The mysterious Shakadang trail
By Nicholas Cowham, Special to The China Post July 28, 2005, 12:00 am TWN
Located but one kilometer from Taroko National Park Headquarters is the majestic Shakadang trail. Previously known as Shen Mi Ku or Mysterious Valley, the trail underwent a name-change in February of 2001. The term Shakadang comes from the Sedik (Taroko Atayal) word for molar.
Approximately 250 years ago, the Atayal people settled the area and began planting along the riverside. They exhumed many rocks and bolders which resembled large molars. This culminated in the naming of their village and the nearby river Shakadang.
The trailhead is but a short hike from the National Park Headquarters if one is not bothered by walking through long, dark, musty smelling tunnels. Driving is a better option but it must be noted that the small car park quickly fills up on weekends.
As one descends the many flights of stairs to the trail, one is struck by the stunning contrasts of clear blue waters, white river rocks and the lush green canopy which covers the mountain sides.
The current trail - which winds along the gorge like a giant serpent - was hewn out of the cliff-face by the Japanese in the early 20th century. One must remember that the average Japanese of the time was somewhat shorter than the people of today.
As such, one must pay careful attention as not to bump their heads on the tunnel ceiling. It is through these tunneled sections that one can view the masterful brush work of nature. The metamorphic rock twisted and contorted over millions of years and eroded by the Liwu tributaries produces the most spectacular patterns.
A number of lookouts allow one to appreciate the sparkling blue waters and gives some stunning views of the cliff face. Although this area is usually overrun by busloads of tourists - walking a little further will find you in peace and tranquility. As the path slowly descends to the riverside so to do the numbers of people dwindle. Soon you will find yourself very much alone.
At this point you can either sit and take in the fresh air and sounds of nature or continue further up the trail. The trail leads past an abandoned police station and a small dam.
Eventually reaching the ruins of an old cabin (3D cabin). There is not much left to see a nature has reclaimed all but the foundation and a few beams. This point marks the end of the trail for most hikers as continuing past this point requires a permit.
The 8.8 Kilometer round trip is a fairly easy hike, however, it still takes 3-5 hours to complete. It is recommended to pack a light lunch and plenty of drinking water. Please remember to take out all that you take in.