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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

buffalo meadows

Over the long weekend, we headed to Taipei with some friends to visit Yangmingshan National Park, which is one of nine national parks in Taiwan. Somehow, in the five plus years we have lived in Taiwan, we have never made it to this gorgeous albeit small park. Our friends live just 15 minutes outside of the park, so we decided that a visit with them and a hike in the park was the perfect way to spend one day of our long weekend!

We were constrained by time because we could only be away from Hsinchu and Ruby for eight hours due to our nanny's schedule. Half of our time was eaten up just by getting to the park: 15 minutes to scoot from our apartment to the high speed rail in Jhubei, 30 minutes on the HSR from Jhubei to Taipei Main Station, 20 minutes on the metro from Taipei Main Station to Zhishan Station, 10 minutes in a taxi from Zhishan Station to our friends' apartment in Tianmu, and 30 minutes in their car from their place in Tianmu to the Qingtiangang (a.k.a. Buffalo Meadows) parking lot in Yangmingshan.

However, it was all completely worth the seriously long and complicated journey (even though we had to wait 40 minutes just to get in the parking lot because everyone in Taiwan decided to spend their day off in the national park).

Because we knew we would be strapped for time, we chose one of the shortest "hikes" in the national park: Qingtiangang, which is also known as Buffalo Meadows due to the wild bovines that roam the grasslands. Qingtiangang is a high mountain grassland that sits on a lava terrace that was created when Mt. Zhugao erupted and its lava flowed north towards the Pacific Ocean.
As is common in nearly all of Taiwan's national parks, the entire trail, which is one big loop, was either gravel, stone, or stairs. While rugged hiking trails certainly do exist in Taiwan, they are not easily found in the national parks nor do they seem very popular with the average Taiwanese person who would seem to much rather take a leisurely stroll than a strenuous hike. Since Qingtianhang is the easiest "hike" in Yangmingshan National Park, it was very crowded (except at the top of Mt. Zhugao). 

We only walked half of the loop because we diverted to walk to the top of Mt. Zhugao. From its (rather short) peak, we could see Taipei down below and the summits of other mountains, which were sometimes hidden in the clouds. It was 70 degrees with a strong breeze, which felt wonderful considering the heat and humidity in Taipei. I was a little disappointed that we didn't have enough time to finish the loop or see any grazing buffalo, but we had a great time catching up with friends and spending a few hours in high mountain grasslands watching the clouds come and go.    
One thing is certain: Yangmingshan National Park is on our must see list for our February road trip around the island, and we will definitely walk the whole loop trail with our baby and dog in tow!

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