Between English classes, workouts and social plans, my calendar has been jam packed lately. It's been great, but exhausting and I was *so* happy to have a free day this past Saturday.
Friday night, Mrs. K13 had a bunch of us over for a potluck. We've been trying to do one dinner together a week and it's going very well so far! I personally hate cooking for myself, so it's nice to cook for more than one person and eat a real meal. We had a great time and a lot of great food.
Saturday, I had my free day! I slept in, but then spent the day running errands, cleaning and doing laundry. I met Mrs. D. and Mrs. A. at the base movie theater to see Snow White and the Huntsman. It was my first time going to the base theater and I was pleasantly surprised by the how cheap the movie tickets were ($3.00) and how big the theater was. Snow White was not the best movie I have ever seen, but it was nice to do something different and budget friendly!
Mrs. D. and Mrs. A stayed the night afterwards so we could get up at the crack of dawn to go on an MWR tour. We ventured to the Oze National Park for a day of hiking. J. must be rubbing off on me - I've been here for less than three months and I've already visited a national park! Sadly, we had a pretty miserable day. We boarded the bus at 4:30 a.m. We arrived at Oze a short six hours later. I slept most of the way, but had a few glimpses of the view here and there - it was beautiful! We were accompanied on the tour by our favorite tour guide, Nobue. Her name is pronounced "no boy" and she tells you it is easy to remember because "she is a girl, no boy!" Along the way, she decided to give us some information on the hike. Here's what I learned - someone was struck by lightning on this hike last month; there was a chance we might encounter a bear; the trail is good in good weather, but slippery and treacherous in bad weather (you guess what the weather was like) and part of the trail was still covered in snow. The description in the MWR brochure failed to mention any of this - in fact, the brochure describes the tour as:
"Oze boasts one of the most scenic views in Japan (umm, not in the rain and fog). The most popular time to visit Oze is in June when the marsh is crowded with the unmistakable white flowers of the mizubasho (Japanese skunk cabbage). Bring a jacket and extra yen for souvenirs."
We did receive a phone call Saturday night at 5:00 p.m. from an MWR representative telling us to wear hiking shoes if we had them. Ok, thank you for that recommendation but what good is informing people that they need hiking shoes less than 12 hours before the tour leaves and one hour before the Navy Exchange closes? The MWR definitely dropped the ball on this one.
Anyways, we arrived at Oze and took the shuttle to the trailhead - along with crowds of Japanese properly outfitted from head to toe in rain gear, serious hiking boots and hiking sticks. We were dressed in yoga capris, t-shirts, light hoodies and had thankfully brought our rain jackets. We started the hike through the woods in a light drizzle. The beginning of our hike was just fine - the trail wasn't too bad, the snow cover was pretty minimal and we didn't see any lightning or bears. About one mile in, we emerged out of the woods into the open marshland. And that's when the downpour started. We trekked the next mile and a half in the pouring rain. It was pretty darn miserable, not to mention there was pretty much no view and very few mizubasho. Within ten minutes my pants were soaking wet, as were my shoes and socks. I was freezing and not having very much fun. We finally arrived at the Oze Visitors Center where Mrs. D., Mrs. A. and I decided to remain. The original goal was to complete the entire hike - roughly 8.5 miles - however spending the next 4 hours in the rain did not sound appealing. The rest of our group trekked on with Nobue, who was the only person properly outfitted for the day's excursion. Mrs. D., Mrs. A. and I ate our lunches and tried to dry out while waiting for a break in the rain so we could start the hike back. It finally let up and we made a run for it. When the rest of our group returned that afternoon, they told us that we'd made the right decision by staying in the Visitor's Center. I'm sure the hike would be gorgeous on a nice day, but why you would send a group full of improperly outfitted Americans six hours away to hike in the rain, I don't know. The more I use the MWR, the less impressed I am with the organization.
Luckily, we fill out comment cards at the end of every tour and we are also able to submit comments online that the base Commanding Officer reads. I will definitely be submitting a comment. To sum up my day, I spent $45 to ride a bus for six hours, hike for two hours in the rain, sit for an hour in the Visitor's Center, sit for an hour on the bus and then ride the bus home for 6 hours while damp and cold. Not exactly my idea of a good time.
And to really rub salt in our wounds ... it was 80 degrees and sunny at Atsugi.
I will leave you with the few pictures I took:
The view from the trail
Mrs. A. on the trail - it was a pretty nice trail!
Lots of people
The mizubasho - not exactly the "marsh crowded with the unmistakable white flower of the mizubasho" that was promised in the MWR description.
The scenic view
Close-up of the mizubasho
The long line of properly outfitted Japanese - I loved their colorful rain gear!
The snow covered trail - slightly dangerous if you ask me.
Mrs. A. got several looks from the Japanese ...
no, she is not preggo, she's just trying to keep her bag dry!
I hope you all had a better Sunday than we did!