Being born and raised on the North end of Vancouver Island, I have wonderfully fond memories of camping with my family. I love the mountains, and the trees, and the rivers that often run through them. I never sleep better than I do when beside a hypnotic stream whispering to me all night. When I started my own family I promised myself that I would introduce my children to similar experiences.
So I was pretty stoked to take my youngest daughter on her first overnight backpacking trip.
Of course, backpacking with an eight year old can be a challenge, so I set some simple guidelines as I looked for a location:
– Easily accessible trail head
– Not too far from home
– Dynamic trail
– Challenging but rewarding
– Not too much elevation gain
The answer was Mount Bonorei (棒ノ嶺). Or Maybe that’s Bonoore (棒ノ折). Or maybe Bonomine? What is this mountain actually called? It seems this mountain has a couple names. According to the Okutama guide map it’s one of the first two, and the English version of Google maps has the Japanese kanji wrong, calling it Bonomine. Regardless of what it’s called, it was the perfect spot for my daughter’s first overnighter.
There are a few ways to climb this mountain, but the easiest route is by way of Arima Damn. Take the Seibu Ikebukuro line to Hanno station, and then a local bus bound for either Sawarabi Onsen, Nako, or Naguri Parking. It’s about a 45 minute bus ride from Hanno station, with about 1 or 2 buses an hour.
From Sawarabi Onsen, swing back the way the bus came, and take a left to start hiking up towards Arima Damn. When you reach the damn, proceed over it, and then swing right, following the lake. You come to a small bridge that has the trail marker. There are also a few spots to park here, so if you drive you could potentially leave your vehicle.
Hiking in from Arima Damn is a nice route, and the one I selected for this trip because it consists of an easy grade trail, and some challenging, but fun sections that include river crossing, rock climbing, rope and chain sections, and access to water. My daughter likes to climb, so I knew this would keep her interested. We went up on a Saturday, and didn’t see too many other hikers. We hiked at a leisurely, easy pace, making constant stops for trail mix and clothing adjustments. All together it took about three hours, but could be done in much less time by adults. The path is well marked and maintained. There is some river and rock work though, so it coul dbe a challenge during or after a heavy rain.
After reaching the top we set up our tent and started to make dinner. As the sun went down we could look out and see the lights of Tokyo below in the distance. As it was the last days of April, the temperature was still a bit low for my daughter, and she awoke a number of times in the evening. Eventually I opened up my sleeping bag and managed to fit her in with me. There is nothing quite as wonderful as hearing the sounds of nature mix with the rise and fall of you daughters breathe as you look out over the stars above and the city lights way off in the distance below.
We were awoken by the sun shining in the tent at around 6:00 AM. After some giggles and cuddles we got up, made breakfast, broke camp, and got ready for the hike back down the mountain. The trip down was much less enjoyable than the trip up. The excitement of the destination really helped motivate on the first day, but the hike down seemed to be more about getting home and held much less of my daughter’s attention. It was also very busy, with many Sunday hikers making their way up as we were heading down.
All in all it was a wonderful trip. It was a great way to bond with my daughter and let her know that she and I could still go camping even when the other members of our family were too busy to join us. If you have young children, I encourage you to get out with them while they are still willing to snuggle up and share a cozy sleeping bag.