Okutama Summer Camp and BBQ

Spending 24 hours in Nature

If one overnight summer camp and BBQ isn’t quite enough, you can always head back for more. That was the maxim I clung on to this week as I again sought refuge from the hustle, bustle, and heat of Tokyo. Camping at 1,000 metres roughly equates to night-time temperatures that one might expect in Tokyo towards the end of September, in other words bliss. For this hike, I won’t give away the exact location other than to say it entails a bus ride from Okutama Station followed by a 2.5-hour hike along a scenic forestry road, that is to say it’s in a fairly remote pocket of the Tokyo Metropolis. I passed exactly one hiker on the first day heading up and another on my return trip.

On a side note, about how I come to know these out-of-the-way camping locales it’s because more often than not, I’ve gone by the area before and envisaged myself perched there at some later point. Perfect are sites not too far from a water source so I don’t have to pack it in for miles, stealthy so they aren’t easily foiled by passersby and importantly where I’ll have a minimal impact on the immediate environment. In this case the said water course was 20 minutes from the campsite, the view was obscured from the road and parked on a sheltered grassy field. It should be noted that wherever you decide to camp, there will inevitably be sika deer (Cervus nippon). Their calls and shrills at night can keep even the weariest of hiker wide-awake. They have reached nuisance proportions in Okutama and are currently being culled to reduce their population density.

A comment I sometimes get from non-outdoorsy friends is their bafflement that someone could spend a whole day at a campsite on one’s own. You must be bored stiff? Nope, there is always something to do – collecting firewood, exploring, and taking short walks, or simply taking time to immerse yourself in nature. Surely you must have a beer. Even if it were possible to keep it cold, I couldn’t justify the weight penalty so nope again. So, you listen to music, or play on your smartphone? Ahh, actually for the most part I have my smartphone switched off. It seems to be lost on many that the whole point about doing an overnight camp is to ‘press pause’ and indulge in a fleeting escape from daily life.

Back to the barbecue. It was a mighty fine cut of steak and my wife’s suggestion of packing dehydrated mashed potatoes was a winner. The firewood I collected was considerably drier this time which made for better coals and bringing along a charcoal briquette also helped. Still, the humid air isn’t ideal for grilling and would be better to try again in the autumn. For me more than anything, doing hikes and camps like this is the self-resilience it builds, and in turn, hope to draw on in other aspects of my life. As much as I love climbing mountains and bagging a new peak, it sometimes just the simple act of spending time in nature that rewards you most.

  Water source near the campsite.

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  Ideal campsite.

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  Mission complete fired started.

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  Kincho mosquito coils.

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  Cooked to perfection.

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  Taking a rest on the way down.

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