Wu-Yue Gu Dao(吴越古道), Tianchi(天池) : Sakura Trees and Rivers of Cloud

Trail Map

wu-yue elevation chart
Rivers of cloud rush over mountain ridges

Cock-a-doodle-dos sounded in the early hours of Wanjia Yunshan village. Mist thickened the air and water vapour sparked under torchlight. As the morning dawned and I stepped onto the Wu-Yue ancient trail, daylight broke on shafts of bamboo and swaying vines. The rush of the river and its many waterfalls filled my ears.

Once I finally broke through the layer of fog I spotted a lone sakura tree. The delicate pink blossoms were unmistakable. Another soon sprung up on the riverbed. I detoured to get a better look and was stunned by the sudden concentration of sakura trees decorating the mountainside. I followed the contours of the slope, hoping for a better vantage point. The whole valley was lined with hundreds of cherry blossoms.

Hundreds of sakura trees dot the hillside

In the distance, rivers of cloud arched over the mountains of the Wu-Yue Gu Dao, flowing uphill. Islands, the heads of little mountains, poked through the low cloud. The speed at which the cloud was rising was startling considering I felt not even the slightest of breezes. I blinked and the hillside was hidden in a grey veil. I blinked again and all was revealed. In places, the cloud mimicked the shape of the mountain, as if it were a hat upon its head.

Sakura trees and misty mountaintops

When I arrived at Tianchi (Sky Lake) it was fog filled, but patches of scenery were revealed to me as I sat in wait. There were islands which hovered hauntingly in and out of sight. The shadows of the many surrounding peaks shifted in and out of focus. Then for a moment, the wind lifted the fog completely. I could make out a dam on the far side of Tianchi. Circling the lake, I found mist filled pines and more sakura. Chinese style pavilions provided a chance to stop and rest. I was resting in one such pavilion when a dark brooding fog swept over the water. It had a sense of finality about it so I decided to head back downhill.

A foggy, brooding Tianchi Lake

Upon leaving the Wu-Yue trail and reentering the village at the base of the mountain, a group of villagers I had befriended were eager to see my pictures. At first, they thought it was Huangshan. They couldn't believe the magic was their mountain. Who'd have thought a cloudy day could be so special?

        Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@radventuresofficial) // spring 2016