his light. I had my headlamp on standby in case something happened to his. Right when got out of the hut we were faced with a big gust of wind that blew both of our hats off our head. We found my hat later in the morning, but AJ’s pokemon hat was never found.
Going up in the middle of the night was slow progress. We were tired both physically and mentally, but there was nothing to do but to go up so we did. At the 9th station we found a 1 yen coin and decided to put it in the tori gate for good luck. I also saw what looked to be a memorial cross, a little reminder that you didn’t want to mess around too long at the top of Mt. Fuji or you could be next. At the 9th station we saw the stone guard dogs of Mt. Fuji that legend says protects Mt. Fuji by sending down wind, rain, and thunder. The legend says that they make sure that only those with real intent make it to the top of Mt. Fuji. We were tired, but at that point nothing was going to stop us from making it to the top.
The top of Mt. Fuji is marked by rocked carved shrine and a obelisk declaring the shrine the 10th station. We climbed a little more up to the crater and found another obelisk that we believe was marking the highest point in Japan. The top was very cold and windy. We were told that the weather was -23 C (-10 F). It was COLD! It was so windy that while at the crater I had to grab AJ because he kept blowing away. At the top there were some wooden pallet looking benches which we sat next to to wait for the sun to rise. It was very foggy and it looked like the sun, like us, was struggling to get through the clouds. We had wanted to get a branding stamp at the top of Mt. Fuji, but because of the wind and cold, all the structures (including the shrine) were closed. We took several foggy pictures and decided to start heading down the mountain.
The first part of the down hill climb was particularly slow because we had to use the up trail. Normally there is a different trail for climbing down Mt. Fuji as there is going up, but because of a mini avalanche a few days prior the first part of the downhill trail was inaccessible. We dodged all the uphill climbers and eventually got back to the 8th station where we were able to go down the downhill trail. The downhill trail is composed of crushed volcanic rock and is kind of slippery. It is also used by the hut workers to drive these little tread tractors up the mountain, which is how they get their supplies up and down Mt. Fuji.
The downhill was very long. After the 8th station there was no water stops and we ran out of water at the 6th station. AJ kind of lost it a little and cried just about 300 meters from the 5th station. I knew he was dehydrated, because I was as well, but I told him that there was nothing we could do about it until we got to the 5th station. It seemed like forever to get to that 5th station but we did. We finally got to the 5th station at 12:30 p.m., which means we were on that mountain for 24 hrs. It was a long time. So long in fact that we missed the 12 p.m. bus that I had pre-paid. Luckily, I had enough money and there was space on the 2 p.m. bus (it cost about $26 USD one way).
We got back to our hotel about 4:30 p.m. and you would think that after an adventure like that we would just crash in our beds, but that was not the case. We had just enough time to take a shower, get ready, and move on out because we had an appointment with the Robot Cafe for that evening, but that is another story all together.
Here is a little video of our thoughts while climbing:
I like blogging. I like creating blogs and I like writing in the blogs that I create. I don’t really make any money off it and it’s sketchy as to how many people actually read those blogs. It is always interesting to me to see what is going to be popular and what is not. I really never know what is going to catch on. Case example is my first blog post to get over 20,000 views. It was a fun blog post, I like working on my genealogy but I really don’t know that many other people that are interested in that kind of work. To me there is lots to find in looking at our past, but I don’t have many conversations on the topic.
Apparently, however if people are not talking about it, they are reading it. My blog post regarding 150 generations quickly overtook it’s nearest competitor (A Walk in Tijuana). I officially saw that on 12/10/14 I had over 20,000 hits on that blog post. On all my blogs I keep statistics. My statistics gives me some interesting data about the people who come and visit my blog. My Pedroza Place blog is kind of just a family journal of sorts. The idea was that it was going to be a place that Denise and I could write about our family adventures, but most of the blog posts are done by me (John).
The dynamics of those who read my blog (but seldom comment) are very interesting. The main commenters are from the United States, but the main readers are global. I get people visiting from all over the world. Most of them come from China. I suspect that a lot of them are really just spambots trying to leave stupid comments on my blog, but I know not all of them. For example I see some of the China hits using firewall maskers, which I think is against the law in China. Why anyone would want to risk political strife to read my family blog is beyond me. Recently, I have been getting a lot of Europeans. The Asians and the Europeans are not commenting, but they are unique and they are reading. I hope one day they make more comments and I can interact with them more. Until then, it is kind of fun to know someone is out there reading.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3
I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints when I was 18 years old. As such, except for a brief time when I taught a 10-11 yr. old class, I never went through the Primary program. In order to graduate from the Primary program and get your Faith in God award you need to memorize all 13 Article of Faith. I always admired the children that could do this and ever since I first joined the church wanted to emulate them. It has taken me a long time to memorize them, but mostly that was because I have been procrastinating about it. Last week I had the Bishop quiz me in front of the Teachers and Priests and I am pleased to say that I passed. I also did this little video, it isn’t perfect, but I did do this all in one cut and all by memory and that is good enough for me:
If you want to memorize the Articles of Faith you can do so too:
13 Articles of Faith
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.