Okay, only half spontaneous. I was following the Kamo River north until it forked with the part of the Kurama River. East had a sidewalk, west did not, so I followed the river east and at some point decided it would be easier to hike to Kurama and take a train back than to turn around and walk back down the way I'd come. There were no more buses. I was in the boondocks.
In retrospect, it would have been easier to just walk back the way I'd come, but less fun. I pretty much stumbled across the Kyoto Circuit trailhead, which was nice because pedestrians weren't allowed in the tunnel that lead strait to Kurama. I was excited at how nice and paved it was, until it wasn't and I was climbing on bare rock again. It was just under a mile from where the two-track turned into mountain trail. I was very definitely not prepared for that. I was definitely glad I'd grabbed an extra bottle of water from a vending machine I found.
The map projection is a little off. I'm working on fixing it, but it gives the gist of the path and the temple. By the time I got to Kurama Station, I was tempted to just get on the train and head home, but then I sat down in a cafe and had the most amazing pile of shaved ice I think I've ever had.
Dessert spoon for scale. Between that and the iced tea, I decided to see if the path to Kibune was open. It was, so like a genius, I climbed up a second mountain. Worth it to say I've made the hike, and it was easier since it's a pilgrimage route so it's well maintained. One thing I noticed was the sacred trees. There were a lot more between Kurama and Kibune than I've seen elsewhere. This one is 800 years old according to the sign.
There were a few trees like this that were marked off as well. Not sure what kind they are, but it's something I'll look into eventually.
Some neat things I saw today:
An egret catching his lunch.
A bird I haven't identified yet.
A butterfly that actually landed so I could take a picture.
I would have hated my parents if they'd made me trek out to a cabin this far off of a road, but these were pretty neat to find.
Some of the Seven Dwarfs.
A different take on the popular peeing statue. Apologies for the crappy quality photo.
A cool little pond on Mt. Kurama.
So many waterfalls!
Okay, not real monkeys. Yet again I leave Japan without seeing wild monkeys. But it's been a really productive trip. I'm so grateful I was able to get the funding to come and explore the city and its mountains even though I'm in such an early stage of my research. I closed out my wonderful trip with another visit to the river to watch the kites flying around. It was definitely a good way to end this trip.